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Northern Vermont University Earns Grand Gold Award for “Exceptional Re-Design” of Commencement 2020 into a Virtual Event

January 25, 2021


CONTACT: Sylvia Plumb, Director of Marketing and Communications, 802.626.6459  

Northern Vermont University Earns Grand Gold Award for “Exceptional Re-Design” of Commencement 2020 into a Virtual Event

Johnson and Lyndon, Vt. – Northern Vermont University (NVU) is excited to announce it was awarded a Grand Gold Award in the CASE District I Excellence Awards in the Special Event Pivot category for its reimagination of the NVU May 2020 Commencement into a Virtual Celebration for the Class of 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NVU, like so many universities, was unable to hold its normal commencement ceremonies and needed to develop a virtual celebration for its graduates. In all, CASE District I received 250 entries for the 2021 awards, and awarded just seven Grand Gold distinctions.

From the CASE judges: “This was a truly exceptional re-design, and true pivot of an event to a virtual experience. The hyper-personalization through the microsites was excellent, and creates a sense of knowing and celebrating the graduates as individuals. The attention to detail was exceptional: downloadable personalized graphics for social media, and especially the ability to hear the graduates’ names read. In particular, their names being read is special because that experience is so fundamental to a commencement.” 

CASE’s website notes that “Grand Gold Awards recognize entries that are extremely exceptional or ‘game-changing.’ A Grand Gold Award is the highest level of recognition in the program. Grand Gold Awards are rare, and only one may be given per category.” To view the celebration website and and YouTube premier, visit

“NVU’s Marketing and Communications team created a unique and personal experience for our graduating students at a time when we all needed a meaningful shared celebration,” said NVU President Elaine C. Collins. “I thank them for their exceptional work and congratulate them on this wonderful regional recognition of their creativity.”

The celebration consisted of premiere events for each NVU campus on YouTube and Facebook with messages for the graduates, a singing of the alma mater, and personalized slides for each graduate during which student names were read aloud. After the event, students were directed to visit a custom-built microsite with sharable pages for each graduate. These pages included the graduate’s name read aloud, their degree and honors, a photo, a quote, and a virtual diploma jacket. The site also provided personalized graphics for graduates to download and share across social media.

Competition for the CASE North Atlantic District I region award included the many respected and endowed colleges and universities throughout Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, as well as the Canadian Provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec. 

The CASE judges also noted that “NVU’s idea allowed graduates’ loved ones to hear and celebrate them, regardless of location. The success of the work was also clear from the school’s [social media] stats. The fact that NVU will fold these ideas into future commencement, and that other schools can learn from their work, contributed to a unanimous decision by the judges that this entry deserves Grand Gold distinction.”

The NVU Marketing and Communications team that created this event included Web and Digital Designer Brandon Heanssler, Marketing Design and Production Manager Eric Kirk, Digital Communications Coordinator Mary Fafard, and Media and Marketing Coordinator Grace DiNapoli, led by Director of Marketing and Communications Sylvia Plumb. 

“I’m so proud of the personal and beautiful Virtual Graduation Celebration the team created,” said Sylvia Plumb, NVU Director of Marketing and Communications. “It was memorable and moving, and demonstrated how the team kept the student experience at the heart of the reimagination. To receive this level of recognition from the CASE judges is just wonderful. I also want to thank the many departments who supported this project behind the scenes.” 

This award is the latest for the NVU Marketing and Communications team, which also earned awards in the 35th Annual Educational Advertising Awards sponsored by the Higher Education Marketing Report, Atlanta, GA. NVU was awarded Best of Show for the NVU Water Bottle package, which also won a Gold in the Imprinted Materials category — one of just 16 Best of Show recipients out of 2,350 competition entries. 

According to EduADAWARDS: “Each of these [Best of Show] entries exhibited the highest standards, creativity, and professionalism. They captured the attention and admiration of our panel of judges. We want to extend a special congratulations to the people who were involved in putting these projects together. Your hard work has provided an exceptional contribution to the field of higher education marketing and advertising.”

NVU also received a Gold in the Integrated Marketing Campaign category for the NVU Acceptance and Deposit Package, and a Merit award in the Brochure category for the NVU Travel Brochure in the 2020 competition.