From 2014 to 2019, University of Iowa International Programs (IP) produced commencement videos with multilingual narrations at the end of each semester with help from student, staff, and faculty volunteers. Those narrated ceremonies were made available for the enjoyment of friends and family members who could not attend the event in person. This project started with Chinese in May 2014 and Korean, Spanish, Arabic, and Farsi were included over the following semesters, covering more national representations among the international student population on campus.
According to Russ Ganim, associate provost and dean of IP, narrating graduation ceremonies in multiple languages illustrates the global reach of the UI. “More importantly, the translations connect us more closely to the families and friends of our international students and enable them to share more fully in the proud celebration that is commencement,” says Ganim.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, IP was unable to continue in-person recordings. In order to keep this project alive, IP explored various remote options with the UI Office of Strategic Communication (OSC). As a result, IP and OSC recruited student volunteers to translate commencement script files into multiple foreign languages and added them as captions to the original commencement videos.
“The UI campus thrums with excitement during commencement time. Students and their families are sharing in the emotions—joy, exhaustion, hope—that come with celebrating a tremendous academic achievement, a big transition, and a goodbye to friends and mentors,” reflects Clarity Guerra, coordinating video producer of OSC. “We want as many people as possible, no matter where they are or what language they speak, to be able to be part of this experience.”
As COVID cases slowed down in spring 2022, IP decided to resume in-person recordings for this project, and the decision was well received by the international student population on campus. “I really appreciate International Programs bringing back commencement narrations because it makes the all-English commencement ceremonies more accessible to international students’ families overseas. The variety of languages available makes international graduates like me feel included and respected," says Siau-Tong Ding, a recent graduate from Taiwan. Narrated commencement videos in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Arabic were created in summer 2022.
Gabriela Rivera, associate director, diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Henry B. Tippie College of Business, has been involved in this project as a Spanish-speaking narrator for several years. “I appreciate the opportunity to translate the Tippie graduation commencement ceremony in Spanish. As a native speaker and a parent myself, I value being inclusive of other languages during this special celebration. It is a milestone in a student’s life and a time to be remembered,” shares Rivera.