Spring convocation is the highlight of the year for the some 2,000 students ending this stage of their academic careers. In this special section, the Gazette reveals a cross section of the diverse and fascinating experiences that make up the university journey.
by Leslie Vryenhoek
Brianna Browning is every bit as complex as one of her creations. While completing her bachelor of arts, this multifaceted student took on diverse roles and built a burgeoning jewellery business.
Ms. Browning was determined to get the most from her Memorial experience when she started university in 2000. After sampling a variety of courses, she chose to combine a major in sociology/anthropology with a minor in biology. While studying part-time and working to pay her tuition and expenses, she also involved herself in a number of campus activities some paid, like her many MUCEP roles, and some volunteer, like her work with the Memorial Women’s Resource Centre, MUNSU and the Faculty of Arts Council.
In the midst of all that activity, Ms. Browning started creating jewellery and formed her own company, Knotty Designs. With support and office space from ACE Memorial, the business flourished.
“When the jewellery took off, it was a chance for me to do what I love and also pay my tuition,” she said.
Ms. Browning noted that studying arts fostered her customer service acumen and has made her more adaptable. “In my business, I have to understand people, the way they think and how they relate to their material culture,” she explained, adding that she even wrote a paper on the 5000-year-old importance of jewellery for a material culture course.
All these elements came together to make Ms. Browning the 2007 Provincial Ace Memorial Entrepreneur of the Year competition champion.
“When I started here, I wanted to do so much more than just get a degree I wanted to make MUN work for me,” she asserted. “I’m totally satisfied that I’ve done that.”
School is a family affair
by Shannon O’Dea Dawson
Challenging doesn’t begin to describe Celine Pennell’s circumstances, but not her spirit. She has faced each of the numerous obstacles in her life with determination, focus and effort. Following an accident at age three, Ms. Pennell became blind in her left eye. Her right eye is severely impaired with vision and perception, disorienting her and causing headaches and confusion.
She has always loved learning and school, and seemingly has not yet had enough.
“I was always fond of studying and the rush that comes from meeting deadlines and getting a grade that reflects the amount of work put into studying,” she said.
After high school, Ms. Pennell began a civil engineering technology diploma with College of the North Atlantic. She graduated in June 2000 and with limited employment opportunity due to her very poor vision began her bachelor of business administration at Memorial in September 2000, primarily through distance education. She is also near completion on her criminology certificate, public administration certificate, and bachelor of arts with a political science major. Her next goal is to become a CA.
As one of many examples of her dedication, Ms. Pennell showed up less than two weeks following the birth of her second daughter to write a final exam. She is more proud of her daughters and their ability to support her efforts than she seems of herself. “Cassidie is 11 and Cloey is five. Both my girls have attended classes and have been cared for by my co-workers in Distance Education, Student Aid, and supportive professors.
“It hasn’t been easy but hopefully this helps them learn to love learning. I want them to know where there’s a will, there is a way,” she insisted.
Ms. Pennell will take the stage to receive her BBA degree next week in St. John’s.
Business student couples passion with program
by Olivia Heaney
special to the gazette
|Reggie Lawrence competing in the Canadian nationals.
Reggie Lawrence, Canada’s silver medallist at the Senior National Taekwondo Championships 2007, believes there are a lot of similarities between taekwondo and business. Since he began his academic career with the Faculty of Business Administration in 2002, he has shaped his experience by incorporating his love for martial arts into each of his work terms.
“The co-operative program has allowed me to explore my passion and achieve my goals in ways I never thought possible,” said Mr. Lawrence. “It’s permitted my development both as an athlete and as a professional.”
When Mr. Lawrence began his bachelor of commerce degree, he was concerned about the work terms; he felt that he would have to sacrifice his athletic goals in order to accomplish his academic ones. However, during an international competition, that Mr. Lawrence won, held in Halifax in 2002 (Black Belt Canada 2002), the president of Taekwondo for Mexico City invited him to teach taekwondo in Mexico City and hired him as a marketing representative at the same time.
