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Yorkville U Celebrates Graduation of 3,000+ Online Students at Trio of Ceremonies in Fredericton 

Yorkville grad

Yorkville University recently celebrated the accomplishments of more than 3,000 online graduates during a trio of convocation ceremonies in New Brunswick. 

The newly minted Class of 2024 included Yorkville’s first-ever graduating class of Doctor of Counselling and Psychotherapy students, as well as graduates from its Master of Arts in Counselling PsychologyMaster of Education, and Bachelor of Business Administration programs. 

First-ever graduating class of Yorkville University's Doctor of Counselling & Psychotherapy program
Yorkville University celebrated its first-ever graduating class of Doctor of Counselling & Psychotherapy students.

All were feted over the course of three days from June 4 to 6 at the Fredericton Convention Centre during ceremonies presided over by Yorkville’s President and Vice Chancellor Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes and Provost and Executive Vice President Dr. Allyson Lowe.

Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes

President’s Comments

In her opening remarks to graduates, 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.  

“I couldn’t be more delighted to be with you here today, along with your friends and family, to celebrate your remarkable achievements. We know that each of you has worked tirelessly to reach this moment. Your dedication and perseverance have paid off,” she told the assembled grads before they walked across the stage to collect their degrees.  

“Today is a testament to the transformative power of a Yorkville education. You embarked on a journey of growth and learning, and you are now emerging as graduates equipped with the knowledge, skills, experiences and values that will propel you forward in your careers and in your personal lives.”

Indigenous grads were gifted with blankets

Traditional Blankets Gifted to Indigenous Graduates

For the first time ever, Yorkville University gifted its Indigenous graduates with traditional blankets from the Boy Chief Trading Post, an Indigenous-owned and operated retail company located just east of Calgary, as part of this year’s celebrations. 

“This gift to our students marks the first time in Yorkville University’s history that we’ve recognized our Indigenous students in this way,” said Lowe of the blankets, a gift that signifies honour and recognition of an individual’s achievements.

“It is just one of the many ways that we seek to strengthen our relationship with Indigenous peoples and ensure that we are fostering an inclusive community.” 

Ashley Dafel

Distinguished Convocation Speaker Ashley Dafel

Joining Christensen Hughes and Lowe in their congratulations of Yorkville’s graduates was Ashley Dafel, Yorkville University’s CEO, who attended the celebrations this year as the ceremonies’ Distinguished Convocation Speaker. 

The lessons imparted during Dafel’s inspiring speech to grads were threefold – all three representing the lessons he learned on his own, barrier-filled journey to success – from being abandoned by his parents at the age of seven in his native Zimbabwe, to fighting to get an education by any means necessary, to ultimately earning his MBA and going on to a successful career in education, despite having never read a book until he was in high school. 

“As you can imagine, (my childhood) marked a pretty dark side of my life – but it was on that dark side that I learned so many lessons that have helped me get to where I am today,” he said. 

“I knew from at the age of seven that education was my way to survive, which was pretty ironic, because I was not in school at the time, but I just knew I had to get back. Most young children cherish the thought of not going to school, but I knew that I needed to get back.”

And so, he did – ultimately completing his elementary schooling at nine different primary schools, in two different countries and in two different languages, while also working to support himself from the age of 13.

Given the crumbling state of his foundational education building blocks going into high school, Dafel was initially placed in a class amongst those with the lowest grade point averages in his school. But with a lot of hard work and determination – plus the extra lessons in English, math and science he worked hard to afford – he ended up graduating amongst the top of his class, earning himself acceptance into the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he earned bis Bachelor of Commerce degree. 

“Which brings me to my first life lesson to share: Graduates, as you leave here and you create a future for yourself, there will be barriers – and what you’ve got to decide is what you’re going to do with those barriers,” Dafel advised. 

“You can climb over them, you can break them down, you can get around them, or you can accept them. The choice is yours. I ask that you don’t accept them but take the opportunity to break them down.”

Dafel’s second lesson was to encourage graduates to ‘embrace unconventional paths’, just as he did when, after earning his BComm, he chose not to immediately pursue his MBA (which he ultimately earned from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University), but to focus on building his family, while also carefully selecting work opportunities that “expanded on my formal studies, allowing me to develop graduate-type skills learned through the ‘school of life.’” 

“Although I couldn’t get the formal education at first, I got it by doing. I got it by trying different things and moving around – and I was often criticized for it by people who looked at my resume and said, ‘You haven’t stuck to one industry or one function. You’re too scattered and all over the place. You need to get focused,’” he recalled. 

“But I never listened to any of that…So I would encourage you all to embrace unconventional avenues. It may not be a straight line; there’s bends and curves and twists, but those who dare to explore will get the reward.”

Last but not least, Dafel urged graduates to ‘stay ahead of the curve’, noting his strong belief that every person should have at least two to three careers in their life. 

“I don’t need to tell you the world evolves rapidly. To thrive, you need learn continuously, adapt quickly, fail early and embrace the ambiguity of change,” he urged. 

Lyndsay Tuplin

Student Graduation Speaker Lindsay Tuplin (MED)

Master of Education in Educational Leadership Student Graduation Sperker Lindsay Tuplin knows firsthand the importance of embracing change. Afterall, when the Prince Edward Island native first began her Yorkville journey in 2019, she did so as an MACP student. 

“When I first became a teacher, I moved from my small town to the Arctic Circle, where I learned that teaching was about more than textbooks, curriculum, and core subjects – it was connection, listening, and cheering on children and their families,” she told fellow graduates during her address on June 4. 

