Class of 2020 Makes Converse History with First Virtual Commencement

Converse graduation

Converse has experienced many ‘firsts’ and milestones in just the first five months of 2020. In March, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Converse shifted to teaching all classes online, and most employees began working remotely. Sadly, the pandemic also meant postponing or canceling many Converse traditions including Reunion, Founder’s Day, and Commencement. However, Converse was determined to celebrate our seniors who have spent the past few years diligently working towards their degrees. Faculty and staff worked tirelessly to develop a virtual tribute to our 2020 graduates, being mindful to include traditional elements of Commencement.

On May 16, 2020, Converse celebrated another ‘first’: our first virtual Commencement. The virtual ceremony recognized our graduates and paid tribute to our dedicated Converse community while honoring many of the time-honored Commencement traditions. It even included the traditional morning bell-ringing as students, faculty, and staff would process from Wilson Hall to Zimmerli Performance Center’s Twichell Auditorium. A highlight each year at Commencement are the compelling music performances by Converse’s Petrie School of Music. As always, they rose to the challenge and produced these performances virtually.

Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, a collaboration of thirteen students and three faculty members, was a complex, virtual undertaking and involved in-depth editing and engineering, in addition to the typical rehearsals. Director of the Petrie School of Music, Dr. Chris Vaneman explained the process of coordinating this new endeavor. Each student received a video of the conductor, Dr. Keith Jones, and accompanists Dr. Doug Weeks and Professor Mildred Roche performing the piece. Students then evaluated the printed score, learned their individual parts, and reviewed video recording instructions. They rehearsed virtually with their voice professors, then recorded themselves singing, while viewing the conducting and accompaniment video.

Music major Tyerra Clayborne ’20 (Nisbet Honors) took the technical reins from there. Tyerra had previous experience working with editing software with her own band, Sorry, Peach. With guidance from Professor Roche, Tyerra edited the recordings together to create the final videoa massive endeavor. “The students had a wide variety of microphones and recording equipment, so Tyerra had sound editing to do as well as video editing. And don’t forget, she then had to align all the individual tracks,” Dr. Vaneman explained. The result was a cohesive demonstration of the collaboration and talent of Converse’s renowned Petrie School of Music.

On May 16, 2020, Converse conferred 201 undergraduate degrees and 133 graduate degrees to students who spent their last few weeks of classes unexpectedly learning via Zoom, Google Hangouts, and various other online learning tools. This was in addition to adapting to a new way of living while making plans for new jobs and grad schools. In true Converse fashion, faculty, students, and staff stepped up to the challenge and persevered.

Undergraduate Class of 2020

Most of our undergraduate seniors began their journey at Converse alongside President Krista L. Newkirk during her inaugural year. Many of those students reflected upon her Inauguration Day festivities in April 2017 as one of their most memorable moments at Converse. President Newkirk said “I am honored to have had the opportunity to walk beside you these four years and to watch you grow and spread your wings.”

About the Undergraduate Class of 2020:

  • 22% are first-generation college students.
  • 14% are student-athletes.
  • 9% are Converse II students, age 24 and older.
  • 20 undergraduates received degrees with multiple majors.
  • 5 undergraduates received two undergraduate degrees while at Converse.
  • 12 undergraduates are our second cohort of the Converse International School.
  • 9 undergraduates are ‘Legacies” (direct descendants of Converse Alumnae).

Members of the Class of 2020 have been accepted to prestigious graduate programs including: Kings College London, Coventry University, George Washington University, MUSC College of Pharmacy, Charleston School of Law, University of Hong Kong, Medical University of South Carolina, and Florida State University.

Graduate Class of 2020

Converse’s Graduate class of 2020 plans to make an impact in the world in professions including therapy, teaching, and healthcare. This year we congratulate our very first three graduates from our Master of Management in Healthcare Management program.

About the Graduate Class of 2020:

  • 23 Graduate students received their Education Specialist degree.
  • 34 Graduate students received their Master of Arts in Teaching degrees.
  • 39 Graduate students received their Master’s in Education.
  • 16 Graduate students earned a Master of Marriage and Family Therapy.
  • 5 Graduate students are Masters in Music degree recipients.
  • 2 Graduate students are ‘Legacies” (direct descendants of Converse Alumnae).

Retiring Faculty

Converse bids a fond farewell to our retiring faculty members and extends our deepest gratitude for their dedication, impact and service.

Dr. Ansley Boggs, Professor Rebecca Turner and Dr. Douglas Weeks have shown extraordinary commitment to their students over the years. The impact they have made will endure and continue to inspire.

Dr. Ansley Boggs joined Converse in 1980. She served as Associate Professor of Special Education and as Director of Special Education. Dr. Boggs has served on numerous committees at Converse and as president of the Faculty Senate. She has overseen the development of special education at Converse, working with the State of South Carolina and its granting agencies to make Converse one of the leading providers of special education in the state.

Professor Rebecca Turner has served as Professor of Voice since 2007. Professor Turner has mentored numerous Converse vocal performance students, serving as a model for them through her utterly stirring performances both in recital and in opera productions. She has been an integral part of Converse performing programs both as a singer and as an accompanist. Students have sought a place in her studio since her arrival and have left it to engage in successful professional careers.

Dr. Douglas Weeks, the Babcock Professor of Piano, came to Converse in 1982. Dr. Weeks was awarded the prestigious title of Steinway Artist. He also serves as the Coordinator of Piano Studies at the Brevard Music Festival. A brilliant concert pianist who has performed around the world, a beloved teacher here and abroad, and a much-admired colleague, Dr. Weeks has led piano studies at Converse as well as serving as an international Fulbright Artist. He has served as president of the Faculty Senate and has held nearly every leadership position at the college.

We wish our retiring faculty and our 2020 graduates all the best as they take on the world!

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