Valencia Makes History With First-ever Virtual Commencement

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Sunday, May 3, 2020, was a day that will be remembered in Valencia College’s history — our first-ever virtual Commencement ceremony for our more than 4,000 graduates. Although an in-person celebration had been planned for months, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to quickly move the celebration for our 51st Annual Commencement Ceremony online.

“COVID-19 has not in any way diminished our desire and efforts to celebrate you and all of your educational accomplishments,” shared College President Sandy Shugart during his Commencement address. “As a College and as a community, we’ve endured a great deal together. I keenly remember how we came together to get through the aftermath of the Pulse terrorist attack. We have a strong history of working together and getting through tough times together, and during this time we’ll do the same.”

Although student sentiment was mixed on the virtual celebration, students gathered in their homes to listen to Dr. Shugart’s address, a message from Alumni Advisory Board Chair Jeffery Villegas, the conferring of degrees by Sandy Shugart and District Board of Trustees Chair Tracey Stockwell, and an inspiring message from our 2019-2020 Distinguished Graduate Tamyia Paul.

“When I found out that I was chosen for this honor, this is not how I pictured it happening,” Tamyia admitted in her address. “It’s safe to say that a lot of us were disappointed that we didn’t get the traditional commencement experience. But, hey, at least our family members don’t have to fight about who gets a ticket now. Things are different this year, but I am so excited to be a part of Valencia history.”

Families, friends, Valencia employees and the community were encouraged to share their congratulatory messages and celebrations via social media. Community leaders joined in as well with their own video messages.

Click on the following community leaders’ names to view their video on social media: Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, U.S. Rep. Val Demings, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, State Rep. Anna Eskamani, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, State Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil, and Osceola County Commissioners Brandon Arrington, Peggy Choudry, Viviana Janer, Cheryl Griebe and Fred Hawkins, Jr.


Additionally, the city of Orlando painted the town red on Sunday to celebrate our class of 2019-2020. The Lake Eola fountain was red and gold for the evening to celebrate, and many landmarks around the city were red including the artwork around Lake Eola, the Tower of Light in front of City Hall, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, the spire over the Amway Center and the pedestrian bridge over Colonial Drive.

Did you miss the virtual commencement celebration? Watch it now at and view the Commencement program.


  • Kwan-yin Castillo said:

    This is such an insult. I am a parent of a graduate and there were no “mixed emotions” your graduating class and their respective families were in an uproar from the insult of graduation that you provided. They have taken on your social media page and expressed their disgust at the “virtual commencement ceremony” that they were given. You guys did not show any effort to show appreciation for the achievement that were to be celebrated on this day. You haven’t even had the decency to respond to the comments on your social media pages. You have chosen to respond to those that may have had a semi positive comment (which were next to non existent) or answered questions (very coldly, may I add). No one from your staff has advocated for these students, no one has cared about their feelings and the disappointment that YOU caused on a day that was supposed to be one the most memorable days of their lives. First, you don’t even consider hearing their thoughts on what to do in regards to their graduation based on the current situation, but rather you make a decision without even keeping in regards anyone else’s thoughts. Second you decide to have virtual graduation and REFUSED to even leave space for a possible graduation later on when things are safer. You even hype it up tell these students that this is the “next best thing”. Then you hold a sub par pre recorded graduation, you don’t acknowledge each individual graduate with their respective degree by doing a roll call. You refuse to give them their regalia (by the way, I ended up purchasing it from amazon just so my daughter could feel special that day). Then to add insult to injury, you show clips of the previous graduation AND graduates. You don’t have any type of statement or response taking accountability for the wreck that was this “graduation”, specially in comparison to other institutions such as UCF and others I saw in our family’s social media pages. And to top things off you have the nerve to pat yourself on the back, as if this was some HUGE success not taking in consideration all the broken hearts and wounded spirits that YOU caused by your insensitive actions . You made a HUGE mistake…it happens…Now I’m asking that you own up and do right by this graduating class that chose YOUR institution to achieve their goals in seeking their degrees. Valencia you owe that to them and their families. We’re not saying have a graduation now, or give us a date, just agree to have it when things are safer. They/We don’t care if it’s at the end of the year, or next year… hell combine it with next years!!!! Just do right by these graduates..

