Faces of convocation
The path to success at university is rarely a straight line. Meet some of the students graduating this month who reflect the diversity of the student experience. Convocation in Corner Brook went ahead May 13. In St. John’s it runs May 25-27
Coast to coast
Heather Perry is not a high heels kind of girl.
“But it’s fine for convocation,” the Corner Brook native says with an infectious smile. “I have
a pair and I’ve been practicing. I just hope I don’t trip.”
Ms. Perry received a bachelor of arts degree, specializing in historical studies, from Sir Wilfred
Grenfell College on May 13. Later this month, she’ll leave her hometown Corner
Brook to complete an honors degree in philosophy at Memorial University’s St.
Education-wise, the transition should be easy. Ms. Perry won the
prestigious Arthur M. Sullivan Award, presented by Grenfell College, and the university-wide
David Kirkland Leadership Award in 2005. She also immersed herself in humanities,
historical studies and philosophy societies while working part-time at Grenfell’s
Student Services Office.
The heartstrings are harder to reconcile. Ms. Perry comes
from a close-knit family that includes two grandmothers, a younger brother, and
her mother, Helen. Her father, Donald, passed away two years ago.
dad telling me how glad he was that I decided to stay home for my first year,”
Heather says quietly. “In hindsight I’m so glad I stayed and spent that time with
For John McIntyre, doing a pharmacy degree at Memorial meant
leaving a wife and four daughters back home in New Brunswick while he studied.
But with the encouragement and support of his wife, Debbie, and his daughters
now aged eight to 16 he’s managed to achieve his dream.
John originally did a B.Sc.(biochemistry) at the University of New Brunswick, finishing in 1991. After eight years as a technician for an engineering company he reached the point where there was no room for advancement, and on the advice of his wife he applied to Atlantic university pharmacy programs and was accepted at Memorial.
The McIntyres considered relocating the family to St. John’s but the logistics of moving the family for such a short term made that unfeasible.
“It’s been hard on my family and hard on me because I’ve missed out on three years of each of my daughters’ lives all the birthdays and school events I would have liked to be home for.”
But now the family will be reunited. John has been hired as a pharmacist with Shopper’s Drug Mart in Summerside, PEI.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again,” he said. “I’m sorry I didn’t do it 10 years ago, but it probably means more to me now than it would have then.”
Finding the right balance
It took nine years of hard work, but Kathleen Wall, long-time
employee of Memorial University, will receive her first degree on Thursday,
May 26. Ms. Wall has successfully completed the bachelor of education (post-secondary)
program as well as a certificate in business.
Kathleen has been an employee of Memorial University for 20 years, having held clerical positions within the Counselling Centre, the Registrar’s Office and Facilities Management. She credits the work she put in toward her degree as the reason for her current position as graduate recruitment officer within Career Development and Experiential Learning.
During the past nine years Kathleen says there have been many challenges, but the one that stands out most in her mind is the challenge of balancing work, school and life’s responsibilities. She completed most of her courses during the evening, via the Web and through distance education while working full-time.
For aspiring students out there thinking about part-time study, she has some advice. “Do it. It’s very personally rewarding.”
“I know that sometimes it feels like it would take forever to complete a degree, but it’s surprising how quickly courses add up and it doesn’t take long before you realize forever is not really that far away.”
Kathleen is a true believer in life long learning and says she will enroll in a master’s program in the future.
It takes two
Gail Martin received a bachelor of science degree on May 13.
Mark Osmond achieved a bachelor of arts. She won the University Medal for Academic
Excellence in environmental science. He won for historical studies.
The source of their inspiration? An active, four-year-old daughter who is as popular on campus as her parents.
“Mark and I attended university before, but other opportunities always distracted us from finishing our degrees,” Gail admits. “Hannah gave us the discipline to buckle down.”
University can be a balancing act for any student. Add family obligations and you up the stress level significantly. “I hope when Hannah gets older she understands the importance of finishing what you start,” Gail adds. “We made it work, but we had a lot of help. We were very fortunate to have both sets of grandparents living in the area.”
While Mark moves on to the University of Victoria in September, Gail is looking forward to joining the workforce. “Grenfell also helped in the whole experience,” she points out. “Because it’s a small school, the teachers are able to dedicate time to their students’ success. Mark and I tend to need a lot of encouragement. We definitely got it here.”
There probably is something Jason Noble can’t do well but
he doesn’t seem to have found it yet. An outstanding student, musician, singer
and composer, he also excelled in his service to the student newspaper, the
campus radio station and the campus environmental group. He was also an exceptional
student supervisor with the university’s annual alumni fundraising campaigns.
At convocation, in addition to his B.Mus. (Hons.) and BA(Hons.), Jason will receive the medal for excellence in philosophy. He’s also nominated for the George M. Story Convocation Medal in Arts and the Birks Medal. But academic honours are not new to Jason who graduated from Bishops College, St. John’s, with honours and a French immersion designation. Since he came to Memorial in 1998, Jason has been on the dean’s list every year. He’s a three-time winner of the music school’s annual choral composition contest. He’s won 11 scholarships and he’s maintained a GPA of 3.86.
Jason takes with him many great memories of his time studying music and philosophy at Memorial. Among his most memorable musical experiences was having his own compositions performed by the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, the MUN Chamber and Festival choirs and the MUN Brass Quintet. He also enjoyed the opportunities his education gave him to perform, including the lead role in the musical The Fantasticks, a baritone solo in Faure’s Requiem, and a graduation recital.
“Memorial provides countless enriching opportunities to anyone who looks for them,” he said.
Making the person
Many students overcome obstacles when they come to Memorial, whether personal
or academic. But Catherine Drodge, a graduating sociology student,
has had more than her fair share and she’s still smiling.
Catherine has a disability that limits her mobility and uses a walker. She is also a survivor of child sexual and physical abuse, and suffers from diabetes and asthma. “It was only a year ago I was lying in ICU on a respirator,” said Catherine, who is from Bonavista Bay. “I was very ill and am very lucky and blessed to even be here and preparing for convocation. However, as with all the other obstacles over the years, I have made it. Obstacles are just that! They are obstacles not blocks.”
Catherine says the hardest thing to overcome has been frustration because it’s taken her 10 years to finish her degree while having to endure a lot of pain and illness. “Of course having a strong support network was the biggest help. I had no family, but I had people that believed in me. I also had lots of encouragement and help from my professors. I believe we have the best sociology department in Canada.”
She adds that she feels she also owes a lot to Students Older Than Average (SOTA) as they’ve been a huge support and have enhanced her university experience. In her spare time Catherine coordinates and supervises a youth program called, Sobey’s Youth Green Team, a project she started in partnership with Sobey’s Shamrock Field which teaches youth the importance of recycling, a clean community, teamwork, and responsibility.
Catherine has been admitted to the master’s program.
“Once I complete my MA I would like to do some research in the areas of adoption, addiction and abuse in Newfoundland and Labrador. I call this The Three A’s of our province. I would also like to work in the area of youth corrections.”
In addition, she says she would also like to write a book. “Going to university was once a far fetched dream. Physical and psychological issues made it seem impossible but perseverance, stubbornness, desire and support, made it possible. I have not only become more educated at Memorial, I have also become self confident. Memorial has given me something that nothing else or anyone else could ever have given me … it gave me who I am today.”