Convocation 2009 – Address by Graduate

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

On Friday, June 12, the graduate address was given by Nadine Tobin, of Calgary, Alberta, who received her Bachelor of Nursing degree.

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

Madam Chair, Mr. President, Elder, distinguished guests, members of the platform party, graduates, families and friends, ladies and gentlemen.

First of all, I congratulate the Graduates for a tremendous achievement, and to the parents, friends, and faculty for sharing in the success of this graduating class of 2009. When Registrar James D?Arcy invited me to address convocation, I was both honoured and awed. After much reflection, I came to realize that perhaps I would be best to address you from the perspective I know, my own, and in so doing might touch upon experiences we have in common, and be able to begin to sketch the great possibilities that lie ahead for each and every one of us. Our achievement today, obtaining our various academic degrees, is the first step towards a larger and as yet unknown future.

I began this journey many years ago. When I was a young woman, I became ill and spent some time in hospital. During my recovery, I became more and more interested in the work performed by the nurses taking care of me?many of whom were licensed practical nurses. This pivotal event led me to apply for a position in a school for Licensed Practical Nurses in Winnipeg, and I graduated proudly in 1981. Not long after beginning my career as an LPN, I determined I wanted to further my education and obtain my degree in nursing. My first application was in 1983, and I was denied entry into a BN program because I was ?only an LPN.? I was accepted into the general studies faculty where I hoped to achieve the required minimum GPA to transfer into the nursing program.

Well, life intervened, and a few years later I moved to Calgary where I again applied to a university program and was denied entry because I had not completed grade 13 in Ontario?the equivalent of a grade 12 diploma, even though I had by this time accumulated a number of university courses with an excellent GPA. In frustration, I abandoned my hopes of obtaining a nursing degree. Life again intervened, and 11 years ago I became a mother. Motherhood became my primary focus in life and I worked steadily as an LPN while providing the best home I could for my daughter and me.

A few years ago, a good friend of mine was facing a very long recovery from a serious illness and she challenged me with the question ?How many more years was I going to stand still before I went back and obtained that nursing degree?? My mother provided the final incentive when she agreed to come and live with us for weeks at a time so I could concentrate on studying. I realized then that this was something I needed to do.

Where to go became the next serious challenge. The conventional schools had discouraged me, I was in no position to give up my day job, and so I therefore began my search for a program which would not only accommodate my schedule, but one which might recognize my past efforts. I found one. Athabasca University not only accepted me into the LPN BN bridging program but actually gave me credit for my LPN education and some of those courses I had taken so long ago when my dream was new.

I began this portion of my education two and one half years ago. I rapidly discovered I not only had to retrain myself to write papers, but, also how to access a virtual library, communicate with professors online, and become motivated to do assignments, complete readings, and navigate a computer system completely alien to me?all without direct support! I was terrified! I became paralyzed with uncertainty and my insecurities multiplied. I am certain many of you may recall the agonizing dread you felt when first accessing a new course online, when opening the marked section of submitted assignments, or sat down to write an exam.

After completing that initial course and gaining some much-needed confidence, I began to enjoy the thrill of attending class in my pyjamas, in the middle of the night, and on weekends. My daughter loved to read over my papers, and even tried to type a few for me. Thanks, Natasha, I could not have done it without you.

Athabasca University has become synonymous to me with some of the principles we as Canadians treasure?justice, equality, opportunity, and freedom. This university, in both its virtual and real senses, through the variety of programs it offers and the talents, wit, wisdom, and compassion of the faculty who deliver them, has prepared us to become life-long learners. We have graduated?informed with the skills and inspiration that will give us the courage and framework to try new things and explore our potential in ways perhaps not envisioned if we had completed our journey in a conventional university environment. Along the way, coached, supported, challenged, and mentored, we developed extraordinary teaching, planning, organizing, team-building, problem-solving, crisis management, and relationship management skills relevant to the 21st century. These skills, coupled with the promise of our chosen professions, and our motivation and passion, will allow us to become leaders, and inspire the men and women who will come after us.

In conclusion, let me share some strategies that I hope will be both stimulating and reassuring as we embark on our chosen careers:

Let us make sure to have a trusted mentor along the way. The advice and support of a mentor will see us through the many ups and downs that are sure to come. And many of my mentors are here today.

Let us commit to a life-long learning process: it will refine and strengthen the practice of our various professions.

And, finally, let us advocate for our colleagues, and be the guardians of standards of practice to which we have committed ourselves professionally.

Once again, my congratulations to everyone?this day belongs to you!

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