Later today at Rochester Cathedral it will be our huge pleasure to welcome our first cohort of returning students for their in-person graduation ceremonies. Graduations are always momentous occasions, marking not just our students’ success but a significant juncture in their lives. However, this first set of ceremonies has a particular poignancy as we mark a year group that faced challenges like no other. I wanted to take this moment to reflect on what they – and we – have all gone through together over the past two years.
It’s easy to forget that university life for the ‘Class of 2020’ began like any other – the buzz around campus of new friendships being formed; bustling bars filled with excitement; the clatter and chatter of a packed lecture theatre settling down to class. What a contrast to how jarring that first lockdown was, as silence fell across our estate. The resilience, courage and commitment of those students to complete their studies while the whole world changed around them was truly humbling – as was the deeply moving way colleagues across the University pulled together in support. It was the best of our community, as so many adapted to huge personal challenges to ensure our students had the best possible experience we could provide.
This didn’t come without its difficulties, with having to cancel in-person graduation ceremonies a particular low. For that year group to then graduate online and move into a new world of work, often behind a digital desk, shows just how remarkable they are. Kent graduates are special and throughout this first set of ceremonies we will be celebrating both them and the amazing things they have gone on to – showcasing how employability runs through our work, and how graduates who are ‘Made in Kent’ leave us ready to shape tomorrow’s world.
Their success is also testament to all of you. Everyone at Kent can look at graduations and feel pride at their contribution. Maybe you sparked someone’s imagination in your tutorials or brought inspiration through your research. You may have been the first smile they saw when they came to collect their keys; a supportive word when they were in need of help; or serving them the food that reminded them of home when they really needed it. Everyone has a part to play, from when a prospective student picks up a prospectus to when they open their first Alumni Newsletter – and I hope you can all take a moment to reflect on your part in this as these wonderful ceremonies return.
I know many will be volunteering this week and next or taking part through your more ceremonial role. Wherever you are, do look out across our campuses and social media for the smiles, hugs and special family moments as they return once again and know that they are yours to share in too.
With my thanks to all of you for everything you do.
Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President