Convocation ceremonies will take place at Alumni Hall, where more than 8,000 students will receive their degrees, diplomas and certificates. As graduates, they will join approximately 355,000 Western alumni in 160 countries.
Western’s Indigenous Student Graduation ceremony was held March 31 to celebrate the achievements of Indigenous students graduating this spring. Graduates were gifted with Western Indigenous Student Centre stoles. For students, the stoles are a visual symbol of pride in their Indigenous heritage and can also be worn during Western convocation ceremonies in June or October.
Western News celebrates the Class of 2023 by sharing stories of some of our graduates’ journeys.
Music grad Emma Pennell raises their voice Emma Pennell remembers the day the email arrived, bringing big news. It was a moment, Pennell, a two-spirit Mi’kmaw of Ktaqmkuk, had been dreaming of since arriving at Western four years ago. A double take at the casting list confirmed it was finally happening. They’d be performing as Alice Ford, a principal role in Opera at Western‘s production of Falstaff. “The minute I realized I got the part, I squealed, because I wanted it for so long,” Pennell said. “I’d seen others sing these roles for the past four years. I knew I wanted to be in that moment, on that stage, with the light on me, in costume. Read more
Mustang, medical sciences grad advances equity on campus, in community Remnants of red duct tape still stick to the backstop at Western’s Westminster ball diamond where former Mustangs softball player Jessica Brown “marked the spot” two summers ago during pitching training. “Knowing it’s still there warms my heart,” said Brown, reflecting on time spent alone on the diamond, while juggling coaching the Lucan-Ilderton girls softball team, studying for her medical college entrance test and, along with the rest of the world, navigating the waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more
‘Want to change the world:’ Empathy guides medical sciences grad Over four years in the bachelor of medical sciences program, Sitara Lewis learned a lot. But a defining lesson in empathy – her time spent distributing meals and essential supplies to people experiencing homelessness – is among those she’ll carry with her forever. It helped to clarify Lewis’ future: She wants to care for individuals experiencing socio-economic challenges after she graduates. She believes the experiential learning opportunities she had access to through her program should be requisite for all aspiring health-care professionals to help develop the necessary empathy to care for those on the margins. Read more
Passion meets purpose for Fabio Salerno Dr. Fabio Salerno, an Italian-born and trained doctor, came to Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry to pursue his PhD in medical biophysics. But he had to make some difficult decisions along the way as a global pandemic bore down. Inspired to come to Schulich Medicine for international-level experience with renowned experts in nephrology and medical imaging, Salerno focused his research on clinical ultrasonography, hemodialysis therapy and clinical teaching. Then, he watched from afar as his home country, Italy, struggled under the weight of COVID-19, with the death toll mounting. Read more
Schulich Dentistry grad shaping futures, one smile at a time It started early for the Grade 10 student. Kate Jacques remembers sitting in the dentist’s chair and asking questions about the procedures. She’d heard the stories of people who feared coming to the dentist, but also ones whose lives had been significantly improved with oral health treatments. All of this sparked an interest in becoming a dentist. Jacques started as a dental assistant – a perspective that gave her a deep understanding of the way in which she wants to develop her dental practice. She entered Schulich Dentistry four years ago. Now she’s graduating from the doctor of dental surgery program. Read more
Justin Zhuang found himself through serving others When Justin Zhuang first arrived at Western, he didn’t know a soul. He was struggling to learn a new language – even ordering at Tim Hortons was stressful. As an international student from Singapore, he was eager to make friends in his new home, so he joined a group taking trips downtown for bubble tea. He noticed how many people slept in the doorway beside his favourite shop, even as the weather turned frigid. “I saw this guy covering himself with newspaper and I just felt so bad. I bought him a coffee,” Zhuang recalled. Read more
HBA grad encourages future students to own the world’s challenges Growing up in a small rural community in western Jamaica motivated Orlando Scarlett, HBA/Economics’23, to question from a young age why poverty exists and to consider how stronger social foundations might help. “From as early as high school, I became very interested in the intersection of the public and private sectors – how the government, businesses, and citizens can collaborate to solve the world’s most important problems,” he said. Read more
MBA grad: ‘Be open to new perspectives’ Giustin MacLean, MBA’23, initially came into Ivey’s MBA program having a good sense of what was in store for him. Challenging case discussions and an intense 12-month program format weren’t an issue – he had chosen Ivey’s program over others specifically for those things. The one thing he hadn’t expected was the strong sense of community. Read more
