Online student affairs graduate gets a commencement of her own

Student affairs master’s student Amy Haggard (left), and Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jody Donovan (right) celebrate Haggard’s successful thesis defense and unconventional hooding ceremony.

Just as the times and places students can study online are flexible, so are the times and places they can graduate. At least that’s what one online Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE) master’s student and her thesis committee have shown.

When Amy Haggard told her advisor, Jody Donovan, that she wanted to walk in the spring graduation ceremony, Donovan’s heart dropped. “I was away at Semester at Sea,” Donovan, vice president for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, said. “So I said, ‘No, wait, wait. I want to hood you myself.’”

Haggard, who lives in South Carolina, couldn’t picture herself waiting half a year after she defended her master’s thesis to travel back to Fort Collins and attend graduation, so she and Donovan came up with another plan.

They would re-create the hooding ceremony when Haggard defended her thesis.

A heartfelt tribute in an unexpected environment

The ceremony was held in a conference room in CSU’s Administration Building. Haggard purchased her own regalia for the occasion and faculty members arrived donned in theirs. Dr. David McKelfresh, the Program Coordinator for SAHE, played a version of “Pomp and Circumstance” on his phone to begin the ceremony. Then, Donovan delivered a commemorative speech in honor of Haggard’s, “amazing enthusiasm for life and learning,” before formally hooding her.

Haggard completed her master’s degree while living in South Carolina, working full-time, and raising two kids with her partner, Cari. While many online SAHE students visit campus sometime during their program, Haggard was the first of Donovan’s advisees to be hooded on campus.

The advisor-advisee pair is clearly close. Donovan pulled out her phone for another selfie of the two and Haggard rolled her eyes and laughed. Yet, this was only the second time they’ve met in person. “We had a really good, open line of communication as if I were here on campus,” Haggard said. “Jody [Donovan] is one of the biggest gifts I will take away from the program.”

More about online programs

CSU’s online and distance programs give students around the nation and world access to the University’s programs and faculty from wherever they are, on a schedule that fits their lives. Learn more about SAHE and other online programs at