Mr. Lawrence’s performances both within competitions and in the office received rave reviews, and in the international tournament which culminated his term in Mexico City, he earned two gold medals.
Since his stint in Mexico City, Mr. Lawrence has completed his work terms in the Atlantic Provinces and took advantage of the exchange programs offered by the Faculty’s Centre for International Business Studies to study at Hogeschool van Amsterdam, and also spent his semester training with members of the Netherlands national team.
Mr. Lawrence says that his program of study at Memorial, and the commerce co-op program in particular, have enabled him to achieve his goals.
“My work terms have offered me limitless possibilities,” said Mr. Lawrence. “There is no way I could have achieved all my goals in terms of university and taekwondo without the co-op program.
Grenfell College helps ‘older than average’ student find her path
by Pamela Gill
Linda Peckford has a plaque on her wall that she looks to for strength every day. “It says ‘Believe in yourself,’” she said. “My friend embroidered it for me.”
The Change Islands native graduated with a bachelor of fine arts (visual arts) at the 2007 spring convocation at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College last week.
“I came here initially as a healing process,” she remembered, adding that both her parents had recently passed away. “It wasn’t so much to get an education as it was to heal from the losses in my life.”
For someone who hadn’t written a paper or an exam in 30 years, the prospect of returning to university was “kind of scary and intimidating. Then I met these wonderful teachers,” she said. “To meet one good teacher would have been more than I expected, but to find all these in one school. If I had met them back in the ’70s I would have had my first degree then.”
Ms. Peckford said the visual arts instructors showed her that even though she had no formal training, she still brought something to the program. Her many years experience of working with textiles through the art of rug hooking proved to be an invaluable asset.
She added that the visual arts program helped her to further develop her craft, and now she is using textiles wedding dresses to be exact to tell the stories of women who have made a difference over the course of this province’s history.
“I have grown by leaps and bounds I have more self-esteem, power and wisdom,” she said. “It’s a sense of empowerment. I finally feel like I’ve achieved that goal that I’ve dreamed about for years. Man, it’s some feeling!”
Perseverance pays off
by Shannon O’Dea Dawson
Bright eyes and a broad smile hide the many years of struggle, sacrifice and hardship Fatima Fathia Mansaray has endured. She was raised in Africa and England and was living in Sierra Leone as a teenager when war began. Ms. Mansaray lost many family members and friends and fled to Gambia for peace and safety. She lived there for a few years before she arrived in St. John’s in October 1999, eight months pregnant, and with a three-year-old orphaned girl she is responsible for.
Following the birth of her son, Ms. Mansaray began working in home care and received encouragement to train as a licensed practical nurse. She was accepted and began with much support through the Centre for Nursing Studies and the Sisters of Mercy.
Ms. Mansaray applied herself and was an excellent student, encouraged once again to further her studies through a bachelor of nursing degree. She received a scholarship in her third year which helped alleviate some financial strain.
“Everyone at the Centre for Nursing Studies was so kind to me,” she said. “They taught nursing and all its theory, but really put theory into practice as they nursed me with their constant emotional support, financial support, care, love and concern.
“They showed me what it was to be a good, committed nurse. Sister Loretta and the Sisters of Mercy have shown such love and guidance, words can’t express my gratitude. These people who’ve come into my life are my new family. This is why I am so happy to live in Newfoundland.”
This story does have a happy ending. Ms. Mansaray finished her final exam on April 10, was contacted on April 11 and offered a full-time nursing position in the medicine program, which began on April 16.
Fly like a bird
by Sharon Gray
Growing up in Nanjing, China, Chelsea Chen dreamed of looking around the world and changing her life.
“I didn’t want to stay in one place like a little mouse, I wanted to be like a bird and travel the world.”
That opportunity came when she enrolled in Memorial’s School of Nursing. “A high school friend had done graduate studies at Memorial and he told me this is a good place to study quiet and the people are really friendly.”
Applying to Memorial took a lot of effort on Chelsea’s part. First, she had to learn English well enough to pass the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). She had begun English studies in high school, where her language teacher gave her the nickname “Chelsea” to use in English conversations instead of her Chinese name Xinrui.