    PMTue, 05 May 2020 18:15:05 +0000Tue, 05 May 2020 18:15:05 +0000pm20,6:15 pm

  • Anita Castellar said:

    The "graduation" that you provided was horrendous and shameful! First it started off with a link that did not work at all so there was confusion and frustration right from the start, but people are willing to be forgiving in such times if in the end what you had produced was worth the wait and inconvenience. In essence, there was no real ceremony at all. You uploaded individually prerecorded YouTube videos and didn't even make the effort to edit them together into SOME semblance of one continuous ceremony. In the digital age in which we live, this simple editing task could have been done on your cell phone! It's so simple, in fact that any middle school child taking a multi-media course could have done it as a class project! Ask any gamer on YouTube. I'm sure you could have searched on Google how to edit the videos together and how to do a voice over roll call to actually SAY the students names instead of leaving it to a more robotic version of Alexa to pronounce them for you! Why didn't you have the graduating students of Valencia who studied multi-media produce the ceremony for you? Imagine how great that would have made them feel to be included in the planning and production of their own graduation. It would have been an opportunity for the students to showcase their talents and a great story for Valencia to share. But instead we had to suffer through the sham that you provided. My daughter was in tears by the end. My family in Hawaii got up at 3am their local time to celebrate my daughter's graduation with her and I was completely embarrassed! It would have been preferable to have postponed this event until either the virtual ceremony could have been produced better or a live ceremony could have taken place. No apology has been offered or recognition that you have made a mistake, and that the quality of the ceremony that you create was sub par and anticlimactic to the hype it was given on your social media posts. I cannot believe that you have written this article to boast and pat yourselves on the back. I cannot believe you are congratulating yourselves, when your students are heartbroken after what you produced. This article should be an apology to your students and their families, not a celebration of your mediocrity!

    PMTue, 05 May 2020 20:10:46 +0000Tue, 05 May 2020 20:10:46 +0000pm20,8:10 pm

  • Cruz Maria Ruiz said:

    I’m a 2020 Valencia Grad. From the beginning I did not agree with the virtual commencement. I voiced my opinion and offered several ideas, all of them were ignored. On May 3rd, I decided to view the graduation, since it took me many hard working years to achieve this goal. Immediately tears of disappointment and embarrassment rolled down. I had several family members and friends viewing this joke of a ceremony from several countries and states. The link was not working and after 15 we experienced the one of worst virtual graduation. Your ”efforts” was effortless. Instead of one video we had 4 or 5 videos. With non Valencia YouTube videos under the speech videos. All the videos did not total 22 minutes. How many of the top officials of Valencia viewed this virtual graduation before posting it?!?!?! This virtual graduation does not meet the HIGH standards that Valencia has. This should have been taken more seriously. This has made a negative impact on your reputation. Also, your current and past students have been let down. Future students might want to reconsider. We have the support of our families, friends and of our community. The Covid 19 did not take this special day from us, Valencia College did. Stop blaming the virus. This could have been postponed until CDC guidelines permitted it. We ask you to make this right. We want an apology and we want our proper commencement ceremony. We want the same or better of what Valencia has offered to their last 51 graduating classes. We chose Valencia, we hope you choose to correct this disastrous mistake.
    Thank you!!!

    PMTue, 05 May 2020 22:16:13 +0000Tue, 05 May 2020 22:16:13 +0000pm20,10:16 pm

  • MMG said:

    As a Fall 2019 graduate, I feel so incredibly disappointed at the lack of actions that Valencia College has taken to rectify or even address the issue that was our failure of a graduation. I had family wake up early in three different states and also in different cities of another country to watch me graduate virtually. However, the technical difficulties that occurred the morning of May 3rd started the day on a bad note. Regardless of those difficulties and the limitations of the pandemic, we were all excited. Sadly, that excitement all came crashing down when I watched in sorrow as the first clips played of past graduates in their caps and gowns along with other regalia knowing that I wouldn’t receive one of my own. The opportunity to take photos in that outfit with my family was gone. As the videos kept playing and Valencia’s president finished his speaking, I felt insulted by the added applause after his underwhelming speech. How can applause be added when it wasn’t earned by the students he was speaking to? More clips kept playing and I felt more and more insulted as there were only a few short videos. The official announcement of the degrees was what I was looking forward. I wanted to hear the names of all of my fellow Alumni along with my own. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. My family and I had to figure out how to find my name on a roster to download the picture that had taken me over an hour to capture because I wanted to make sure it was perfect; more time than the entirety of the graduation. My family then asked when the graduation would continue and I was embarrassed to explain that was the end. I searched through social media to see if perhaps there was something more but what I found was that I wasn’t alone in my feelings. Many of my fellow alumni felt the same. We shared our thoughts and feelings in the comment sections of Valencia’s social media in hopes that we would be acknowledged by our Alma Mater but that never happened. Instead, posts of other events followed to push down our comments further down into oblivion. I was notified of this article just recently. I was excited that we were finally seen. Once again, it never happened. This article embellishes what occurred that day. It does not tell the real story. I am asked everyday by family about when graduation will happen and when will they see my photos in my regalia and I reply “I don’t know”. Once again, it won’t happen.
    I ask that Valencia College offers an apology to the class of 2019 and the class of 2020 for this mediocre attempt and rectifies it with holding our earned commencement ceremony how it was intended at a later date when it is safe to do so.

