We’ve always held an in-person Sigma induction ceremony for our chapter. But due to the challenges of COVID-19 this year, we were concerned about our ability to safely achieve the same sense of celebration for our inductees and their families. Following our university and the District of Columbia’s directions we decided to move forward with a virtual event―our first one ever!
We wanted our inductees to have the opportunity to celebrate this special achievement with us and their families along with their other graduation activities. So we chose not to delay the event because, for many of them, including their Sigma induction on their résumé is an important distinguishing aspect of their career achievement when seeking employment or promotion. As we planned, we continually thought about how to best celebrate with everyone and personalize it for every inductee while being remote.
As part of our planning, we participated in Sigma’s virtual induction ceremony chapter leader chat. We gained valuable insights from other chapters’ best practices as well as Sigma’s resources to support our efforts. We reached out to our university’s event manager and the Office of Online Learning and Instructional Technology (OLIT) for support and included them as core members of our planning team. Their support and guidance through the planning of the event was invaluable and demonstrated the power of collaboration and teamwork! They also joined the event to manage any logistical and technology challenges.
We tried to think of the virtual event from the perspective of the inductees. We encouraged them to share the Webex link with their families and friends wherever they might be located so they could join the event “live.” We solicited our chapter leaders to recommend one of the inductees from both the undergraduate and graduate level to share their perspective on their educational journey and this induction. They discussed very different challenges and aspirations they had to obtain their degrees which clearly resonated with the inductees as evident by the numerous chat remarks. Many juggled school, working a full-time job, and raising a family. Keeping the ultimate goal in mind kept them moving forward each day.
Our additional speakers included Sigma’s president, the dean of our school of nursing, and our Region 12 Coordinator. They shared wonderful perspectives on the value and opportunities that Sigma membership brings. Finally, we included every inductee’s name on a set of slides and read each one slowly to acknowledge them personally.
While we wish we could have celebrated in person, the cheers and applauds that occurred as heard through the microphones of those virtually attending was heartwarming. The audience was able to send direct messages in the moment to the student speakers and inductees. The ability to continuously offer congratulatory chat messages was clearly an advantage over a formal, in-person ceremony where applauding only occurs during specific moments throughout the ceremony. These messages were seen by all and added to the excitement as they built upon each other in support of the speakers and the inductees.
Our virtual induction also included more attendees than we could have allowed for an in-person ceremony. This approach offered no barriers for students and their families to attend the event. They didn’t have to worry about transportation-related costs or about spreading the virus. We recorded the event so inductees can replay it whenever they’d like to remember this special moment in their career journey.
As we learn to thrive in a virtual environment, there are hidden opportunities to connect and share our love, courage, and honor. We may not have been able to hug and cheer in-person, but I know in my heart that each and every inductee felt special and celebrated. At the end of the day, that’s what we always set out to achieve, and I feel renewed and inspired once again by the future of Sigma.
Esther Emard, MSN, MSLIR, RN, CPHQ, is the President-elect and Vice President for Sigma’s Phi Epsilon Chapter at The George Washington University in Washington, DC, USA.