Work on her English language skills continued after she was admitted to the School of Nursing.
“During my first semester in the fall of 2003 I often felt I couldn’t understand anything. I dealt with it by working hard, studying more and sleeping less. It’s better now but I still find some parts of the language hard, especially terminology,” she said.
As well as working hard on English, Ms. Chen also had to deal with loneliness. “In my first semester there were several other Chinese students but since then it’s been just me and sometimes I got very lonely.”
In her second and third years of study, Ms. Chen said the faculty members in the School of Nursing gave her great support. “I really appreciated what they did for me, it really means a lot.”
Chelsea has obtained a job as a nurse at the General Hospital, but after some work experience she plans to travel and see as much of the world as she can. “Maybe after 10 or 20 years I will go back to China, but not right away.”
by Leslie Vryenhoek
Christina Adams can’t make it to convocation. The graduand of the master’s in women’s studies has already turned her attention to 2010, and her job on the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
As the new co-ordinator of education programs, she’s responsible for creating an online program for teachers and students that focuses on sport, culture and sustainability for the upcoming Games and the ongoing Olympic/Paralympic movement.
While working at a Toronto production company, she became increasingly interested in creating a film and Memorial’s Women’s Studies master’s program allowed her to do just that.
“I chose the project option [for my thesis] so that I could combine my background and women’s studies research, as well as experiment with video production,” she explained. Her thesis research involved travelling across Canada to interview teenage girls about gender stereotypes. The project resulted in a film called What Girls Are Made Of.
“My new job seemed to be custom made for me as it combines my media and fine arts experience with the values that attracted me to Women’s Studies,” Ms. Adams remarked. “It connects very well with my MWS degree because my employer values inclusivity and includes Aboriginal participation as one of its key components. I am in a position where I can ensure that education programs for women and minorities will be featured on a regular basis.”
First visit leads to convocation
by David Sorensen
Twilla McClellan is looking forward to her first trip to Newfoundland. While visiting the sites, Ms. McClellan will also drop by the Arts and Culture Centre to pick up her degree; a bachelor of nursing she earned mainly through Memorial’s distance education programs.
Ms. McClellan has worked as a nurse at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Tennessee for the past 34 years, and has pecked away at a university degree for the past 20.
Illnesses in the family and work commitments slowed her down, but never stopped her. She started studying online at Memorial three years ago, and while she took a couple of semesters off, she’s “crept along with two courses at a time.
“Some people want and/or need the classroom setting but this a great alternative for those who can’t arrange the traditional setting,” she explained. “It does require motivation, self-discipline, and ability to study independently.”
Having never visited Canada, Ms. McClellan said she is like a “kid before Christmas.” She’s anxious to meet her special friends she’s studied with over the past three years.
A firm believer in lifelong learning, Ms. McClellan retired from nursing in Vanderbilt’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in December and hopes to continue with studying. First, there are other priorities.
“For the next six months I plan to watch the grass grow, try to build a birch bark canoe, and enjoy two little granddaughters,” she said.
by Sharon Gray
|Brothers Sean (L) and Chris Murphy are graduating from medical school at spring convocation.
May 24 will be a unforgettable day for Rose Marie Murphy, a retired teacher and single mother in Labrador City, when she visits St. John’s to see her two children graduate from medical school. Chris, 30, and Sean, 28, have experienced a lot of brotherly togetherness over the last four years as they shared an apartment and sat next to each other in class.
“It ended up being a huge coincidence,” said Chris. “We both took different routes and just ended up here at the same time.”
The Murphy brothers now face specialty training, with Sean staying at Memorial for a residency in obstetrics and gynecology while Chris goes to Dalhousie University for a residency in psychiatry.
While they both still consider Labrador City home, Chris and Sean realize that there will be limited practice opportunities there for them in their chosen specialties. As they set off on different careers, in different cities, the brothers take good memories with them of their last four years.
“We had a really tight-knit, laid back class,” said Sean. “It was a great four years.”