Welcome to graduation

Humble beginnings

I believe it was Gandhi who once said: “Morning! Suzy is looking at refreshing the graduation pages and I thought that might be a smallish project you could work on with her?” It was February when he said this, I think. It was him or Annie Heinsen, my once-trusted line manager.

Little did we know.

As we now race towards our virtual ceremonies at the end of August, we’ve almost wrapped up on two new hubs for us all to get excited about. Here’s how they happened.

Here’s to you, Marie Kondo

For a nifty reference, you can spy the pre-project graduation pages if you know where to look. Heck, if you fancy bunking off actual work for a while, go and relive the turn of the century.

You’re so very welcome.

When it came to giving things a new lick of paint, we thought we’d kick off by gathering together all the info that was packed inside, to then figure out what we might want to trim. Web branches tend to grow and snowball over time as parts get bolted on, so some bloating and duplication is always to be expected here and there. It’s natural. Life, uh, finds a way.

An hour of copy’n’pasting (and some finger cramp) later, we ended with a 91-page Word doc monster. This might sound scary, but rest assured, it was disgusting. We waded in with shears and bin bags, upgraded to a wood chipper, and got to thinking about a bigger revamp.

Sharing is caring

They say all great ideas are stolen. We stole ours from Sheffield. Credit where it’s due.

A browse of other graduation sites got us off the mark with a plan for restructure, and we settled on a ‘before, during, after’ getup to help streamline the guidance on offer.

Cheers, Sheff, have one on us.

As is always the ultimate goal, we based the job around conciseness, accessibility and ease-of-use, and soon had a framework in place. (All in, we shrank the original 40+-page branch down to 15 neat little gems. Go team. We deserve a sticker.)

Cutting the clutter was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life and I’m not sure I’ll ever match that high again.

With outlines drafted, and wearing our negotiating hats (mine is a baseball cap), we shuffled along to our first talk with Chris and Hannah from the grad team to try to pitch them our ideas. They got on board with a ‘Hallelujah!’ and we spent the meeting talking about holidays.

(Thanks for being superstars all through the ride, both of you, by the way.)

Full steam

After the green light, we got to a-buildin’.

We furnished the gaffe with our newly-preened Word doc (with another preen for good measure), and even hung up some wall art. The old pages were repackaged and tightened into their new flow, letting graduands plan ahead to the ceremonies and beyond.

A side note: this guy point-blank REFUSES to be deleted from my Downloads folder. I’ve thought about contacting IT, but he’s growing on me. He’s the boost I need on rainy days.

Making steady progress, we managed to tackle most of the work with no signs of slowing. Then we stopped.

Rethink

Around this time, in the UK and wider world, the coronavirus pandemic had begun to dominate headlines. After an incredible University-wide response to the crisis that’s far too vast to give proper recognition here, it soon became clear that graduation was off the table. Thoughts turned to the idea of a virtual replacement, and what on earth one might look like.

Our small team joined forces across the board, and we began to make broad strokes of a second August-only one-stop-shop online programme. Again, the effort here from others was (and is) immense — the highest praises to the team (you know who you are and what you did), and those from around the virtual campus (likewise), for pulling everything together and going a mile and more to make sure that our students are getting something special, until we’re back for a full celebration.

Sure and steady, the pieces started coming our way, and we ticked off our long list of content gathering — from social media duty, to Armando Iannucci.

I wasted half an hour on that rhyme, and it doesn’t even work. YOU try.

This got refined.

Lift-off

Five months since the call, we’re proud to be able to share, and have fingers and toes crossed that the events go down a storm. All (excellent) jokes to one side, it’s been an honour to play a part in getting all this together.

The August hub is live at long last with treats on standby, the full replacement is waiting in the wings for September, and I have a mullet.

Not long now.

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Tom Knevitt

Tom is a Content Assistant for Communications at the University of York. He hates long walks on the beach...

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