“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
That was just one of the many messages Yorkville University’s most recent crop of newly minted alumni were left inspired by during the school’s 2023 Convocation Ceremonies in Ontario this week.
More than 400 Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Creative Arts, Bachelor of Interior Design and Interior Decorating Associate Diploma were on hand in Toronto on Thursday, May 4 for a pair of convocation ceremonies presided over by Yorkville University President and Vice Chancellor Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes and Provost and Executive Vice President Dr. Allyson Lowe.
“A Convocation marks a new beginning,” Lowe told the assembled graduates before they walked across the stage at the Meridian Arts Centre to receive their degrees.
“Today, each of you is beginning a new part of your journey as you mark this extraordinary achievement and begin to deepen your professional lives, enhanced by the learning and experiences of your Yorkville education…an education that has equipped you with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to create a better future for yourselves and for those around you.”
Distinguished Convocation Speaker Frances-Anne Solomon
Joining Lowe in her congratulations of Yorkville’s newest graduates was award-winning writer, producer, director, curator and distributor in film, television and radio, Frances-Anne Solomon, who attended the event as Yorkville’s Distinguished Convocation Speaker.
During her address, Solomon – the trailblazing CEO of CaribbeanTales Media Group – recited the story of a group of Black railway porters and domestic workers who travelled to Ottawa back in 1954 to demand that the government change immigration laws in order to grant all people equal access to Canada.
“Cecil Foster, who’s an important academic, has said that this delegation was an important turning point in history,” Solomon said, noting that, up until that point, Canada was part of a grand European colonial experiment based on a white supremacist model.
“What that meant was that the laws and institutions of Canada were all set up to benefit a small group of wealthy, white European people. But that delegation represented the beginning of a change – the beginning of a negotiation in which Black and non-white people began to demand the right to equal place and voice in this country of ours.”
Solomon also recalled how, in 1967, then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau opened up the doors to immigration reform, promising that Canada would become a more just society.
“Despite his words, the institutions upholding white supremacy remained in place, and over the years, our country failed to live up to the promise of equal access and equality of opportunity for all,” she said.
Then, three years ago, the world underwent another “seismic” moment of change following the murder of George Floyd – an event Solomon characterized as a moment of reckoning, when people all around the world rose up and began demanding accountability and true belonging for all.
“So, this process, which began all the way back in 1954, is still fresh and very relevant. Right now, our beautiful country Canada is ahead of the world in terms of these kinds of changes – and it is in that context that you enter the workforce,” she told graduates.
“I encourage each and every one of you to step out into your lives as part of that historical movement – to take responsibility for making sure that our beautiful country continues to live up to the dream of a group of porters and domestic workers, and to Pierre Trudeau’s promise of a just society and a country that belongs to us all.”
Bachelor of Creative Arts Valedictorian Reeth Mazumder-Roberts
An alumnus of the Writing for Film & Television program at Toronto Film School, Mazumder-Roberts said she decided to enroll in the BCA program at Yorkville in order to further her understanding of how the Canadian screen industries operate and business behind it.
“I was like a moth to a flame – the allure of this program was too strong to resist,” she told her classmates during her valedictory address, noting that her decision to continue her studies paid off, resulting in a plethora of successful projects.
Over the course of her studies at Yorkville, Mazumder-Roberts not only co-authored a sitcom currently in the hands of a producer, but also directed her first feature, developed a documentary series, scripted a war film for a CBC producer, and began co-writing a sci-fi series – all while working two jobs and going to class.
What kept Mazumder-Roberts going throughout all those sleepless nights, she said, was the encouraging words of TFS President Andrew Barnsley, who once told her that ‘Education always pays back’ and that ‘Sometimes it’s important to push yourself out of your comfort zone.’
“The truth is that I did step outside my comfort zone…Even though some days are tough, I keep bouncing back,” she said, urging her fellow YU graduates to do the same.
“It is our work that will fill a massive portion of our lives, so the only way to be truly satisfied is to be passionate about what you do. To do great work is to love what you do. Keep looking if you haven’t found it yet, and do not settle for less than you deserve. When you find it, you will know.”
Bachelor of Interior Valedictorian Salma Amin Alfatwa
Salma Amin Alfatwa is a prime example of someone who knows without a doubt where their true passion lies – and who’s willing to put in the work to make their dream career come true.
When the Class of 2023 Bachelor of Interior Design valedictorian crossed the stage to collect her Yorkville degree, it was her second time doing so in five years – she earned her first degree in Interior Design in 2018 in Saudi Arabia.
