Project Grad

Director + Producer ···· Ricky Lam
Organization ···· Humans of Virginia Tech
Medium ···· Video
Published ····· May 2018
Client ···· Virginia Tech
Graphics ···· Tam Hoang
Production Assistants ···· Maddie Ide, Noah Autry, Shawn de Lopez


Many people thought Virginia Tech’s graduation commencements were dry and lacked any sort of real meaning besides getting their diploma (in the mail). 


Create Virginia Tech’s first graduation video under the “Humans of Virginia Tech” name by using a collection of real-footage from students to chronicle their college experience.


“Project Grad” premiered during the graduation commencement at Lane Stadium, spiking Virginia Tech and “Human of Virginia Tech’s” socials with a reach up to 150,000. The positive response paved the way forward for Virginia Tech to reach back again and ask HOVT to create an annual video – sparking a new tradition for the university.

Storyboard sketches

The Story

I feel like I type-casted myself as someone who yearns to make people feel nostalgic and cry as much as possible. I don’t know what’s wrong with me – I love watching people view my work for the first time and seeing them instantly bawl puts me on a power trip. I know that sounds incredibly wrong to say, but it feels... powerful.

My last college semester was about to start and I had an epiphany that I didn’t feel like I was ready to venture off yet. I’m big on legacy and always pondered over the possibility of making a graduation video that could leave its eventual mark on the school. Virginia Tech never made one before and their commencements are infamously known to be long and dry. Pulling as many strings as I could, I reached out to every administrator I knew during my time at the school and managed to pitch my idea to the board. Piggy-backing off my tenure with “Humans of Virginia Tech,”(HOVT) “Project Grad” was meant to encapsulate the undergrad experience through a collection of real, genuine video snippets from students. Best of all, it would entirely be done by a small team of students and be completely free of charge. I think they dozed off on everything besides the latter part, but I got the approval and production moved forward. There was one caveat though – premiering the video at Lane Stadium would only be confirmed if the final cut was up to their standards. I agreed with the terms, keeping that in the back of my mind.

Promotional material used during the marketing campaign.
The next few weeks were spent gathering as many assets as possible. A marketing plan was already made prior to getting approval and was launched quickly after. With HOVT’s large platform, it wasn’t hard being able to reach the student body. Utilizing Google Forms, students were able to submit as much footage as possible to get the chance to be featured in the graduation video and see their faces on the teletron at Lane Stadium. While that was underway, a group of us was reaching out to as many seniors as possible to spread the word and fill in the gaps of specific key moments in the video. One complication we faced was ensuring that every facet of the student body was being represented in under two minutes. I can admit that it was pretty hard to lock down a student who studied under the School of Agriculture.

I’ll be honest – juggling this with the various other duties I had with other projects and even senior-level classes was a lot. I did realize that I get a natural high when I put a lot on my plate. It was invigorating to see the project built itself together, even if there were constant nights where I would lock myself in the room because the sequence wasn’t looking right. The thought of the board not approving was a nightmare. Even if worst-case scenario happened, my stubbornness felt it wasn’t right for the project to only premiere online. It needed to be seen on the big screen and I was willing to sacrifice everything to get it there.

April 2018 quickly approached and the deadline for the board to see the final cut was imminent. It’s funny to look back and remember how many people I showed the video to – the multiple versions and drafts that existed and me threatening people to not leak what they just saw. I should’ve made myself a mock NDA with how serious it was. This project became so precious to me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It’s the one rare piece that I don’t look back on and ponder if there were some things I would change or hated. It was the first time I took control of a project this big and I’m proud how much a small group was able to pull through.

The final cut was presented and the board gave an overwhelmingly positive response. The dread of the clients clapping back two weeks before graduation was over. May 11th – this video would premiere on our football field. Maddie and I got the chance to see the test-run of the video at Lane Stadium a week prior to commencement. It was just us in the bleachers as the video boomed across the field. As the melody intercut with each succession of events, all of my hardships during college felt like they washed away. Everything was worth it because of this. Even when I walk past that stage and everyone forgot who I was, I hope they all remember the moment we shined a spotlight on them during their last time as an undergrad.