Unable to gather around tables together in Boston, members of Boston University’s senior class instead attended a livestream of the Class of 2020 Senior Breakfast. The virtual event was hosted on the Dean of Students Office website Friday morning.
To simulate the experience of an actual meal, students were encouraged to prepare a recipe created by BU Culinary Director Christopher Bee which included a roasted tomato and leek tart, potatoes and bacon.
The annual event traditionally kicks off commencement festivities, but like most other university events, this year’s breakfast was forced online after the global coronavirus pandemic closed campus.
Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore said in an interview before the breakfast that it was important for the university to continue to honor students’ achievements and celebrate the completion of their undergraduate career through this online event.
“Tradition is important and [it’s] the way we mark anniversaries, our minds and our souls,” Elmore said. “We look to these important dates because they connect us through life. It’s important that [students] find this connection, and that there is a spirit of humor and real joy.”
As with past breakfasts, the event began with a slideshow presentation of photos collected from and submitted by the Class of 2020 throughout their undergraduate years.
Elmore emceed the event from Metcalf Hall in the George Sherman Union, a venue standing vacant of all other than production crew members.
Speakers included Dean of Marsh Chapel Robert Hill, President Robert Brown, the Class Gift co-chairs and alumni “Zoom-bombers” Russell Hornsby, Kim Raver and Jessica Rothe.
President Brown opened his address to students with a reflection on the pandemic.
“When I spoke to you at Matriculation in August of 2016, I would have never imagined that I would be speaking to you at your Senior Breakfast via Zoom with the campus empty and us dispersed around the world because of COVID-19,” Brown said. “You, the Class of 2020, has been impacted in only ways that only you truly understand.”
Brown announced Victor Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine and professor at Duke University School of Medicine, will be the commencement speaker. He also announced college-specific speakers, honorary degree recipients as well as Baccalaureate and student speakers. This year’s student speaker will be Macken Murphy, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences.
All speakers will give their addresses at an in-person commencement, Elmore said during the breakfast. The date has yet to be determined because it is contingent on when the pandemic ends.
Katherine Cornetta, assistant to the Dean of Students, said planning this year’s Senior Breakfast was very different from past years as a result of the current circumstances. The office worked extensively with Learning and Event Technologies, BU Productions and the Facilities Department to host the event, she said.
“There’s always a worry that you have something like this and [people ask], ‘Should we be so celebratory during this very scary time?’” Cornetta said. “But, I think any way that we can bring a bright spot to a student’s day… let’s take an hour and get a cup of coffee and get whatever you’d like to have for breakfast and sit in front of a computer and just relish in that [accomplishment].”
Parent and Family Programs is also planning an online reception, keeping with the traditions of Commencement weekend in May for students’ families, Cornetta said. Seniors will also have the opportunity to participate in several virtual festivities that the DOS will host in May, including a virtual dance party on May 15 and a class toast on May 17.
Misty Ouyang, a senior in Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation, said she appreciates the effort the university has put into celebrating student achievements.
“I think it’s nice that [BU is] trying to preserve the traditions that they usually have for seniors, but I feel like it doesn’t really substitute for the real thing,” Ouyang said. “There’s not really an alternative, so it’s good that they’re still having it.”
However, Ouyang said she wished there were more accommodations, given that the students are now spread across the globe.
“I do think it could have been a little more accommodating to people… in other time zones,” Ouyang said. “Because it’s at 10 a.m. [EST] and that’s 7 a.m. for people on the West Coast, [and] I feel that makes it really hard for them to attend.”
Gabrielle Miller, a senior in the Questrom School of Business, said she enjoyed what the breakfast had to offer.
“Kim Raver was the highlight of senior breakfast for me. She plays Teddy Altman on [‘Grey’s Anatomy’] and I’m a huge ‘Grey’s’ fan,” Miller said. “I’m also super excited about our student commencement speaker because I’m friends with him in the Kilachand Honors College and I think he’s a great fit for it.”
Patricia Wang, a senior in Sargent, said that despite all the recent changes, she is looking toward the future with optimism.
“It’s sad that [things] are like this, but on the positive side, I do think that we’re still connected and we’re still reaching out to one another,” Wang said. “We’re still actually being brought together in many ways. I am really looking forward to when they do make it up, though, and when we can all be together.”