Convocation 2008 – Part 3

This is the last 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!

The third and final day of AU’s 2008 convocation brought many reminders that the achievements being celebrated were not the end of life’s learning journey, but only one step along the way.

Throughout the sunny grounds of the campus and inside the hallways of AU’s main building, many grads and visitors could already be heard discussing the possibilities for future goals.

A master’s degree, maybe a Ph.D., taking courses for fun: all these ideas and more were part of the excited chatter as grads celebrated with family, reconnected with old acquaintances, and discovered new friends.

The day began with the sound of bagpipes as the graduands? procession was escorted into the spacious tent. A cooling breeze drifted through the air and cameras flashed, following the platform party as they took their places on the stage.

Following a warm welcome from Joy Romero, Chair of AU’s governing council, the idea of lifelong learning was echoed by Jeff Johnson, MLA Athabasca-Redwater, as he greeted the audience.

Instead of convocation being an end to education, Jeff noted that It’s a milestone for graduates, and that perhaps the most important lesson learned is that grads ?have the ability to reach their goals.?

And AU’s lifelong learners represent a large group. As AU President Frits Pannekoek said, the more than 1,600 graduates of 2008 join over 12,000 proud AU alumni.

Then, after years of hard work by the grads, and countless hours of preparation by staff, it was time to confer the final degrees of 2008.

The traditional petition was read, the Chair declared it granted, and the graduands replied to the pledge put forward by Dr. Pannekoek.

The Master of Business Administration was the only graduate degree being presented on the final day, but it was a large group, with grads from around the world in attendance: Safat, Kuwait; Beaverton, Oregon; Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia; and Brossard, Quebec, are just a few of the locales the MBA grads travelled from.

And their bios were as diverse as their locations. Members of the group work as oil and gas consultants, project managers, and a team leader in medical imagery.

After 22 years with the Canadian Navy, one MBA grad plans to start a business in Australia, while others plan to continue in their current fields.

Their bios also offered some interesting glimpses into their journeys to convocation. One grad studied during plane rides, while another stood on a cliff during vacation in order to find a cell phone signal and download assignments to his computer.

And one piece of valuable advice was offered: never drink Merlot near your laptop while working on assignments.

Following the graduate degrees, two special honours were awarded. First, David J. Burnett was inducted into the Order of Athabasca University, ?in recognition of his service and dedication to the mandate, mission, and vision? of the university.

As well, Dr. Mary Lou Jepsen was presented with an honorary Doctor of Athabasca University.

Dr. Jepsen is the Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of One Laptop Per Child, a non-profit company that works to deliver low-cost laptops to disadvantaged children in developing countries. In May, Dr. Jepsen was also named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, as well as one of the 19 most influential scientists and thinkers.

In accepting the degree, Dr. Jepsen noted that while AU students may realize that information is everywhere, many people around the world still do not have access to it, and she encouraged the graduates to use their experience at AU to make the world a better place.

Another highlight was the graduate address presented by Anna Fabbroni, a graduate of the Bachelor of Health Administration program. Anna shared the text of her address with The Voice, and It’s included in this issue. (You can also find the address presented June 12, by Lorna Weisbrod of the Master of Arts?Integrated Studies program.)

And then it was time for the final presentations of Convocation 2008?the undergraduate degrees, including Bachelor of Administration, Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Management, Bachelor of Health Administration, and Bachelor of Human Resources and Labour Relations.

Like their counterparts in the graduate program, the new alumni travelled from all across the country?and beyond?to celebrate the day, but AU’s home province, Alberta, was especially well represented. No doubt many grads saw some familiar faces from places such as Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Brooks, and Peace River.

For at least one grad, convocation was a particularly memorable event: having missed both his high school and college graduations, crossing the stage to receive his university degree was a long-awaited moment.

Whether they are pursuing further education, embarking on new careers, or simply looking forward to spending more free time with family, The Voice congratulates all the graduates of 2008!