Oct. 29, 2019Print | PDF
Thank you, Madam Chancellor.
Congratulations graduands and my warmest welcome to everyone here who is celebrating with you today.
Convocation day is a mix of emotions: happiness, relief, excitement, and, perhaps a little trepidation for what comes next.
Today, you leave here with a university education!
As far as life milestones go, this is a big deal! Graduating university is a remarkably rare achievement in our world.
All of you are exceptionally well-educated, hard-working individuals.
Congratulations again on the hours of effort and perseverance it took to get here – in the classroom and library, in your experiential learning and field placements, in your full-or part-time jobs in support of your financial security, in taking care of family members, in your volunteer activities, or being out at practice and competitions if you were a student athlete.
Whatever your pathway was to success, and the many challenges along the road, my compliments on your significant achievement of being here today.
This convocation season also marks a significant milestone for Laurier as well – the 20th anniversary of our presence in Brantford.
When we launched in 1999, the number one movie at the box office was Fight Club, the number one album was Millennium by the Backstreet Boys and the most-watched TV show was ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’.
Twenty years doesn’t seem like very long ago until you consider what we’ve been able to accomplish in that time.
Our Brantford campus opened with one building, offering one program to 39 students.
Today, we welcome nearly 3,000 students into 23 programs across seven faculties in 20 buildings integrated throughout the downtown core.
Through the adaptive re-use of existing structures and from-the-ground-up construction projects such as the Laurier-Brantford YMCA and Research and Academic Centre, we have built a campus of which we are extremely proud.
But we are prouder still of our incredible graduates, yourselves included, who have been the key factor to Laurier’s success in Brantford.
Today, you join some 6,500 alumni who have taken the lessons and experiences they’ve gained here and applied them in ways that improve their communities.
Among our proud Brantford alumni, we have a network broadcaster, a youth centre director who works with at-risk teens in the community, a public policy advisor for the United Nations in Sri Lanka, and the teachers, social workers, data analysts, entrepreneurs, attorneys, health administrators and public safety professionals who work to improve lives in our community every day.
These alumni, in addition to your professors, peers, and community and university leaders have provided you with examples of how you can use your skills and talents to make a difference in the world.
As you embark on this next chapter of your lives, I encourage you to consider how you can become a mentor and leader to others.
Some of you will be working in business, while others will be designing games that change the world! Some of you will be working in emergency response and law enforcement. Some of you will pursue further degrees and credentials. The possibilities are truly endless!
Whatever you do when you leave Laurier, I urge you to ask yourself how you can incorporate empathy, compassion and kindness into your relationships with others.
As the Chancellor noted, one only has to look at the current state of political discourse, or the humanitarian and environmental challenges we face, to realize that in today’s world, empathy, kindness and compassion will go a long way not only in our personal relationships, but in defining our actions in support of the greater good.
As we all know, life can be filled with moments of great joy, such as days like today. It can also be filled with very difficult moments.
Cultivating empathy and compassion, not only for others, but also for ourselves, allows us to more fully appreciate the good times, and also weather those challenging life experiences that can seem insurmountable.
Through compassion, we seek understanding, rather than criticism and judgement.
We see that although we may face adversity in this moment, it is within our power to maintain hope, take comfort in our relationships, and together with others, take action to overcome challenges.
What I’ve just described are the elements necessary for resiliency – a key trait for handling the inevitable setbacks you will encounter in life, whether those be career challenges, relationship difficulties, or the loss of family and friends.
When I consider my own educational pathway, one period during my doctoral studies comes to mind.
When I was about 75% of the way done my PhD I hit a wall.
The courage and passion that had propelled me to that point seemed to have deserted me.
In hindsight, there were lots of reasons for this: job prospects in academia and research were low at the time; and my interests were expanding from straight research into volunteer areas completely outside of research and science.
It could also be that I had been in school with no break since kindergarten – I’m sure some of you can relate!
In essence, I had a crisis of confidence in my chosen path.
My graduate supervisor did the best thing he could for me. He showed me compassion and, importantly, patience, and let me set the pace I needed to complete my studies.
His assurance I would finish never wavered. His confidence allowed me to reach deep inside and find the resilience I needed.
Not only that, he helped me to find my path forward beyond my PhD. I am forever grateful and hope that I have been able to pay it forward to my own students over the years.
The friends and mentors you have met at Laurier provide an excellent network of support that will make you more resilient.
I encourage you to cherish these relationships. Properly nurtured, they will remain some of the most significant relationships throughout your life.
As president of Laurier, I hear stories every day of professors who go out of their way to support student success; and of students who volunteer and donate to help organizations both locally and globally.
We have remarkable staff members who have worked tirelessly to ensure our students cross this stage today.
If you look around, you will notice the many Laurier community members who have volunteered their time today to celebrate and recognize our graduands.
I am so proud of this thriving community.
As you move forward into your next adventure, remember your Laurier experiences and take this spirit of community with you.
The world is counting on you to lead with inspiration and purpose, and to be compassionate and kind.
I am confident that all of you will achieve much success in the coming years.
Congratulations and thank you once again for doing your part to build a proud legacy of achievement for Laurier in Brantford.
If the next 20 years are as successful as the first 20, we have much to look forward to.
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