Commencement recap: Thoughts and Lessons Learned

Takeaways from our whirlwind coverage

Northern Arizona University
7 min readJul 11, 2023

POV: Maria DeCabooter

Commencement — WHAT a whirlwind of two days.

With most of our interns graduating, our small but mighty NAU Social Team (Darvin, McKinley and I) did what we could to highlight the excitement of Commencement from all sides.

And that we did.

Over the two days of Commencement we shared five Instagram feed posts and five Reels.

We utilized Collabs to co-author posts with @naualumni and @naupresident.

We shared five Tiktoks

Livestreamed each ceremony on YouTube and Facebook.

Shared 23 tweets,

supported President Cruz Rivera’s social

And we also got to cover Bill Gates at Commencement.

What got us through Commencement? Advanced planning.

Whatever you can do in advance — do IT.

Here are some of the things we did to help ease our sanity on Commencement day:

  • Create a storyboard for each Commencement ceremony
  • Have a shot list ready for both photo and video coverage
  • Look up all social handles for people participating in Commencement and save them on a note on your phone
  • Ask for Commencement speeches ahead of time and pull quotes for social media and graphics
  • Create your captions for each post along with hashtags to go along with it ahead of time
  • Create your videos with placeholders for live scenes
  • Review your plan with your team
  • Charge all your devices
  • Print out everything
  • Put all your social captions in your phone notes so you can copy & paste

The more you can do beforehand, the more prepared you’ll feel come Commencement day. While you might struggle with posting because of the wifi or have to adapt because of issues beyond your control — you’ll be able to handle those challenges because you did all the work up front.

Another tip — think beyond Commencement day.

We went into Commencement knowing that we could use the content we captured beyond graduation weekend. With our Jacks still posting about graduation throughout May — we knew we could tap into that and share content we took but didn’t share.

With that in mind we planned interviews that would resonate with #TBT posts.

We also partnered with NAU Alumni for a #NAUgrad away the week after Commencement. We strategically chose this week rather than the week of Commencement to capitalize on the NAU nostalgia feeling.

My last piece of advice is to lean on your team and enjoy the experience.

When you’re covering events, it’s all hands on deck. I want to give a shout out to our senior Olivia. She graduated Friday morning and came back to help with the afternoon ceremony coverage.

Our intern Janelle also did a final Takeover of our Instagram stories before signing off the last time.

And let’s not forget Darvin and McKinley who were there for EVERY ceremony.

With your team working alongside each other and together — good will come. It might be stressful but you’ll have one another to lean on, laugh with and learn with.

POV: Darvin Descheny

Commencement Week Recap: Lessons Learned 🎓
My schedule during commencement week was filled with ceremonies, photo ops, and two days of social coverage in the dome.

I rode around with NAU President Cruz Rivera in a golf cart, ate PLENTY of catered food, and even saw Bill Gates!

⬇️ Here are some of the lessons I learned ⬇️
👀 Always be prepared for special moments, they can happen in less than a second!

An #NAUgrad reunion

We knew a surprise reunion was happening at Commencement. The logistics — not so much. How would we get the brother to the floor without the sister seeing? At one point should we have him line up to join the faculty congratulation line?

As the students school was called up to the stage, I patiently stood by with my camera ready to capture the moment. After about 20 minutes — I captured this shot. Note their loving embrace and the others in the back reacting to the surprise.

😮‍💨 Take breaks! Burnout is real, take some time to rest and to refuel with food.

🔋 A portable phone charger is a must! As someone who uses their phone everyday, all day, my phone ran out of battery in about 3 hours.

😵‍💫 Events are unpredictable — prepare to pivot responsibilities and priorities. At one point McKinley needed an extra hand to film some interviews and I had to put what I was doing on hold. There were also a couple instances where I had to quickly run across the dome because a subject wasn’t where I thought they’d be.

🌯 Always, always pack a snack during social coverage. I snuck a burrito in my fanny pack during each ceremony.
👕 Mix formal & practical, I found that wearing a polo allows me to move and stretch to get the shots I need.

📸 Take as many photos as possible, even if they don’t seem usable. You’ll be surprised on what you’ve captured later. All of the photos below were captured by simply turning and snapping a few shots. Totally unplanned. These photos capture the excitement, pride, and love that Lumberjacks feel during commencement.

👯‍♀️ Lastly, having your team with you makes long hours go by fast. Thank you McKinley and Maria for being an awesome team!

POV: McKinley, Student Intern

  • My first lesson/tip is to get rest and prep.

You are standing and running around for two days straight.

Get a good night’s sleep.

On top of that is just being prepared for life, planning your outfit, having a clean space to arrive home to, and preparing some healthy food!

The team also had all content prepared beforehand in shared documents so we knew everything we needed to get at the commencement which was really helpful.

  • My second tip, be confident.

For the first ceremony, I was making a Wes Anderson-style Instagram Reel. I was really nervous to get in the way to get the shots I needed. The more ceremonies I covered the more I got comfortable with my surroundings and finding spots to capture shots.

Just remember you belong at the event you’re covering and your job is important!

  • Lastly, have fun!

Luckily I was working with my amazing team so even though we were all running around, it was so much fun to be part of such an exciting moment for graduates.

They were all so happy and I am so grateful that I got to capture that through social media.

I also got to meet so many other NAU workers. I always enjoy making connections with other departments at events and commencement was filled with so many interesting and exciting people.

Covering events can be stressful at times but remember to enjoy the event you are capturing!



Northern Arizona University

It’s always a great day to be a Lumberjack! Join the conversation and share your #NAU story.