    AMWed, 06 May 2020 01:45:51 +0000Wed, 06 May 2020 01:45:51 +0000am20,1:45 am

  • Jonathon Rutter said:

    A 5 minute commencement ceremony where Siri said your name, possibly wrong. This was a huge failure and not what we deserve after working so hard for years. Do better, Valencia. Reschedule for us to walk!

    AMWed, 06 May 2020 08:09:19 +0000Wed, 06 May 2020 08:09:19 +0000am20,8:09 am

  • Anonymous said:

    I am a parent of 2 graduates and this only looks like you’re trying to save a buck instead of doing right by your students. Very shameful!

    AMWed, 06 May 2020 09:19:33 +0000Wed, 06 May 2020 09:19:33 +0000am20,9:19 am

  • Anonymous said:

    I was looking into applying to Valencia in the fall for film production. After seeing how the students of this class have been treated, I will not be applying to this school.

    AMWed, 06 May 2020 09:31:17 +0000Wed, 06 May 2020 09:31:17 +0000am20,9:31 am

  • John said:

    Guess it wasn’t such a success… read these comments. I hope you don’t give the robotic trained response that “these are unprecedented times and we are trying to do our best and although not everyone will agree etc.” honestly I viewed a pre-k graduation that was so touching and warm and they don’t have a production and film department. So what do you say Valencia? Will you own your failure and make it right or will you just move on?

    AMThu, 07 May 2020 07:43:14 +0000Thu, 07 May 2020 07:43:14 +0000am20,7:43 am

  • Matt said:

    The fact that you thought this was acceptable to for a College graduation and to be the sister school of UCF is beyond me. We all new the circumstances and still gave it a chance. You fell short on so many promises. Than to tell us that we can’t have our covers and tassels because we didn’t sign up for THIS particular ceremony, is just wrong. I feel this was a escape goat for Valencia Administration to not have to worry about setting up yet another ceremony, I mean you used an automated voice to call out the names…. I hope you do the right thing and fix what all of you have done. Because class of 2020 are not going to be silent!

    PMThu, 07 May 2020 12:47:18 +0000Thu, 07 May 2020 12:47:18 +0000pm20,12:47 pm

  • The Grove said:

    Thank you so much for reaching out. Although we had planned an in-person event for months, as did colleges and universities across the nation, unfortunately a virtual ceremony was necessary to protect you and your families. Your safety and health is our priority. Our senior leaders are reviewing all the responses received, and more information will be forthcoming related to Commencement. It’s important to us that our graduating students feel that their achievements are properly celebrated, so we appreciate your honest and open feedback.

    PMThu, 07 May 2020 12:53:05 +0000Thu, 07 May 2020 12:53:05 +0000pm20,12:53 pm

  • Matt said:

    Valencia is missing the point of what we’re trying to say. It’s not just that we had a virtual ceremony. It’s that you did a hack job of it. I’ve see High Schools put together a better virtual ceremony with way less resources. You came up short by not asking or listening to the graduation class of 2020. Also, Valencia has yet to apologize or make any type of statement regarding this circus.

    PMThu, 07 May 2020 14:27:37 +0000Thu, 07 May 2020 14:27:37 +0000pm20,2:27 pm

  • Anonymous said:

    I was a student at Valencia and was a Valencia Grad this past Sunday. To say that the graduation was a disappointment is an understatement. I have never cried as much as I did that morning. The president made a comment stating that this would be the next best thing which definitely got the hopes up for all of the graduates only to receive a clip by clip equaling to 20 minute graduation. Students had to search for their name to see their picture and then click a button to hear their name being called instead of an actual roll call. Videos of last years graduation were shown as if it weren’t adding salt to the wound knowing we wouldn’t receive our regalia. It was embarrassing when my family asked where the rest of the graduation was to say the least. We have reached out to you all but have yet to have a response or any kind of apology. We deserve better. Do better Valencia. -Sincerely a disappointed first gen graduate.

    PMThu, 07 May 2020 15:08:16 +0000Thu, 07 May 2020 15:08:16 +0000pm20,3:08 pm

  • Anonymous said:

    AMFri, 08 May 2020 07:47:48 +0000Fri, 08 May 2020 07:47:48 +0000am20,7:47 am

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