“Wisdom is hard-earned. It comes from being tested and developing the confidence that you have the skills to face the most challenging of circumstances; to look for and find the silver lining.”
It was with those insightful words, delivered to Ontario graduates on behalf of President Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes, that Yorkville University’s convocation ceremony celebrating the graduating Classes of 2021 and 2022 kicked off on April 28.
Of the 552 Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Interior Design, and Interior Decorating Associate Diploma graduates feted during the ceremony, 290 were on hand at Toronto’s Meridian Arts Centre to collect their degrees and diplomas in person.
Speaking on behalf of Christensen Hughes, Yorkville University’s Interim Vice President Academic Dr. Angela Antohi-Kominek welcomed all in attendance – from the graduates, to their families and loved ones in the crowd, to the faculty and staff on stage and in the audience.
“Today is a day of celebration for all of us, because as hard as you have worked, we know you didn’t do it alone,” she told graduates.
“Through it all – the highs and lows, your accomplishments and your struggles – I suspect they were there to cheer you on, to give you a hot meal, to help you understand an important concept in a new way, or to, in a moment of self-doubt, tell you, ‘I believe in you. You can do it.’”
Distinguished Convocation Speaker Derrek Lennox
Joining Antohi-Kominek in her acknowledgement of Yorkville’s newest graduates was Derrek Lennox, Senior Vice President Corporate Development and CFO of Dougall Media – a group of companies that operate multiple radio stations, television stations, and news outlets in Thunder Bay and the surrounding area.
As Yorkville’s Distinguished Convocation Speaker, Lennox commended the assembled graduates for successfully navigating through all the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and for coming out the other side with a degree or diploma in their hands.
“For many, the last few years have been very trying and very tough. But they have also been a time for innovation and change – innovation in how we live and work, and perhaps more appropriately today, changes in how we learn and study,” he said, noting the newfound prominence of ‘Zoom’ in each and every one of our vocabularies.
“But you got through all the changes thrust on you…and you got here, to convocation, commencement, graduation – very much the celebration of an accomplishment. In the grander view perhaps, the celebration of a critical milestone along your individual career and life paths.”
Lennox urged graduates to bring with them all the knowledge they’ve gleaned during their time at Yorkville as they explore the next steps in their respective post-graduation journeys.
“The lessons you have gained in class, between classes, and around the context of taking them, have all been part of your education, both planned and otherwise,” he said.
“Online. Remote. Zoom. Plus, of course, all the related credentials that you came to Yorkville for in the first place. These are the things you learned, the things you gathered along the way to get to this point, the things you need to be ready for your next steps. You have them now. Congratulations!”
Bachelor of Business Administration Valedictorian Barnabas Simende
One of the biggest lessons Yorkville University’s 2022 Ontario Campus Bachelor of Business Administration valedictorian Barnabas Simende learned during his studies in Project Management was the importance of having a ‘smart plan’.
“A specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time based-plan can help you to resolve unexpected issues because your plan is like a compass when you’re lost or in distress,” said Simende, who also holds a diploma in Acting for Film, Television & the Theatre from Yorkville’s affiliate, Toronto Film School.
“Class of 2022, I finally got the courage to stick to the plan and have now graduated from two incredible programs that have helped me to be a better person.”
Simende – who currently works as a Project Coordinator for Turner Fleischer Architects Inc. and volunteers as a member of the Village Players Theatre’s Online Committee – also reflected on his ever-evolving definition of success over the last few years, admitting that he personally still doesn’t know what path his life and career will ultimately take.
“So, one step at a time for us, because eventually, you will get to where you need to be, not where you want to be,” he advised his fellow graduates.
“Don’t allow people’s limited perception of who you are to define you, nor their opinions to determine how you live. Life is much brighter when you focus on what truly counts. Refuse to start your day with the broken pieces of yesterday and remember that every breath is an opportunity to make your life better.”
Bachelor of Interior Design Valedictorian Anna Gurina
For Anna Gurina, valedictorian for the Bachelor of Interior Design program, her Yorkville experience was one that not only prepared her to enter into the job market as professionally prepared as she possibly could be, but it also allowed her to grow and learn from her fellow graduates.
“Through the last few years, I have enjoyed every day of my studies,” said Gurina, a mother of two who worked for seven years in finance and investor relations before a move from Russia to Canada prompted her to pursue a second career in interior design.
“Curious by nature, I explored the world of design and architecture, met many talented, focused and motivated fellow students from different parts of the world, and was able to expand my knowledge about different cultures and traditions.”
Diversity, she said, was she and her Bachelor of Interior Design students’ strength.
“We all had diverse backgrounds, ages and nationalities…We shared, we collaborated and we pushed each other to new heights,” she said of her Yorkville experience, during which she actively participated in Dean’s Council meetings, tutored her peers, and was successfully involved in the university’s campus renovation as part of her internship in 2021.
“I’m grateful to our university for its inclusive environment where everyone can belong, whether they were born in Canada or came from abroad. We are all united under the roof of Yorkville University by common goals for education and by the community that we became a part of.”
Graduation 2022 Awards Presentation
- Hartley Nichol Award – Yhojana Garreton
– The Hartley Nichol Award is presented to a graduate of one of Yorkville’s undergraduate programs who has earned a commendable cumulative grade point average and who has consistently exhibited exemplary student citizenship through volunteerism, involvement in campus life and contributions and support to peers.
- Bachelor of Business Administration Award – Najmusaqib Niazi
– The BBA Award is presented to a student who has a commendable cumulative grade point average, displays integrity of character, demonstrates a commitment to their future project management career, is a leader amongst their peers, and is actively involved in campus extracurricular activities.
- Interior Design Distinguished Student Award – Nina Kwei
– The Interior Design Distinguished Student Award is presented annually to a student who has made a significant contribution to university life and/or the interior design profession with a strong record of community work and volunteering, who has shown commitment academically and personally during their study and has achieved a commendable cumulative GPA.
- Interior Decorating Creativity in Design Award – Meredith Arnold
The President’s Awards were presented to the followings students, each of whom earned the highest cumulative average in their program’s graduating class:
- Bachelor of Business Administration – Wenyang Hao
- Bachelor of Interior Design – Anna Gurina
- Interior Decorating Association Diploma – Meredith Arnold