Virtual convocation, real success
Niagara College caps off five days of ceremonies to celebrate Class of 2020
Five thousand dreams came true at Niagara College this week in the face of unprecedented challenges – and they were celebrated like never before.
June 19 marked the final day of Spring Virtual Convocation for NC’s Class of 2020. The College celebrated more than 5,000 new graduates in five days through a series of ceremonies livestreamed from its Welland Campus and into the homes of its graduates, their families and friends, and viewers from around the world.
The interactive virtual events served to mark the important milestone for a class of graduating students like no other before they embark on the next chapter of their lives. Like students from across the province, they completed their studies remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and have not been able to return to campus since mid-March.
The new graduates heard messages of inspiration from across the College community and beyond.
“Pursue the opportunities that lie ahead, challenge yourself and live a life of integrity,” said College president Sean Kennedy to the Class of 2020. “Know that there are countless people who envy the blank canvass that’s staring back at you today – a canvass you will paint over time as you create your own future. Make it a masterpiece.”
Guest speaker Clara Hughes – six-time Olympian and mental health advocate – received an Honorary Diploma in Health Studies from the College and delivered a gripping convocation address to the new graduates.
“This is your special, unusual, and powerful time to be present, to be grounded, to celebrate and to connect,” she said.
Hughes shared words of wisdom, which she learned from a revered leader in the Squamish First Nation before she competed in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.
“He told me, ‘Clara, I know that you’re a competitor and I know that you’re in an individual sport and I know that this is the Olympic Games,’ but what he said was, ‘you cannot want this greatness for yourself unless you want it for every single person around you. You have to look at your competitors and want success for them and, only then, can you ask for it for you.’”
June 19 ceremonies
The final day of ceremonies celebrated 524 graduates from the School of Academic and Liberal Studies in the morning, and 298 from the School of Environment and Horticulture in the afternoon.
Horticultural Technician graduate Lindy Brunarski was announced as the Dean’s Award from the School of Environment and Horticulture Studies with a 97 percent GPA. As a working paramedic – and alumnae from NC’s Paramedic (2005) and Advanced Care Paramedic (2008) programs – Brunarski decided to return to the classroom to enhance her passion for gardening out of interest, rather than to pursue a new career.
The Welland resident has a 23-acre farm in Pelham with 19 flowerbeds, a forest to manage, and five acres of agricultural land she hopes to convert into a small nursery and market garden someday. She has already been applying her skills from the program to help her achieve her goals of transforming the property to create a public gathering space.
“I find that the mental reprieve that I need from my work as a paramedic is often found by being outside in nature or the garden beds,” she said. “I am now a proud ‘horticultural paramedic.’”
Faisal Alsafadi, 34, graduated from General Arts and Science during the morning ceremony with a 94 percent GPA, a Dean’s Award from the School of Academic and Liberal Studies, and his family and friends watching from Ontario and Saudi Arabia where he was born and raised.
“I was looking forward to our formal graduation, as every student hopes, to share our accomplishment with family and friends,” he said. “But we are also part of a time in history that will make our virtual graduation a unique one that uses my passion in the IT field to its full advantage.”
Since immigrating to Canada in the fall of 2017, Alsafadi has been residing in St. Catharines and been as enhancing his education as well as being an active volunteer in the community. He enrolled in his current program with a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science) under his belt and previously completed two Occupation-specific Language Training courses, and the General Arts and Science Enhanced Language Training for Employment program at NC.
“The General Arts and Science program gave me the opportunity to advance my English skills and explore computer studies in the College,” he said. “Following other immigrants’ success stories of their struggles and eventual achievements since landing in Canada, inspires and motivates me to work hard to accomplish my dreams.”
Virtual Convocation 2020
Niagara College’s first ever Virtual Convocation ceremonies, held from June 15 to June 19, have been drawing thousands of viewers from around the world – with 17,515 viewers from 63 countries on June 15, 11,732 viewers from 44 countries on June 16, 9,589 views from 42 countries on June 17, and 11,135 views from 78 countries on June 18.
The interactive, live ceremonies offered graduates the chance to hear their names called out and see them appear on screen. They had an opportunity to connect with their classmates via Zoom parties held alongside the formal ceremonies, and could be seen smiling, waving and cheering intermittently during the livestream – many of them with their families and pets, as they participated from their homes. Social media posts using the #NCGrad2020 hashtag were also incorporated into the ceremony.
College president Sean Kennedy and senior vice president, Academic and Learner Services, Steve Hudson hosted all 10 ceremonies for the week on campus. The events also acknowledged Hudson’s final NC convocation prior to his retirement, after 20 years as a senior leader at the College.
Virtual Convocation featured numerous video well-wishes from across the College community – including members of faculty, staff and administrators; the College’s Board of Governors chair John Scott; and College Student Administrative Council president Tom Price.
Several members of the alumni community welcomed the new graduates in a video message – including president of RW&Co. Lora Tisi (1979), and Tim Hansing, CEO and co-founder of Red Planet Hotels (1987), Niagara EMS chief Kevin Smith (1992), TV host and reporter Amy Audibert (2012) who also voiced the opening video for the ceremony.
In addition, video greetings were played from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano, and Niagara regional chair Jim Bradley.
Each ceremony also included an Indigenous welcome from traditional knowledge keeper Karl Dockstader; music from piper Kelley Buckley; and a special video of the national anthem sung by College faculty Barbara Mantini, Giacomo Folinazzo and Paul Wintemute. Names were read by faculty members Franco Bieri and Carolyn Ambrose-Miller.
Two ceremonies took place each day, livestreamed from the College’s Welland Campus, thanks to faculty from the Broadcasting – Radio, Television and Film program, and College staff. The production was an applied learning experience for a group of 10 students from the program who assisted.
All Spring 2020 Virtual Convocation ceremonies may be viewed on the Virtual Convocation website at niagaracollege.ca/virtualconvocation/
Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.
Convocation 2020 media releases:
Sean Kennedy and Steve Hudson June 19: NC president Sean Kennedy and senior VP, Academic and Learner Services, Steve Hudson kick off the final day of Spring 2020 Virtual Convocation ceremonies.
Broadcasting crew screens June 19: A crew of NC Broadcasting faculty and students work on the livestream from the Welland Campus.
Commercial Cannabis Production Zoom party: A group of new graduates from the Commercial Cannabis Production program cheer as after their names are called out during the livestream ceremony on the afternoon of June 19.