Schulich grad earns two degrees through innovative new program Jelena Poleksic is bringing together her interests in the history of medicine with her MD degree as the first graduate of Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s MD+ stream. Poleksic took a year of academic leave abroad to complete a master’s degree in history and philosophy of science at University College, London. Read more
Nursing grad shifts perspective on past, gains hope for the future Demo Kaltabanis stared in awe as he stepped inside his residence room at Saugeen-Maitland Hall four years ago. For the first time in his life, he had his own bed, his own desk and a quiet space. It was one of many transformative experiences at Western, putting him on a path to embrace his experience with poverty, shine as a leader and an advocate, and make meaningful contributions to the education of future nurses. Read more
The logic game: Math graduate breaks barriers, builds business at Western Victoria Quance is breaking barriers as a woman in the male-dominated field of math. But she’s more interested in driving change than hanging around in the spotlight. Quance is using her math skills to better her community and contribute to scientific research, helping students in a thriving tutoring business as well as taking on a summer contract at Western, working with a team of avian experts. Read more
Outside the comfort zone: Tony Xu embraced learning in and out of the classroom Tony Xu kept his head in the books during his first year at Western. It paid off: far from just dedicating himself to his coursework, he also developed a tool to make scientific papers more accessible for the average student. Now graduating from software engineering and commerce and on his way to a master’s program, Xu has a burgeoning resume and an extracurricular calendar to match. Read more
‘There are people who will help’: Biology cherishes undergrad journey Alyssa Harvey didn’t always believe she would one day walk across the stage at a graduation ceremony to receive her undergraduate degree in biology. “Taking more than four years to graduate was really hard for me,” Harvey said. “It feels like you’ve got to get it done, and if you’re not doing it on the right timeline, then it feels – or at least, it felt at the time – like there’s no point doing it at all. But it’s very important to me. I’m so glad I stuck with it.” Read more
From student leader to valedictorian: Hailey Guertin’s journey of impact and achievement Hailey Guertin’s passion for medicine, dedication to learning, and commitment to the community has shaped her journey throughout medical school. Now she is a graduate of Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry’s class of 2023 and was selected by her peers as valedictorian – the first from the Windsor campus – due to the positive impact she had on their tight-knit community as their class leader for two years. Read more
Honorary degree recipients
During convocation, Western will confer honorary degrees on 14 outstanding individuals for their contributions across a wide range of endeavours.
Rooted in tradition and history, convocation is a pivotal milestone in the life of a university student and an opportunity to celebrate achievements with peers and loved ones. Elements of note include:
Unique, hand-stitched banners: The convocation stage is adorned with banners, or gonfalons, designed and stitched by the members of the Canadian Embroiderers’ Guild, London, approximately 40 years ago. The project involved 50 of the Guild’s members and took two years to complete. Western President George Pederson (1985 to 1994) initiated the creation of the banners upon his arrival at Western. Designs and symbols for the faculty banners were suggested by the dean of each respective faculty or school, and the hood colours for degrees offered by the unit are incorporated in the banner design. The banners of the affiliated university colleges carry the Coat of Arms of each. The banner depicting Western’s coat of arms is dedicated to Pedersen.
Indigenous aspects: A student representative will carry the Indigenous gonfalon during the academic procession and bronzed moccasins will sit on stage. The gonfalon honours Indigenous diversity, identity and leadership at Western, and includes elements representing core beliefs that resonate with many Indigenous epistemologies. The moccasins honour those children whose remains continue to be recovered at residential school sites across Turtle Island, children who never had the chance to grow and experience a university education. Shoes, also carried in, will sit onstage during the ceremony.
Musical moments: Western’s Convocation Brass, started by professor Ken Bray in 1983 and today led by musical director and Don Wright Faculty of Music lecturer Shawn Spicer, will play pieces selected from an eclectic list that includes ABBA and Pixar medleys, We Don’t Talk About Bruno (Lin Manuel Miranda), Africa (Toto), the 1980 Olympic theme song, and Jesu Joy (Bach).
Welcome to the Western family
Western Alumni will welcome its newest members by offering complimentary photos with instant downloads. Photo sites: In front of University College, the Beryl Ivey Garden, McIntosh Gallery and inside Weldon Library.
The Indigenous Student Centre will have a photo booth area available for students and families to use in room 2100 at the Western Student Services Building.
New grads are also encouraged to take advantage of Purple Perks, exclusive to Western alumni.