“I worked closely with families around intergenerational trauma and repairing the relationships that the Residential School System broke in the community I lived in. This is originally what spurred my interest in getting my MACP.” 

Shortly after she registered for classes at Yorkville in 2019, however, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and Tuplin was forced to reevaluate and she decided to take a break from her studies. By the time she re-enrolled at Yorkville in 2022, her life had changed significantly again. 

“I met my husband, who is an RCMP officer, and his career gave us unique opportunities to move to even more remote locations in Canada. As one of only two teachers at our school, I was thrust into an administrative role for which I felt ill-prepared,” she said. “Determined to excel, I knew that Yorkville’s (Master of Education program) would provide me the opportunities to rise to the challenge and be an administrator worthy of the title.”

Over time, she added, Yorkville became the “constant amidst the chaos,” with each course she took and each professor she learned from representing a different page in this chapter of her life – “from finding love during my MACP studies, to getting engaged during my application to my MEd program, to getting married, buying my first home, and moving across the country, Yorkville has been there for every personal milestone since becoming a student.”

Now that Tuplin is preparing to move on to the next chapter of her life, she said will remember the “invaluable lessons” she learned at Yorkville along the way – and urged her classmates to do the same. 

“Let’s keep in mind that failure is only a stepping stone on the road to success and that the greatest lessons frequently lie outside of our comfort zones. We are not just our jobs; we are leaders and changemakers,” she said. 

“We must be proud of who we are as the newest additions to the graduates of Yorkville University – people who can and do contribute significantly to today’s ever-changing world.”

Maimoona Batool

Student Graduation Speaker Maimoona Batool (MACP)

For Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology Student Graduation Speaker Maimoona Batool, the motivation to change her life’s course was spurred by the traumatic experience of one of her children. 

“Four years ago, my path took an unexpected turn when my nine-year-old child went through an unimaginable trauma that shook the life out of him,” the single mom of three, who was working as a nurse at the time, told her fellow grads during her convocation speech. 

“As a parent and a healthcare worker, I was confronted with a stark reality that despite of my years of training and experience as a nurse, I was powerless in the face of my child’s struggles.”

Advised by many of the health professionals she and her son encountered to try play therapy, Batool said she was disappointed to find that this much-needed mental health support was not available to children in her community.

From that sense of powerlessness, she said, her resolve to bridge the gap in child psychotherapy services emerged. 

“Fueled by determination and guided by personal experience, I embarked on a journey of self-study, volunteering, and ultimately decided to seek formal education in psychotherapy,” she said, noting that she chose Yorkville for the flexibility of its online program. 

“My time at Yorkville has been transformative, equipping me with the knowledge, skills, and compassion needed to be a catalyst for change in the field of mental health.”

Now that she’s completed her MACP program, Batool’s journey is just beginning, as she’s now working hard to complete her certification in play therapy. 

“I’m working towards my goal of opening the first Canadian certified play therapy center in my community, envisioning that every child (like mine), parent and caregiver (like myself) feels they have mental health support when needed the most,” she said. 

Amreen Saini

Student Graduation Speaker Amreen Saini (MACP)

Batool’s fellow Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology Student Graduation Speaker Amreen Saini likewise looked back on her time at Yorkville as a transformative experience. 

“Let’s take a moment to reflect on our journey at Yorkville University and all that has encompassed an invaluable postgrad,” she invited her classmates during her convocation address. “As we walk down memory lane, we are reminded of the plethora of experiences that have molded us, little by little, into our present-day self.” 

From the moments of ‘inexpressible joy,’ like waking up to numerous responses to her DQ post or finally hitting ‘submit’ on a 15-page assignment, to the more stressful ones, like ensuring everyone in the house stay quiet until after her 20-minute video case presentation was complete – Saini said every experience was worth it. 

She also took the time to express her thanks to all involved in helping her and her fellow classmates reach their graduation day. 

“Thank you, professors, for sharing your ample wisdom with us, for being the embodiment of patience as we filled your inboxes with assignment inquiries, and for always reassuring us that following our passion is worth it,” she said. 

“Thank you, dear family, and friends, for celebrating our successes with us, for unconditionally supporting us in our times of need, and for always encouraging us to be the best that we can be.” 

Lastly, Batool congratulated her fellow graduates and wished them well on the next leg of their respective journeys. 

“This renowned institution has served as a cultivator of great minds, an educator of values and integrity, and most importantly, a bringer of belonging in a virtual environment. Our time here has equipped us with essential skills and nurtured our sense of resilience, enabling us to more readily persevere in the face of adversity…” she said. 

“May you continue to make amazing choices, and confidently navigate through unchartered territories with your unwavering resolve to advance forward.”

Cap throw

Closing Remarks & Cap Toss

In her closing remarks, Christensen Hughes took one last opportunity to wish all the graduates well in their next endeavors and encourage all to keep in touch as the newest members of Yorkville’s alumni community. 

“I can’t tell you what an honour it was to shake each of your hands as you crossed the stage and to recognize each of your tremendous accomplishments, but we know this is just the beginning of your next chapters,” she said.

“I ask you to please stay in touch, because we want to continue to cheer you on and celebrate you as you make the tremendous impact we know you’re going to have in your professions, in your communities and in your personal lives. Congratulations, graduates,” she added, shortly before inviting all to throw their caps in the air and “let out either a primal scream of much relief or sheer joy, or perhaps a combination of the two. Ready? One, two, three!”

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