A keynote address from award-winning author Ivan Coyote and a moving musical performance by Genevieve Fisher are just highlights of a virtual graduation taking place on June 18 for Western’s spring Class of 2021.
Preparations and activities across Western are underway to celebrate an important milestone and the achievements of this year’s 8,155 spring graduates.
“Our students work incredibly hard to finish this chapter of their lives so we wanted to take an opportunity to celebrate,” said Angela Mandich, director of Convocation.
On June 18, Western’s spring Class of 2021 will participate in the Last Lecture, a tradition acknowledging the graduates’ transition from students to alumni. To be broadcasted at 7pm on Western’s Class of 2021 web page, the event features both live and recorded presentations and performances, with university president Alan Shepard kicking things off with a welcome remark. Details about the virtual graduation, profiles of some of the graduates, and various ways to celebrate with and share messages for graduates can be found on the Class of 2021 web page.
Coyote, Western’s Alice Munro chair in creativity, will deliver the last lecture, which Mandich described as an “inspiration for our students as they journey on to the next aspects of their lives and celebrate their accomplishments.”
The virtual event will open with an Indigenous welcome and land acknowledgment delivered by Laney Beaulieu, a member of the spring Class of 2021, graduating with an Honours Bachelor of Science.
Beaulieu, who plans to pursue Medicine after graduation, said she will also be talking about her experience at Western as an Indigenous student.
“What I really want to showcase is Indigenous excellence,” she said. “There are so many Indigenous graduates this year who are going on to do amazing things, like law school, medical school, going back to their communities to help out and teach and fulfil all of these roles that we need within our communities. I’m really trying to showcase Indigenous youth in these positions of great success.”
Fisher, BA’14, a Canadian singer-songwriter, will deliver one of two musical performances planned for the event, with her rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow as a tribute to the 215 residential school children whose remains were found recently at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“The message I personally want the graduates to see is that the residential schools still have an effect on Indigenous people today,” said Fisher, whose great-grandmother also went to residential school. “It’s just that we want people to stand with us and to understand the importance of supporting Indigenous peoples of Canada.”
The event will also feature a performance by Western alumnus Rick McGhie, a musical staple on campus.
The Last Lecture will be hosted by David Simmonds, Alumni Association past-president and current member of the Board of Governors and the new EDI Council. Simmonds will also moderate a Q&A with graduating kinesiology students Gurveer Bahia and Sucheta Khurana about their entrepreneurial journey at Western. The dynamic duo is the recipient of the Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program Award for their business initiative Arise N’ Go, a healthy snack of popped water-lily seeds.
Western’s Alumni Relations will officially welcome graduates to the alumni family through an email that contains information about exclusive benefits through the Purple Perks program, as well as career services and lifelong learning opportunities.
“The transition from students to alumni is a very important milestone in terms of fostering a lifelong relationship with Western,” said Tyler Forkes, executive director, Alumni Relations.
Following the June 18 event, graduates will receive their diploma in “a special box full of surprises (what’s inside is a secret!), to help them celebrate this milestone in their lives,” Forkes added.
In addition to the June 18 virtual graduation, faculties across the university will also hold individual celebrations with their respective graduates.
Western’s Faculty of Information & Media Studies has set up a Class of 2021 web page and is also planning a virtual celebration for graduates and their families.
Western Engineering will have a virtual celebration for its graduating class on Thursday, June 24. The event will feature a last lecture from Dr. Quazi Rahman, associate professor, electrical and computer engineering. The June 24 event will be limited to engineering students, faculty and staff.
The Class of 2021 page set up by the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry includes a video message from the faculty’s dean John Yoo. Schulich held a celebration for its Medicine Class of 2021 on June 5. Details about the graduating classes as well as award recipients from the June 5 celebration can be found on the web page.
The Faculty of Arts & Humanities will be celebrating its graduates with a congratulations video from professors and with profile stories featuring some of its graduates. The faculty also plans to create a digital yearbook for its Class of 2021.
The Don Wright Faculty of Music has planned a closed, private graduation celebration and award ceremony for all Music graduates and their families on Wednesday, June 16. The faculty is also celebrating its graduates with a congratulatory web page.
The Faculty of Education is also setting up a page on its website dedicated to the celebration of its spring class of 2021. The page includes a video message from dean Donna Kotsopoulos; associate dean for teacher education Kathy Hibbert; associate dean for graduate education, Pam Bishop; and Education Students’ Council president, Cheryl Fernandes. Congratulatory messages and information about this year’s academic award recipients will also be highlighted on the page.
Social Science will be posting a video on June 17, at 7pm, to recognize the graduating class’s Gold Medial Award winners. The faculty is also planning to post other virtual activities, including congratulatory messages from faculty and staff.
Mandich said an in-person Convocation for the spring class of 2021 is still being planned, but the details of when that will take place will depend on provincial and public health guidelines related to COVID-19.
“We are hoping in the fall, if the guidelines allow, that we will come back in person. We’ll have an opportunity for the class who have missed their Convocation to come back and celebrate, and we will also celebrate our students and our graduates who will be scheduled to graduate in the fall,” Mandich said.
Western News is highlighting some of this year’s spring graduates. Read them here.