How MBU Is Celebrating the Class of 2020

At the end of last week, MBU graduates across the country received a special box of graduation gear in the mail. “We’re so proud of all that you’ve accomplished in your time at Mary Baldwin and can’t wait to see what’s next,” read the congratulations card inside the box. Even while apart, the entire university community joins in that sentiment, applauding the Class of 2020 in a variety of ways leading up to the virtual Commencement celebration on May 24, and beyond.

Getting the celebration started was a graduation box that included an MBU seal soapstone coaster, MBU alumni sticker, commemorative Class of 2020 tassel and keychain, MBU yellow sunglasses, and congratulatory cards from the #MBUfamily and the Office of Alumni Engagement.

“We really want our 2020 graduates to know how much we care about them, even though we can’t be together in person for Commencement this year. Hopefully, the graduation gear from MBU will help kick off their celebrations at home with their families and loved ones,” said Autumn Lightner, university event coordinator, who helped hand pack more than 480 boxes to be delivered by mail. 

Several MBU staff members in student engagement, alumni engagement, support services, and the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) also assisted with packing boxes for graduates while adhering to social distancing practices.

Because the traditional on-campus ceremony was cancelled for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, MBU is hosting a virtual celebration on May 24 for graduating seniors, recipients of graduate degrees, and their loved ones. Launching at 10 a.m., the virtual 178th Commencement ceremony site will feature a speech and conferral of degrees by President Pamela Fox; benediction and prayer by Chaplain Katie Low; a tribute to the last all-women class of graduating seniors from Mary Baldwin College for Women by Dean Carey Usher; and messages from Provost Ty Buckman and the deans of MBU’s five academic colleges. Video content featuring these members of the MBU leadership and faculty was recorded in Grafton Library last week.  

Behind the scenes of filming for MBU’s virtual Commencement ceremony as Mary Baldwin College for Women (MBCW) Dean Carey Usher prepares to give her tribute to the last all-women class of MBCW graduating seniors.

The virtual Commencement celebration will feature personalized slides for graduates, and they are also encouraged to post graduation pictures and messages to their social media accounts using #MBU20 and tagging @marybaldwinuniversity. MBU social has created new GIFS and stickers to help rally class pride and MBU spirit, and the Office of Alumni Engagement is also working on a way for MBU alumni to wish the Class of 2020 well through a digital kudos board.  

Some individual MBU programs are also holding virtual ceremonies to honor their graduates and award winners. From Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, the physician assistant (PA) program gathered for a virtual white coat ceremony to welcome new physician assistants into the medical community on May 16; the physical therapy faculty hosted a virtual celebration for graduates over Google hangouts on May 14; and the occupational therapy program held a virtual hooding ceremony also on May 14. During the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Shakespeare and Performance’s virtual ceremony, eight MFA students were hooded, if possible, by a family member from their household and program awards were presented. VWIL also carried out its annual end-of-year ceremonies online to honor senior members of the corps of cadets, including the Staunton Military Academy-VWIL Awards Ceremony, Change of Command, Senior Awards Ceremony, and Joint Commissioning Ceremony.    

Set for October 10, an in-person celebration for the Class of 2020 is currently being planned by senior staff leaders with input from graduates representing all university programs. 2020 graduates are also welcome to walk in the 2021 Commencement ceremony. More details will be released as plans are finalized.

Sample graduate slide for the virtual Commencement site; official slides for 2020 graduates who submitted their information will go live at 10 a.m. on May 24.

Connecting Mary Baldwin graduates with career readiness, The Vantage Point: Office of Personal and Professional Development has enhanced resources and support for graduating seniors, graduate students, and alumni alike as they navigate a challenging and uncertain job market. The Vantage Point has seen an almost 25% increase in appointments being scheduled and a 30% increase in remote resume reviews since the pandemic hit. 

In collaboration with the Alumni Engagement Office, the Vantage Point is planning a virtual career panel with representatives from the MBU Classes of 2008 and 2009, who graduated during the Great Recession. It’s tentatively set for May 26.

The Vantage Point also recently hosted webinars on finding a job and developing negotiating skills in the workplace, which were created in response to a survey sent to graduating seniors to gauge their needs. The office is also providing resources digitally and through HandShake for all MBU students to stay informed, strategize, and navigate the current challenges of the job market, as well as providing support through their newsletters and newly launched YouTube channel.  

From celebrating a milestone in the lives of students and their families to helping launch their next steps in graduate school or careers, MBU hopes to stay always connected to the Class of 2020 wherever their lives may take them in the years to come.

Mary Baldwin University Class of 2020 — By the Numbers


Residential program: 134

MBU Online: 131


College of Education: 71
(31 Master of Arts in Teaching, 35 Master of Education, 2 Master of Science in Higher Education, and 3 Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis)

Master of Business Administration: 18

Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences: 98
(30 Doctor of Occupational Therapy, 32 Doctor of Physical Therapy, 32 Master of Science in Physician Assistant, and 4 Master of Healthcare Administration)

Shakespeare & Performance = 23
(14 Master of Letters and 9 Master of Fine Arts)

Total graduates for 2020: 475

*Graduate numbers as of May 15.