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People of SFU
Celebrating students together: Hard-working volunteers make SFU’s Convocation a success
Scattered among the sea of blue gowns and mortarboards, smiling faces and camera flashes, 200 volunteers – staff and retirees – are hard at work, making sure SFU’s twice-annual Convocation ceremonies run without a hitch.
“Our role at SFU is to graduate students, and to see them walk the stage at Convocation is the cherry on top of the pie,” says Tina Edmundson, a staff volunteer for the past 16 years. “It is what we are all working toward. It’s the day we collectively get to see the fruits of our labour.
“Seeing students overcome adversity, especially students who were in academic difficulty, overcome personal and mental health challenges and graduate – it's really special.”
Edmundson, manager of student enrollment for SFU Student Services, co-ordinates the team that pins the hoods on graduands to ensure everyone looks their best on their special day. She says the pinning is unique to SFU, as most universities just hand the hoods to the graduands and wish them luck.
Convocation could not run without the help of volunteers, says Rosa Balletta, secretary for Senate and Academic Services, who has managed SFU’s Convocation volunteers since 2009. Signing up as a volunteer makes a tremendous impact on our graduands, she adds.
“The best part is seeing the smiles on the graduands’ faces,” she says. “They’re proud that they’re graduating and are ready to celebrate their achievements with family and friends.”
'It doesn’t feel like a duty. I always see it as a privilege to connect with students on this day that is so important to them and their families – to really celebrate what they have accomplished.'
- Bettina Cenerelli, director of strategic academic planning and student affairs for the dean’s office in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Balletta’s Convocation work ramps up about a month before the event – scheduling committee meetings, training student ushers, ordering catering and creating volunteer schedules. She also hires between 50 and 60 students to control crowds and to help Gaspard dispense graduation gowns.
“The hired students have a real appreciation for how much work and effort it takes to run Convocation ceremonies and they look forward to the day when they will be assisted into their regalia, have their degree hood pinned on their gown and walk across the stage.”
During the ceremonies, Balletta works long days. She checks-in volunteers, manages the crowd, and answers questions.
Long-time volunteer Bettina Cenerelli, director of strategic academic planning and student affairs for the dean’s office in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, views volunteering as a way to recognize the hard work and accomplishments, to encourage graduands and wish them well with the next chapter of their lives.
“It allows us to see the students, one last time,” says Cenerelli, who has helped pin regalia for the past 11 years. “To hug them. To encourage them. To congratulate them and say, ‘We’re so proud of you.’
“It doesn’t feel like a duty. I always see it as a privilege to connect with students on this day that is so important to them and their families – to really celebrate what they have accomplished.”
This is a story in our People of SFU series, where we’re celebrating SFU’s unsung heroes—those who go above and beyond the call of duty to create community, advance SFU’s mission and make the university a great place to work and learn. You can read more stories here.
Become a Convocation volunteer
Convocation is a significant milestone for SFU graduands, their loved ones and the university community. Interested in supporting the Spring 2023 Convocation from June 6-9? Register Today.