University of Iowa

In the news: Volunteers make UI commencement ceremonies accessible to a global audience

May 1st, 2019

Recognizing the desire for family and friends of international students to share in the joy of commencement, the University of Iowa recruits volunteers to translate the ceremonies in different languages. Photo by Tim Schoon.

By Lee Hermiston, Iowa Now

In May 2020, Tippie College of Business student Yue Xue plans to receive her degree in accounting and business analytics from the University of Iowa.

A native of China, Xue knows it is difficult for her family and those of her fellow international students to attend commencement ceremonies at the end of each semester. With that in mind, Xue in December did what she hopes another student will one day do for her commencement ceremony: provide translation services in Chinese so her family can share in her accomplishments.

“It was meaningful,” Xue says of translating Tippie’s December 2018 commencement ceremony into Chinese. “I could help many Chinese parents understand the speech of their children’s commencement ceremony. I felt like I could help some people. I really enjoyed doing that.”

The UI first began translating commencement ceremonies into Chinese in May 2014. Since then, ceremonies have been translated into Arabic, Korean, Spanish, and Farsi as well. Whether a ceremony is translated into a specific language depends on the availability of student, faculty, and staff volunteers.

The effort is coordinated through International Programs by Global External Relations Officer Suyun Channon. The project began with a Chinese international student, Star Shen, who was interested in radio broadcasting and wanted to do a live broadcast of the Tippie commencement ceremony. That year, Shen, Channon, a staff member from the Office of Admissions, and a faculty member from Tippie performed the live translation.

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