“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”
Yorkville University President and Vice Chancellor, Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes, used this poignant quote by Confucius to set the tone for two remarkable convocation ceremonies, held in New Brunswick last week.
The events, which took place at the Fredericton Convention Centre on June 8, were a joyous celebration of the accomplishments of over 500 graduates from the Bachelor of Business Administration, Master of Education in Adult Education, Master of Education in Educational Leadership, and Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology programs. The ceremonies fostered a warm and enthusiastic atmosphere of academic excellence and anticipation for the future.
In her address as distinguished speaker, President Christensen Hughes expressed her appreciation to the graduates for their representation of three essential pillars of a healthy and flourishing society: ethical commerce, lifelong learning, and mental health. She encouraged the graduates to reflect on their meaningful courses, favorite faculty members, and proudest moments, emphasizing that for some of them, those moments of pride may have grown from hard times.
“For some of you, it was where you really struggled at first and even momentarily wondered if you could do it; where you faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge, but then figured out how to overcome it,” she said. “That’s where strength comes from – empathy and wisdom too. As they say, wisdom is hard earned.”
Dr. Allyson Lowe, Provost & Executive Vice President, served as the Master of Ceremonies on the day. She emphasized that convocation marked a new beginning for each graduate, an opportunity to embark on a professional journey enriched by their Yorkville education. Dr. Lowe encouraged the graduates to stand and acknowledge the family and friends in the audience who had supported them throughout their educational endeavors.
Applause and cheers of gratitude rang through the hall.
The ceremonies featured three exceptional valedictorians who shared their inspiring stories and aspirations.
Congratulations to all!
Bachelor of Business Administration Valedictorian Sura Almansour
Sura Almansour knows what it means to go “all in”. While also managing a demanding legal career, the Bachelor of Business Administration valedictorian showcased remarkable determination at Yorkville, excelling in her full-time online studies.
What’s more, her investment in the school extended beyond academics. Almansour’s involvement in various university communities, including the Diversity Council and the Academic Council as a student representative, showcased her commitment to fostering diversity, advocating for students, and creating an inclusive environment.
In her valedictorian speech, Almansour highlighted the dedication of her professors, the support of the administrative staff, and the pivotal role played by family and loved ones. Holding back tears, she expressed her deep gratitude for those who have helped in her journey. She concluded with a call to action for her fellow graduates.
“Let us continue to strive for excellence, to be lifelong learners, and to make a positive impact in the world.”
Master of Education in Educational Leadership Valedictorian Ayesha Bhikha
Ayesha Bhikha shared a deeply personal story that led her to pursue the Master of Education degree.
“Most of us gathered here today have directly or indirectly experienced a tragedy at some point in our lives. I experienced mine on May 1st, 2020, when I received the news of my mother’s sudden passing,” Bhikha reflected.
“My mother was a teacher; she was an incredibly smart, beautiful, and resilient woman. And she told me how education will help me find my purpose in life. I started my Masters to honour my mother and it was also my way of dealing with the grief of losing her so unexpectedly.”
In Bhikha’s speech to her fellow graduates, she spoke of the transformative power of education, acknowledging the influence of her classmates and professors in challenging her biases and shaping her understanding of equity, diversity, and inclusion. She emphasized the importance of advocating for those without a voice, inspiring her fellow graduates to create safe and empowering spaces in their communities.
“Our learning journey has gifted us with a toolbox, and it’s time we made that decision to use those tools with care and caution.”
Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology Valedictorian Emersyn Nash
“The power of psychotherapy is revolutionary.”
Emersyn Nash, valedictorian of the Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology program, delivered an impassioned speech to her fellow graduates.
In it, she acknowledged the profound motivation shared by all graduates to help others navigate challenges and heal wounds. Nash highlighted the importance of psychotherapy in transforming ones understanding of the self and called upon her fellow graduates to consciously harness this power to effect positive change in a world plagued by systemic oppression and mental health challenges.
Sometimes when we persist to achieve a goal, we can lose sight of what truly, deeply and most profoundly motivated us to want to become professionals in the field of mental health,” she stated.
“I am honoured to have the privilege to work with incredible individuals that are striving to confront their wounds and pain, and to alchemize it into a source of empowerment.”
Images by Riley Smith @rileysmithphoto