In her speech to her fellow graduates, Amin Alfatwa characterized her time at Yorkville as a “journey of growth, exploration, and discovery.”
“As interior designers, we have been equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to transform spaces, evoke emotions, and create experiences that are memorable and meaningful,” she said.
“Our education has prepared us for the challenges that lie ahead, and it is a testament to our hard work, dedication, and passion for design that we stand here today as graduates.”
Amin Alfatwa also reflected on some of the hurdles she and her classmates had to clear in their pursuit of their degrees – namely, the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying academic challenges.
“These bumps made me realize that the route to success is not to be easy, and that they are an integral part of the learning process,” she said, thanking YU’s ‘dedicated’ professors for acting as guides and mentors through some of the more challenging times graduates encountered along the way.
“Your guidance and mentorship have been invaluable to us throughout our academic journey, and we are forever grateful.”
Bachelor of Business Administration Project Management Valedictorian Tejashree Modi
“It is a pleasure to share in this intensity of emotions – this proud moment for all students, staff, and parents filling this convention centre today,” she told all those assembled at the Meridian Arts Centre.
“The day has finally arrived to celebrate what we students and our parents planted two to three years ago, when we left behind our families and friends, and decided to take the bold step of entering a new country to grow opportunities for ourselves. We are now officially closing one memorable chapter of our life’s story – our graduation day.”
Like the valedictorians who went before her, Modi also heaped praise on her Yorkville University professors, who she lauded for their “honesty, integrity, and pure excellence.” From the first day of class when she and her classmates were a jangle of nerves, to their joyous final day of classes, Modi said YU’s faculty were there to support them with their insights and understanding.
“We are lucky that we had such an excellent team of professors who guided us to be on the right path with honesty, so that we can now climb to success with our own integrity and hard work,” she said.
“We thank our all our respected professors, respected dean, and all other Yorkville University staff, as well as our parents, for being the wind beneath our wings and guiding us to live our dreams.”
Bachelor of Business Administration Project Management Valedictorian Jay Lodaya
Bachelor of Business Administration valedictorian Jay Lodaya also took time during his speech to recognize the YU professors who made a lasting impact on his educational journey – shouting out several of them by name, including Professor Iram Tanvir and Dr. Oluchi Oti.
“I would love to name each and every one of the 38 professors I met at Yorkville, because I still remember what course each of you taught me and the key areas of learning I took away from them,” said Lodaya, who’s now working as a Project Coordinator at Yorkville.
“I will forever be indebted to your teachings and cherish them for a lifetime.”
Likewise instrumental to Lodaya’s success, he said, was the “unwavering” love, support and encouragement of his family back home.
“Being an international student, it’s always tough as you don’t have your loved ones around you, but their love and affection has always blessed me throughout. It’s been four years since I last saw my parents, and I just want to say, I miss you and love you and I hope when you see this you are proud of me,” Lodaya said, before ending his speech with some advice for his fellow grads.
“As we look towards the future, we must remember that the world is in our hands. We have the power to make a difference, to be the change and make the change, and to leave our mark on the world. We must strive to be the best versions of ourselves – to be kind, compassionate, and empathetic towards others, and to never lose sight of our dreams and aspirations.”
In her remarks to graduates, Yorkville President and Vice Chancellor Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes lauded all those present – both in person, and those tuning in to the livestream from around the world – for all the tireless hard work they put in to reaching this, their graduation day.
“Real learning, learning that lasts, doesn’t happen without struggle. Today, we acknowledge your willingness to engage in that burden, your dedication, and your perseverance,” she said.
“Today is a testament to the transformative power of a Yorkville education. Several years ago, you embarked on a journey of growth and learning, and here you are today, equipped with the knowledge, skills and experience that we are confident will help propel you forward in your chosen careers and personal lives.”
Special Award Winners
- Hartley Nichol Award – Trushanti Tushar Shirodkar
- Bachelor of Creative Arts Creative Leadership Award – Reeth Mazumder-Roberts
- Bachelor of Interior Design Award of Excellence – Shilynne Ward
- Bachelor of Business Administration Award of Excellence – Vipin Pal Singh Ball
President’s Awards Winners
The following graduates won Yorkville University’s President’s Award for earning the highest cumulative average in their respective graduating classes:
- Bachelor of Creative Arts – Stacey Jansen
- Bachelor of Business Administration – Satpal Singh Chagger
- Bachelor of Interior Design – Kateryna Franchuk
- Interior Decorating Associate Diploma – Ashley Alvarez-Yates