Convocation 2008 – Part 2

This is the second of a special three-part Voice report on Athabasca University’s 2008 Convocation, which took place June 12, 13, and 14. The Voice offers its warmest congratulations to all this year’s graduates!

If there was a theme running through the second day of AU’s 2008 convocation, it was one of co-operation and the many goals it can help achieve.

As the ceremony got underway, even the weather was in a co-operative mood.

Skies were sunny, and the rain held off until everyone was safely inside the tent, ending as if on cue before the close of the ceremony!

The day began with the sound of drums and female voices drifting across the air as Asani, a contemporary Aboriginal women’s trio from Edmonton, led the procession into the large red-and-white tent and onto the stage, where they performed a stirring version of ?O Canada.?

Under the protective dome, the first drops of rain began to fall as Joy Romero, Chair of AU’s governing council, extended a welcome to the graduands, guests, and academics. She offered a special thanks to the AU staff and volunteers whose many hours of hard work help make convocation such a special day for the new grads.

Following official greetings from Colleen Powell, the mayor of Athabasca, the audience heard from Dr. Raj Sherman, MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

Dr. Sherman shared his experiences of arriving in Canada at the age of seven, and being a strong believer that ?all dreams can be achieved through education,? as he became the first in his family to earn a degree.

AU President Frits Pannekoek also welcomed the graduands and visitors, and affirmed AU’s commitment to removing educational barriers?not only geographic, but financial and social as well?and noted that the university’s capital expansion plan will play a large part in meeting those goals.

The day’s spirit of co-operation was also visible as members of the Athabasca Advocacy Group were inducted into the Order of Athabasca University.

The advocacy group is an assembly of concerned individuals who are committed to AU and its importance in the community.

Their concerted actions exemplify the belief that AU is part of what makes Athabasca unique, and in the spring of 2007 their efforts on behalf of the university’s expansion project led to over 700 letters being sent to the provincial government.

During the induction ceremony, it was also noted that AU’s contribution to the community plays an important part in the positive relationship between the two. Not only has the university donated the land for the town’s new multiplex, but AU is also ideally positioned to play a research role in the river basin watershed area.

Then it was time for the moment so many had been waiting for: the awarding of degrees. Once again, Dr. Margaret Haughey, Vice-president (Academic) read the petition and, following Dr. Pannekoek’s reading of the pledge, the graduands were ready to take centre stage.

The graduate degrees presented on the second day of convocation were the Master of Health Studies, Master of Nursing, and Master of Science ? Information Systems.

Another highlight was the presentation of an Honorary Doctor of Science to Dr. Janice Morse. A citizen of four countries and the author of over 140 academic papers (as well as books), Dr. Morse congratulated the grads on the wonderful time of change in their lives, calling it ?an adventure to be lived,? and encouraging them to walk through the new doors that their degrees will open, ?wherever they may lead.? Along with publishing extensively in her field, Dr. Morse was instrumental in the conceptualization and building of the University of Alberta-based International Institute for Qualitative Methodology.

Another inspiring speaker was Kathryn Gordon, the graduate speaker for the day and a graduate of AU’s Master of Health Studies program. Kathryn’s address is included in this issue of The Voice.

Along with the presentation of the master’s degrees, several brand new AU alumni received their undergraduate degrees, in the Bachelor of Nursing, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Science in Computing and Information Systems programs.

Graduands from across Canada and beyond proudly crossed the stage to receive their hoods and parchments, and their biographies were as diverse as their locations. Their current roles include director of cancer care, clinical supply manager, primary nurse practitioners, a former naval officer, pediatric nurse, and information systems consultant.

One thing they all shared, however, was the drive and dedication to succeed, and the personal glimpses into their journeys showed that it wasn’t always easy. One graduate gave birth to twins during her program, while another sold her home and took out student loans to pursue her degree.

Another began a master’s degree after a 30-year absence from school, while one grad lost her Internet connection during an exam and drove desperately around the neighbourhood looking for a connection.

But the bios shared plenty of light-hearted moments too, and one enterprising graduate offered a simple solution to balancing it all: less sleep.

Congratulations, graduates of 2008!

Watch for final coverage of Convocation 2008 next week