Convocation: The Graduates Speak

Taurian Guinand graduated from Athabasca University this spring with his Bachelor of Science (Human Science Major) with Great Distinction. This address was given on Thursday, June 6, 2013, as part of the Athabasca University Convocation ceremonies.

Mr. Chair
Mr. President
Elected Officials
Distinguished Guests
Members of the Platform Party
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is an honour to be a part of Convocation this year, and to have the privilege of joining so many unique individuals to celebrate their accomplishments. Indeed, Athabasca University represents success?not just academic, but in every area of life.

For me, success meant being able to study science from the comforts of my family’s home, free from the typical social distractions present in the lives of many students at conventional universities. Having completed all of my primary education at a distance as well, it was quite simple for me to adapt to university courses by distance education. In addition, Athabasca University allowed me to dedicate time to helping my parents on our family farm and volunteering at a long-term care unit. I could complete work at my own pace, and spend extra time for understanding difficult concepts and doing assignments. Ultimately, Athabasca University has given me a strong foundation for my future career, without compromising other aspects of my life.

I think that the majority of Athabasca University’s students have also enjoyed such benefits. Although the specific details in each student’s story vary considerably, they all reflect the ease with which Athabasca University’s programs adapt to diverse life plans. Indeed, I am sure that most students on stage today could describe how Athabasca University removed restrictions of age, prior education, affordability, or accessibility in allowing them to achieve their dreams.

Nonetheless, students have also faced many challenges unique to distance education. With the flexible schedule it provides, time management is key to completing work efficiently; however, because many students have family or work responsibilities in addition to their studies, it is often difficult to follow a particular schedule. Several times, I myself experienced the need to revise my schedule in order to balance a weekly commute to Fort McMurray with Internet availability and exam writing. Another challenge is the lack of direct interaction with tutors and other students. In this isolated environment, academic demands can easily seem insurmountable. Students have therefore taught themselves strategies for remaining on track. In fact, we could say that Athabasca University offers a virtual course for independent work that will surely enhance our ability to survive future challenges.

Unlike many of Athabasca University’s students, I was able to visit the university here in Athabasca, where I wrote exams, visited the library, registered in new courses, and completed science labs. The faculty and staff always made these experiences enjoyable, and I am certain that they have given the same impression to those students who have only interacted with them by phone or computer. For them, every student is important. Today we celebrate you as well because you generate the welcoming atmosphere that characterizes Athabasca University, and have made completing our degrees a pleasant path to take. I also commend Athabasca University’s leaders for their vision in producing a university that caters to the student. It is your dedication to this ideal that has made postsecondary education, at home, an attainable reality for everyone.

Tutors and professors also deserve special recognition for the roles they have played in delivering education. Along with developing courses, they provide the intellectual support that students rely on. As students, we often take the more difficult path to enlightenment, and these individuals willingly take the time to guide each of us to solutions. Tutors must also cope with the distance separating them and their students, and they accomplish this task with skill, day after day. Thank you for choosing to be an active part of our education. You have transformed our often mediocre performance into excellence.

Given the ?distance? in distance education, students rely on their family and friends for personal interaction. These people are the ones who, without compensation, share the weight of our work, sacrifice their schedules so that we can have time to study, and listen to our complaints of the challenging scholastic demands we have chosen. Thank you for your encouragement and support; your love has motivated many of us to pursue further education and reach for our dreams. May we use our successes to help you as unselfishly as you have helped us.

As many of those I have already mentioned are quick to remind us students, however, we are here today because we have chosen to succeed. Upon registering in a program, we know that we will subject ourselves to several years of toil before graduating. Although students in general may doubt their ability to succeed, those preparing to embark on a journey with distance education must possess clear goals and a strong dedication to achieving them. Indeed, studying at Athabasca University is not for the faint-of-heart; it requires discipline and persistence. Students at Athabasca University are here because they want to learn. They want to advance their education and improve their lives, and they are willing to tackle whatever challenges lie in their way with enthusiasm.

I congratulate all those students whose graduations we are celebrating at Convocation this year. Savour your accomplishment and treasure the elation you feel after so many years of hard work. May the degree you receive be only the first of many successes.

Today, let us also remember that we merely follow in the footprints of those who have gone before us, and are empowered by the dedication of those who walk beside us. So to everyone who has made Athabasca University a success: thank you. You have indeed taught us perhaps one of the most important lessons in life, which is to hold fast to our dreams, however difficult or impossible they may seem. One day they will come true.