A Special Diploma Delivery for New Hampshire Grad

Explore Programs

Fiona Mathiesen dressed in her cap and gown, holding an SNHU pennant and the text Fiona Mathiesen '20 BS in Information Technologies

When Fiona Mathiesen '20 arrived at the gazebo near the Sunapee, New Hampshire, harbor recently, she thought she was there for a socially-distant discussion about “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides with her book club. Instead, she found her long-time friend Dr. Gwen Britton – also a member of her book club – dressed in full academic regalia, just as she would be at SNHU's Commencement ceremonies. 

“Then my husband showed up around the corner, and I was like, ‘You sneak,’” Mathiesen said. 

Dr. Gwen Britton and a miniature SNHU bus carrying Fiona Mathiesen's diploma.Britton, the associate vice president of STEM professions at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), and Mathiesen’s friends and family had planned a surprise graduation event to celebrate Mathiesen’s recently completed bachelor’s in information technology

“They completely surprised me. I had no idea,” Mathiesen said. “They totally threw me for a loop.”

Britton wanted to celebrate Mathiesen’s achievement since SNHU’s Commencement was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. First, she planned the gathering by emailing Mathiesen’s family and creating a secret email string with book group members in addition to the usual club communication string. Then she made a small podium as well as a miniature version of the iconic SNHU bus. 

Fiona Mathiesen controlling a miniature version of the SNHU bus that is carrying her diploma.“The level of detail she did was amazing,” Mathiesen said.

The gazebo is big enough for club and family members to stay 6 feet apart – which they did while the rain poured – and listened to Britton’s short speech and presentation of Mathiesen’s diploma. For the delivery, Britton attached it to the miniature bus. Mathiesen pulled on a string, and the bus “delivered” her diploma. 

“It was exciting,” she said. “It kind of affirmed what I’ve been doing for 5 years. And to have my parents and family there as well was really nice. It was great. It was very personal. And to have it right in my hometown as well was great. The main reason I wanted to march was for my parents.”

Long-time friends Fiona Mathiesen and Dr. Gwen Britton, dressed in graduation regalia, holding SNHU pennants.While her bachelor's degree had been long-awaited, it's not Mathiesen's first experience at SNHU. She earned her associate degree after high school back when SNHU was still New Hampshire College. Mathiesen said she began her career after earning that degree but always wanted her bachelor's.

"It was kind of a bucket list thing and the timing was just right when I decided to do it," she said.

Britton said she cheered her friend on during her journey and was thrilled to help her celebrate reaching the finish line.

"She was just so happy. She was just ecstatic," Britton said. "It was fantastic. It touched my heart knowing it was something she was looking forward to and she's worked so hard for so long."

Joe Cote is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Follow him on Twitter @JoeCo2323.

Community STEM

Explore more content like this article

An online educator using a video chat feature on their laptop to attend a virtual professional development conference.

Always Learning: Online Educators Continuing Professional Development

February 17, 2021

Thousands of SNHU educators from various disciplines virtually convened for the university's second annual Gather Conference. The three-day conference focused on online instruction approaches and other developmental opportunities.

A woman points at a computer screen and gives advice on how to become a web developer

How to Become a Web Developer

February 15, 2021

As technology continues to become a growing part of our daily and professional lives, a career in web development can help you find work in virtually any field. But before you learn web design and start an exciting career in development, it's important to understand how to become a web developer.

A student exploring what cyber security is, holding a tablet and standing in front of large machines at his internship.

What is Cyber Security and Why is it Important?

February 10, 2021

In recent years, headlines about cyber security have become increasingly commonplace. For companies of all sizes, keeping information safe is a growing concern.