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With pomp and parchment, convocation transforms students into alumni

After joking about looking like wizards in full regalia backstage, the 2015 class of UFV graduates filed onto the floor of the Abbotsford Centre, led by the beat of a traditional Stó:lo drum.

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By Megan Lambert (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: June 17, 2015

Photo Credit University of the Fraser Valley : Flickr

After joking about looking like wizards in full regalia backstage, the 2015 class of UFV graduates filed onto the floor of the Abbotsford Centre, led by the beat of a traditional Stó:lo drum.

On June 11 and 12, four separate convocation ceremonies saw graduates from all faculties cross the stage, with friends and families blowing air horns and cheering in the stands.

Each ceremony lasted roughly three-and-a-half hours, as over 2,000 grads received their credentials and shook UFV president Mark Evered’s hand.

UFV administration, including Evered and chancellor Gwen Point — who attended UFV convocation despiteD her own PhD ceremony occurring at SFU the same day — opened the ceremonies with speeches. Evered encouraged students to take advantage of technology while approaching life as “respectful and responsible rebels.”

Words of wisdom

Four honorary degrees were awarded. Human rights lawyer Shirzad Ahmed once attended UFV, while the other honorary doctorates — Aboriginal performance artist Margo Kane, volcanologist Catherine Hickson, and mental health advocate Ginny Dennehy — are active in the Greater Vancouver area in their respective fields. Professors Ian Fenwick, Trudy Archie, Wendy Burton, Virginia Cooke, Allan McNeill, John Carroll, Lynne Wells, Rosie Friesen, and Susan Milner are retiring, and received professor emeritus status.

For each group of graduates, a student speaker approached the podium with words of wisdom for their fellow students.

Nursing graduate Tony Chae had a fun and lighthearted speech, thanking coffee as his biggest supporter.

College of Arts student speaker and art history graduate David Seymour took a more contemplative tone, talking about how important being different is for students. He used Van Gogh as an example, noting that his lack of popularity while he was living did not define the worth of his art later;  it is now seen as innovative, unique, and therefore valuable.

“Be different,” Seymour said. “Our individuality, despite the voice of doubt, produces fruit that is ultimately much sweeter than living a life of conformity and compromise out of convenience.”

Crossing the stage

As grads filed on and off the stage, a rhythm was established: the student’s name was called by the dean, the student crossed the stage, they shook Mark Evered’s hand, they posed for a picture, and they exited. That is, until one graduate was surprised by her significant other, who ascended the wrong side of stage, knelt, and proposed to her. The whole crowd cheered, and Dean of Arts Jacqueline Nolte teased that the results of the proposal were still unknown after the couple left the stage.

Outside the stadium, there were booths selling UFV merchandise from the bookstore, flowers from Simply Flowers, and framing for degrees and graduation photos for the new alumni. Wine and refreshments were served while families waited for graduates, listening to pop music coming from the CIVL radio tent.

Grads took photos outside in front of large green canvases with UFV branding, looking through empty picture frames and posing for the camera. At an English department table, English grads collected humorous horoscopes predicting their lives ahead of them. (“You will be a consumer of trade paperbacks,” read one.)

Photo Credit University of the Fraser Valley : Flickr

UFV president Mark Evered stands on stage, ready to shake the hand of every grad over four convocation ceremonies.

What happens now?

As alumni, UFV grads have perks like discounted tickets, access to Alumni Association events, and discounted travel and hotel rates. Former manager of alumni engagement Nancy Armitage, now working for BCIT’s alumni department, says it is to keep lines of communication open so grads can donate if they choose to.

“The university wants to provide an opportunity for alumni to give back, should they wish,” she says.

However, Armitage says alumni are less focused on donating to UFV as an institution, and more interested in helping students.

“It is at the bursary level now, and that’s what alumni expressed an interest in giving back to. Through surveys, through stakeholders meetings, the message is very clear that alumni want to help students,” she says.

But with 50 per cent of bachelor’s degree grads taking out loans (as of 2009/2010), it may become difficult for some alumni to donate, even after they find work.

Geography graduate Kalei Swanson, for example, says she would be willing to donate — provided she can find employment after graduation.

“If I find a career and am making money, sure,” she says with regards to donating back to the university.

Looking back

As far as education goes, Swanson says her time at UFV was well spent. However, she says she wishes she were more involved in the campus community at the beginning.

“I would have liked to join clubs sooner,” she says. “I joined them in my last year or two, but sooner would have been nicer.”

Another geography graduate, Barb Mitchell, who is headed for the teacher education program at UFV, advises first-year students to take their time in choosing a major and make sure it aligns with their interests.

“Do something you’re passionate about,” she says. “Take some classes and see what you love, because I think everyone gravitates towards certain things that they hear about and it doesn’t measure up all the time.”

Photo Credit University of the Fraser Valley : Flickr

UFV chancellor Gwen Point performed the opening speech for each convocation ceremony.

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