Convocation 2007 – Address by Graduate, Part 2 of 3

During each of the three days of convocation, one graduate addressed their fellow students and convocation guests, sharing their thoughts about graduation and the journey that brought them there.

On Friday, June 8, the graduate address was given by Janice Dalton, of Harbour Main, Newfoundland and Labrador, who received her Master of Health Studies degree.

The Voice thanks Janice for sharing the text of her address, which is printed below.

Madam Chair, Your Honour Mr. President, Distinguished guests, Elders, Members of the platform party, Graduates, Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a sincere honour for me to speak before you today on behalf of this year’s graduating class of 2007. Lifelong learning has often and fittingly been likened to a journey. At the beginning of our learning journey we had to first decide where our journey would take place. We chose Athabasca University. I am confident that each of you will agree with me when I say we could not have made a better choice. It has allowed us to master not only knowledge in our field of study, but also improved our media skills through its distance education delivery mode.

In my case, the online learning format allowed me to remain at home in Newfoundland with my husband and four children and to continue my career while pursuing my educational goal. It is unbelievable to think that while sitting in the comfort of my own home in a small rural community I could broaden my horizons and learn through interaction with a diverse group of health professionals worldwide.

On any journey the assistance and guidance provided by others is paramount in reaching the destiny. The staff and faculty at Athabasca have guided and eased my journey in many ways. Professional and support staff were always available and more than willing to assist with technical difficulties, and to answer simple questions such as what form to complete or where to find that needed journal article. Their responses were always professional and friendly. There was never a feeling of being a bother.

The contribution the faculty has made to my journey cannot be overstated. In my opinion, having studied at a number of academic institutions, the faculty at Athabasca University is outstanding. I am convinced that without their positive influence I would not be standing here today. Their leadership in education demonstrates their commitment to academic excellence. They are experts in the field of distance, online education and continually strive to support learning through innovation. At Athabasca University, the course material is not simply posted online; there is emphasis on creating an inviting and effective learning environment. Engaging in the learning process via the Internet can sometimes be isolating; however, this was not my experience. The faculty provided unprecedented opportunities to engage students in the learning process and create a feeling of community.

This brings us to another key factor in successfully completing our journey: our cyber peers. It is rare that we travel alone on a journey. On our journey we travelled with others working toward the same learning goals. As well as goals, we shared challenges. Through faculty leadership, class interaction, and shared work tasks we became a learning community. As part of the learning community we experienced trust and belonging. If one person struggled with a concept we all struggled with the concept until the learning was conquered; we became masters of not only our own destiny but felt a sense of responsibility to support our cyber peers in the mastering of their destiny. It was through this connectedness we learned and grew.

And of course I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge our family and friends who unconditionally supported us through this journey. For each of us they may be called by a different name; mother, father, husband, wife, child, best friend, or co-worker to name a few. However, whatever their title they are each special. They experienced the ups and downs of our emotional roller coaster as we struggled to complete an assignment or celebrate a positive evaluation. In the case of my husband, who does not work in a health-related field, he would sit, listen, and nod his head as I discussed my latest course topic. At the end of the conversation I had gained a better understanding of my subject matter. However, I am sure that he was no more enthused about the topic at hand. The important thing was he listened. Unfortunately he could not be here with me today to celebrate; in some ways he has earned the diploma as much as I have. Therefore, with him in my mind and on behalf of the graduating class, I would like to acknowledge and thank family and friends for just being there.

Today we have arrived at the end of the journey we started a number of years ago. The completion of our programs has required planning, perseverance, hard work, dedication, balance, and support. However, in my opinion, it has been well worth it. I am confident that as each of you sit here with pride in your accomplishment you also feel your learning has been worth the investment. However, now that we have arrived at this destination, it is time to start the next journey, using the new knowledge, skills, and attitudes we have acquired. As we wake up to a fresh new tomorrow and we prepare to embark on our next challenge I leave you with this thought from famous American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson: Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.

Congratulations and enjoy your celebration.