Henderson awards ceremonies adapt; go online

The School of Business held its awards ceremony live online using both Zoom and Facebook Live.

Faculty and supervisors cheered as the future teachers exited the breakout room and entered the main area for the virtual awards ceremony.

It’s a tradition for Teachers College, Henderson, to honor the senior education majors who interned at public schools during the semester. The ceremony highlights the conclusion of their quest to become teachers.

The students enjoyed the celebration and appreciated the great effort to honor them – especially considering the circumstances.

Social distancing and other COVID-19 safety measures prevented the customary year-end gatherings across the Henderson State University campus. But that didn’t stop Teachers College, Ellis College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, and others from celebrating students’ accomplishments.

Teachers College and the School of Business used online platforms to produce live ceremonies, while Ellis College opted to build an extensive website to recognize its many outstanding students.

“We did our awards ceremony online using Zoom,” said Kimberly Turner, Teachers College’s director of educator preparation program admission/clinical experiences. “It worked very well, and students were able to access Zoom easily.”

Turner said Dr. Matthew Sutherlin created virtual backgrounds for all the faculty who attended.

“Because Zoom allows a grid view, it was a more personal experience, even though it was a virtual meeting,” Turner said. “Dr. Sutherlin also created a virtual background for each intern’s award. At the end of the ceremony, interns were moved to a separate breakout room where their picture was taken.”

The effort impressed the students.

“I could tell that the Teachers College faculty and staff put a lot of thought into making it special for each of the interns,” said Kandis Price. “The love and support I have found in the Teachers College goes unmatched.”

Veronica Tillery said, “I thought it was a nice gesture to still make the award ceremony happen despite what’s going on.”

Henderson’s School of Business used both Zoom and Facebook live to host its “Virtual Student Honors Celebration.”

“As we first started thinking about COVID-19 and its potential impact on the spring semester, we began thinking about how to adjust scheduled events,” said Dr. Nathan Campbell, associate dean. “Celebrating our students’ success is very important to everyone within the School of Business. We did not want these students to miss the opportunity to be recognized.

“With the technology we utilize to teach virtual classes, including Zoom, we were able to interact with our outstanding students and broadcast it live via Facebook.”

More than $30,000 in scholarships were awarded to 27 students, and 12 were inducted in the Beta Gamma Sigma during the ceremony.

“We broadcasted live from Mooney Hall,” Campbell said. “And, yes, we did abide by social distancing guidelines.”

Henderson’s Ellis College considered several ideas to honor its students before opting to build a dedicated website. 

“The Ellis College awards ceremony is the highlight of every year where each department recognizes some of their most remarkable students,” said Dr. Angela Boswell, Ellis College dean. “The faculty had already chosen the award recipients  before the campus closed and we transitioned to remote instruction.

“We knew that we still had to celebrate these students in some way. We considered a virtual ceremony of some kind, but we could not envision any live event online that would be special enough for these students.”

David Stoddard, professor of media and graphic design, was recruited to design a website.

“We corresponded with all the students, collected photos, and worked with faculty members to ready the narratives,” Boswell said. “What makes this all the more remarkable is the addition of the comments section.

“This makes it possible for faculty, staff, friends, family, and students to add their congratulations and make it a truly community event.”

The website can be viewed at imhsu.com/ecawards.

Boswell said the students must wait until the campus reopens before they receive their certificates, but she hopes the website will let the students know immediately that Henderson and Ellis College recognizes their accomplishments.

“While our plans have been disrupted by a pandemic, the excellence and resiliency of our students continue nonetheless,” Boswell said. “We are proud of all our students in Ellis College, and it is a bright spot to be able to recognize some of the most accomplished and talented among them.”

Henderson State’s Office of Student Affairs and Student Success had been planning an all-student organization awards ceremony, but plans changed when the campus closed in March.

“We were very disappointed when students were no longer on campus,” said Dr. Brad Patterson, vice president for student affairs and student success. “At some point, someone suggested that we might be able to do this virtually.”

The Reddies’ Choice Awards were broadcast live online from the Studio Theatre in Arkansas Hall. Various presenters, observing social distancing guidelines, announced the winners in several categories.

Some recipients had taped acceptance speeches which were shown after the award was announced.

“We received very positive feedback from students, and I was very impressed with the creativity in their videos,” Patterson said. “The popularity of the event is a testament of the hard work of all involved and the strong community we have at Henderson State.”

Henderson’s ultimate awards event, commencement, was postponed this spring and could be held later this summer.

“This has certainly been the year for new norms,” said Diane Smith, university supervisor for curriculum and instruction. “This class of 2020 has truly experienced these new norms in many ways. Teacher internships ended in virtual classes, exit interviews were virtual, and now their awards ceremony was virtual.

“While the virtual awards ceremony was not exactly the same as it had been in the past, the Teachers College Class of 2020 knew they were valued and celebrated.”