No. 7 • 2020-06-17

Boathouse Row in Blue and Gold

Subscribe to Newsletter

Virtual Commencement

I am close with quite a few members of this special class, graduating from high school, college, and from graduate programs. Even though we all had the rug pulled from under us this spring when the very nature of schooling changed, it’s been extra challenging for those completing their diplomas and degrees, given the uncertainty of next steps for many.

One of the small positive outcomes from the cancellation of traditional graduation ceremonies and gatherings is that amazing speakers and performers created special events to celebrate this year’s graduates. The Class of 2020 can say that Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill Gates, and Beyonce addressed their class, along with performances by Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and BTS [YouTube’s Dear Class of 2020]. Or that Oprah Winfrey, Simone Biles, and Selena Gomez, and others were their graduation speakers [Facebook’s #Graduation2020].

We’re all sad that the traditional commencements haven’t been possible, but many institutions (and their graduates) have shown enormous creativity in finding ways to celebrate. As pictured, Drexel’s virtual commencement included a physical element of lighting up Philadelphia’s landmarks in our University’s blue & gold colors. UC Berkley held a special ceremony within a campus reconstruction in Minecraft, inviting students to reconnect with their memories of spaces on campus. The School District of Philadelphia held a special city-wide virtual commencement for its graduates, with a keynote address by our friend Malcolm Jenkins, co-founder of the NFL Players’ Coalition.

This spring, the creative work of students everywhere, through virtual collaborative performances, videos, songs, games, and more, inspired me to start this newsletter. I salute all of this year’s graduates. And now, we need you to apply that amazing creativity right away to spark the changes our world so desperately needs.

(Socially) Distant Creations

  • Celebrate Juneteenth in Philly, From Home [Philadelphia Family] Juneteenth celebrates the ending of slavery (June 19, 1865) as well as Black history and heritage. The African American Museum, the Museum of the American Revolution, the Johnson House Historic Site, and more are organizing virtual celebrations. 
  • $550K committed to fund underrepresented founders [Technical.ly Philly] How a tweet by Kiera Smalls, Executive Director of Philly Startup Leaders, initiated a fund to support underrepresented entrepreneurs.
  • It’s Time We Dealt With White Supremacy in Tech [Medium] Essay examining the terrible inequities in the tech sector.
  • ColorStack [article in Protocol] A new organization for Increasing the entrance, retention, and success of Black and Latinx students pursuing technical careers. There’s already a U. Penn chapter… here’s an opportunity for someone at Drexel to step up.
  • I Can’t Breathe [Yves Dharamraj] A five-cello arrangement of “When I am laid in earth” (from Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas) as a tribute to George Floyd.

What I’m creating

My TEDxDrexelU talk included an interactive performance (the video will be up in a few weeks). For this performance, I wrote a web app(in p5.js) to generate the visual cues used for the audience to play along with their phones. The cues are generated using a text-based markup format, LyriChord, for lyrics+chords that is machine-readable while also remaining easy to read/edit by humans. It’s all pretty nerdy, and much of it is still work in progress, but perhaps these will be useful to someone.

LyriChord visual cues generator
Visual cues generated from LyriChord text input using p5.js web app.