Undergrads Praised For Persistence at First Virtual Convocation Ceremony

BBA On Campus

March 12, 2021

“There’s no limit to what you can accomplish!”

That was the heart of the stirring send-off delivered to the nearly 200 graduates who took part in Yorkville University’s first-ever virtual convocation ceremony, which was recently live-streamed from coast-to-coast and around the world.

“Well, this is certainly different. The plan developed 18 months ago was to have our first Yorkville University graduation in B.C. today,” Dr. Rick Davey, President of Yorkville University, explained to graduates in his opening remarks. 

“Instead, a silver lining, as graduates from Yorkville University in B.C. join graduates from Yorkville University’s Ontario programs for the university’s first virtual graduation ceremonies,” he continued.

“Yes, it’s different, but the important matters remain. You have graduated, and I and my colleagues are excited to greet you and to celebrate with you…So put your hat on, place your tassel, and let the graduation ceremony begin.”  

Over the course of the hour-long celebration that followed, Yorkville University paid tribute to the hard work and dedication demonstrated by the members of its Class of 2020 and 2021 graduates. 

In total, 167 graduates marked their convocation from Yorkville University’s slate of on-campus and online undergraduate programs, including the Bachelor of Business Administration, the Bachelor of Interior Design, and the Interior Decorating Associate Diploma.

During his keynote address, Andrew Barnsley – the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning executive producer of CBC’s hit comedy series, Schitt’s Creek – lauded graduates for their “monumental” achievements in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The past 12 months have thrown a lot at us, but we pivoted, we innovated, we stayed true to ourselves and our plans, we persevered, we were determined, and here we are,” he said, drawing parallels between the graduates’ academic successes and his professional ones.

“Like you, I had a tough year…But, like you, I had something monumental to celebrate: a television series that I poured my heart and soul into over the last seven years of my life made history…I had moments when I needed them most, just like you are having your moment now.”

Crediting his own education as the “launching pad” for his recent success, Barnsley congratulated Yorkville’s graduates for reaching convocation day – ‘the symbolic line between school and the real world’– and offered up his seven themes for success: 

  1. The importance of having big dreams and a destination in mind. Where do you want to be in one year? In five years? In 20 years? All the decisions and choices you make every day should be anchored to these objectives. 
  2. The importance of education. Lifelong learning and developing expertise are vital ways to set yourself apart from others. The world is ever-changing, so you need to work hard to stay ahead of the curve. 
  3. The importance of building your professional network. Find a community of like-minded people who can support and elevate each other, and seek out mentors who can show you the way and present opportunities you never considered.
  4. The importance of risk-taking. Making yourself uncomfortable is one of the greatest ways to grow and learn. Being open to change and benefiting from new opportunities means stepping outside of your comfort zone. 
  5. The importance of failure. Failing is integral to success. Make mistakes, learn from them, recalibrate, pivot, innovate and come out stronger and wiser.
  6. The importance of believing in yourself and your goals. If you don’t, who will?
  7. The importance of hard work, perseverance and digging deep. Often these businesses of ours are ‘no’ businesses, meaning rejection is common. This can be defeating and deflating, but committing to hard work and perseverance means pushing through the ‘nos’ and rejection, eventually turning into success, achievement and glory. 

“Please think about these seven themes and know that, even though the future may seem daunting, you have the tools. And believe it or not, your dream career is not starting today, it started years ago when you first decided you wanted to work in your chosen career,” Barnsley said. 

“That took courage. And that courage continued when you decided to enroll at Yorkville University, when you decided to believe in yourself. Keep following your vision. Keep taking risks. This is not the first day of the rest of your life, you’re already well on your way.”

Barnsley wasn’t the only one offering up inspirational messages during the ceremony – graduates also heard from a pair of peers chosen to represent them as valedictorians.

During her speech, Bachelor of Interior Design valedictorian Lorna Chapman urged her classmates to heed the advice of Albert Einstein and always ‘follow your curiosity.’ 

“As I look back on these challenging, yet very rewarding years at Yorkville, I am reminded that I have no special talent, but I am curious – captivated by the course content that prepared me for a profession I desire to practice, and intrigued by the methods that assisted me in my goal. Perhaps many of you feel the same,” she said. 

“Today, we celebrate the graduation of Yorkville students from all over. You have worked hard and finished this segment of your formal training. As you prepare for the next leg of your journey, remember that your learning is not complete. Many wonders wait for your curiosity to uncover them, and they may be hidden in the least expected opportunities.” 

Speaking on behalf of Bachelor of Business Administration graduates, Tarrah Heighington reflected back on the “daunting” start of her own Yorkville journey, and the strides she’s since made towards achieving her ultimate goals. 

“In the first term, I got hit hard and fast with the reality that this was going to be hard work, but I knew it was going to be worth it. And with each class I got through, my knowledge grew and strengthened in areas I never thought possible,” said the mother of three. 

“I remember feeling inspired and determined to learn as much as I could. The road was not easy. My life for two years was…tiring and hard work, but well worth the challenge. 

“The knowledge I have gained from both my courses and professors at Yorkville University has helped me build the confidence I need to succeed. I am grateful for my time here at Yorkville University, and thankful for the knowledge and the experience I have gained.” 

To close out the night, Davey took one last chance to congratulate Yorkville University’s newly minted alumni and reflect on why graduations are his favourite celebrations.

“Your parents, partners and children are thinking about what you have achieved, and they are looking forward to all the possibilities ahead. That’s why graduations are such special events,” he said. 

“They identify the people who matter to you and they evoke memories and possibilities for everyone involved. And that’s why graduations are my favourite celebrations – perhaps especially this year, when we yearn for something special.”

Several awards were given out in each of the graduating programs. Recipients are listed as follows:

Bachelor of Interior Design and Interior Decorating Associate Diploma Program Awards 

Creativity in Design Award 

– Sarah Elmer (IDAD)

Bachelor of Interior Design Distinguished Student Award 

– Amanda King (BID)

President’s Awards 

– Sabina Zeltner (BID)

– Laurie Morris (IDAD)


– Laurie Morris (IDAD)

– Lorna Chapman (BID)

Bachelor of Business Administration, British Columbia & Ontario Program Awards 

Distinguished YU Citizen Award 

– Garrett Hancott 

– Sandeep Kaur

Hartley Nichol Award

–  Antonio Branch

Supply Chain Management Program Award

– Brett Clarkson 

Energy Management Program Award 

– Matthew Curtis

Project Management Program Award

– Dylan Hancott

Accounting Program Award 

– Dennis Baron

President’s Awards 

– Sara Taheri (BBA-ON)

– Anthony Bailey (BBA-BC)


– Gagandeep Kaur (BBA-ON)

– Tarrah Heighington (BBA-BC)