Perspective Online

UWG Ensures Graduates Continue to Shine Bright Despite Power Outage

by Jordan Head

The University of West Georgia has eight core values that it adheres to. From those eight values, two include caring and collaboration. So when a campus-wide power outage hit the university within hours of its spring graduation ceremonies, relying on these values was instinctive for university students, staff, and faculty members.

UWG Ensures Graduates Continue to Shine Bright Despite Power Outage In the early morning hours, April 29, UWG faced a series of power failures that left its campus in darkness through Friday night and majority of Saturday morning.

"Employees from across campus - Facilities, Planning and Construction, University Police, Residence Life, Dining Services, ITS, and others - worked through the night with Georgia Power to restore power," said Brendan Bowen, assistant vice president of Campus Planning and Facilities. "These power failures were the result of the aging substation that UWG has relied upon for its power needs since 1964."

Around 6 a.m. on the morning of UWG's spring graduation, the decision to move the first of two ceremonies from the Coliseum to the University Stadium was made. This decision left several university employees less than three hours to change venues for approximately 600 students and 5,000 guests.

"We knew that the commencement ceremonies were set to begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, so we raced the clock to ensure that our graduates and their families would be able to celebrate this special day," said Brendan. "At about 5:30 Saturday morning, we suffered a setback, and it became clear that we would have to make other plans for commencement. So we made plans to Go West to the Stadium."

After the decision to move the ceremonies to the University Stadium was made, staff members from the Coliseum, facilities and grounds, student affairs, and athletics worked together to move necessary pieces of equipment to the University Stadium for the first of two ceremonies.

"We realized that the transformer would not be fixed in time for the ceremony," said Trent Ross, director of the Coliseum at UWG. "Many decisions were made quickly, like where to seat the graduates, whether or not to use the stage, and what equipment we wanted to leave in place at the Coliseum should power get restored on campus."

Along with the decisions that were made quickly were those concerning the university's communication efforts. University employees were tasked with finding ways to communicate the changes with students, faculty, staff, and guests who would be arriving in a short period of time.

"University Police communicated through Wolf Alert," said Elizabeth Smith, associate director of Auxiliary Services. "The Registrar's Office sent notices out to students. Campus leadership communicated with the incoming faculty, while staff and volunteers stayed behind in the University Stadium to direct and ensure accurate communication with guests and students when they arrived."

The first ceremony was delayed for nearly 20 minutes due to the high volume of traffic surrounding the University Stadium. After guests were directed to their designated seating areas, the ceremony commenced regularly. However, unbothered by the change of setting, first ceremony graduates walked proudly receive their degrees.

The Coliseum's arrangement was left intact in the event that the power was restored. That decision turned out to be a good one, since the power was recovered on campus around 9 a.m. After a morning ceremony to remember, senior directors decided the second ceremony would go on as planned in the Coliseum.

On that day, UWG awarded 1,204 degrees, which stands as the most degrees given in a semester for the university. The morning ceremony highlighted graduates from the College of Education and Richards College of Business. The afternoon graduation highlighted graduates from the College of Arts and Humanities, Tanner Health System School of Nursing, the College of Social Sciences, and the College of Science and Mathematics.

The university's Commencement Committee hopes to have a contingency plan ready should it experience another incident like this one in the future.

"The Commencement Committee will be working to complete a Stadium Set Up Plan that will outline the scope of the contingency set up and the locations for necessary items," said Elizabeth. "We will also be printing contingency directional signage that can be quickly placed along the campus roadways and parking lots in the event of a move in the future."

Undeterred by the flurry of activities, both ceremonies moved forward without any drawbacks thanks to the dedication and teamwork of UWG faculty and staff.

"Despite the challenging loss of power on our main campus, our record-setting graduation ceremonies went off without a hitch, providing the backdrop for memories our graduates and their families will cherish for years to come," said UWG President Kyle Marrero. "I am proud to be part of such an engaged, committed, and compassionate team that always goes the extra mile to ensure our students - and their families - are cared for."


Do you have a comment or opinion about this story's topic? Perspective Online wants to hear from you. Submit a letter to the editor today.

Letters to the Editor Policy

Posted: June 24, 2016

Share this story!

FacebooktwitterLinkedInYouTubePinterestInstagram Give WestUniversity of West Georgia