Toronto graduates return for in-person grad ceremonies, including a corgi

Donning a cap and gown and crossing the stage feels all the sweeter when you’ve waited two years to do it.

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, in-person graduation ceremonies have returned and proud graduates of Toronto Metropolitan University were able to cross the stage on Thursday, including a pint-sized pup named ‘Bao Bao.’

“I think he’s the perfect student and is qualified to be graduating,” gushed the corgi’s owner, international graduate Zhoatong Chen.

Chen and her partner, Zipeng Qin, both of whom are graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree, say the last few years in school have been anything but easy. But every virtual class, every virtual exam, Bao Bao was by their side, studying along with them.

“Even if I failed a course, or had some sad moments (Bao Bao) would support me and stay with me and even go to the Library with me to study with me too,” said Chen.

“Sometimes in the final exam, I (would) bring Bao Bao to the exam room as well and many people may feel stressed — and when they (saw) Bao Bao, they (would) feel more comfortable.”

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Like any grad, even Bao Bao had to overcome grad day jitters before walking across the stage, Chen says.

“It’s his first time he’s seen so many people,” said Chen, “so many focusing on him and I think he’s a bit nervous.”


Toronto Metropolitan University president, Mohamed Lachemi says for graduating students, experiencing those anticipation jitters together and celebrating students’ accomplishments in-person with family and friends sure beats trying to replicate that experience through a screen.

“You can feel the level of joy, but also the importance for (students) to say ‘the pandemic is behind us,’” said Lachemi. “And I think that is part of celebrating – of course their success, but also celebrating after two years of hard times.”

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This year’s convocation at TMU will be larger than usual. Organizers say a total of 8,600 students will cross the stage at 20 ceremonies this month as the university joins other Ontario universities in welcoming back pandemic-era grads who missed out on their in-person convocations..

Chen is one of those returning grad students — part of the class of 2020. She says the academic road is not over for her and Bao Bao, yet.

“I finished my masters degree and will be graduating in October and Bao Bao will go and get his masters with me as well,” Chen said, laughing.


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