The Fall Class of 2021 are set to take the world by storm. Armed with skills ranging from aviation management and physical science, to nursing and music, these grads have what it takes to shape their communities, shake up their industries, and forge bold new paths.

This convocation is a special one – after celebrating our last three graduating classes virtually, we’ll be coming together for our first in-person convocation ceremony since Fall 2019. We’re looking forward to celebrating – and to seeing what’s next for the Fall Class of 2021.

Kevin Bekevich, Bachelor of Music in Jazz and Contemporary Popular Music

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I had played in many bands, touring, performing and recording, before I decided to pursue a degree at MacEwan so I could go on to become a music teacher.

Even if you’re not a big fan of the style, jazz can teach you so much that you can apply to all styles of music. Studying music at MacEwan broadened my perspective and challenged me to dig deeper. I never thought I would ever be able to play Miles Davis and Joni Mitchell, but during my second-year bass masterclass with Rubim De Toledo, I surprised myself when I used my newly acquired skills to improvise challenging scales, modes and melodies in electric bass guitar.

I’m currently taking the after-degree education program at University of Lethbridge. My ambition is to become a full-time music teacher so that I can teach music, play music and travel internationally.

Zandra Bongco, Wound Management
Dean’s Medal recipient

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I was working in a nursing home where I encountered a lot of clients with wounds that I didn’t know how to deal with. I wanted to be able to help them more, and alleviate their suffering – if not totally heal their wounds – but I felt inadequate to properly care for them. So I looked for a course about wounds, and that’s how I found the Wound Management program.

Through the program I completed a practicum at Royal Alexandra Hospital where I met a doctor and a wound care nurse specialist who are affiliated with a diabetic foot and limb preservation clinic. I was blessed to be accepted as a new employee and started just this month. They have now become my mentors. Seeing them treat clients who are about to lose a foot but are saved because of aggressive wound care further solidified my passion. My plan is to further specialize in wound care and related fields.

Desiree Cardinal, Bachelor of Science, Computer Science

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My mom put earning her degree in psychology on hold so she could raise my siblings and me. She was one of my biggest supporters during my time here, and I’m so grateful.

I started my studies without knowing what I would major in, which allowed me to experience different subjects before discovering what I was passionate about. Realizing that computer science was the degree for me was a defining moment. I really enjoy using programming to solve challenging and complex problems and transforming data to tell a visual story.

In one project, I wanted to explore the impacts of climate change on the frequency and severity of natural disasters. I used various data sets over a time series and transformed them into an interactive dashboard to show the relationship of natural disaster severity with increasing global temperatures. I think the potential to discover new insights by transforming complex data is a really exciting concept.

Mary Clapp, Human Resources Management Diploma

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Coming back to full-time studies after so many years of full-time work was a shock to the system, even if it was a longed-for dream come true. I just took it one step at a time and did my best.

I have a life-long love for learning. After many years in the workforce, I decided to take a break — I had promised myself when I first graduated from university that I would come back to full-time studies one day. My defining moment at MacEwan happened on my way to my first visit on campus to speak with an advisor. As soon as I walked into the building, I loved the welcoming atmosphere and the thoughtful architecture. Natural light was coming in everywhere. I loved the cafés, the eating areas and the beautiful library. I could also appreciate how quick and easy it would be to get across campus in all seasons, especially to the Sport and Wellness Centre. The meeting with the advisor was the clincher. I knew I wanted to study at MacEwan.

My work experience made the Human Resources Management program even more directly meaningful to me. I learned a lot about myself and the workplace, and each course offered invaluable learning on a personal and professional level. By the end of the program, everything had fallen into place. I truly treasured my time at MacEwan, being a student all over again, at an older age, and truly feeling part of it all. I could go on and on, but I'll just say, thank you, MacEwan.

Nicole Fraser, Office Assistant, Medical Major
Dean's Medal recipient

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Like thousands of other Albertans, I was laid off due to COVID-19. While I was concerned about my family's financial situation, I chose to use this job loss as an opportunity to pursue my goals of attending university and obtaining a better job.

Having my first university experience in my 40s, online, during a pandemic was a thrilling way to begin the 2020s. The perseverance required to learn and get through each and every day while sitting two feet away from my husband as he was working from home is a story that I will one day tell my grandchildren.

When I reflect upon my experience, I realize that it was a cumulation of small events that came together to make my time at MacEwan a defining moment in my life story. Becoming a university student was always a dream that I never thought I would be able to achieve. Starting university at my age terrified me — and filled me with a huge sense of pride. I also feel a sense of responsibility because I am now the first and only university graduate in my entire family!

COVID made my university experience even more unique. Not only did I have to teach myself how to learn, but I also had to adapt to an online environment — like learning how to overcome my computer freezing 10 minutes into my first final exam. However, I soon discovered that technology allowed my classmates and I to build a strong support network. As a group, we bonded and persevered together, forging lifelong friendships.

Prior to this program, I had spent several years working with children as an educational assistant, helping them learn to read, write and use correct vocabulary. Still, I was humbled by how challenging my English course was. It was a fantastic day when I received my final grade – I worked very hard for that A!

Ben Gronberg, Bachelor of Science in Nursing

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I loved my time at MacEwan. The Faculty of Nursing is a strong group of professors and instructors. I am so honoured to have sat on boards, interacted with the chair and made so many friendships.

In August, I was hired to work in a hospital emergency department – a passion of mine. Then in October, I was elected as town councillor for my hometown of Devon. I am passionate about health and policy – they go hand-in-hand. During the campaign, I was often asked about my views on vaccines, restrictions and the provincial government’s handling of the pandemic. I vowed to answer honestly and with my registered nurse lens.

I am proud to continue working in both careers – registered nurse and councillor, which complement each other well. In my BScN, I was taught the importance of nursing leadership, which allowed me to develop many leadership qualities that I have today. I have always loved politics and to be able to be a full-time RN and councillor for my town makes me beam with pride.

Alfred Holmes, Bachelor of Communication Studies, Professional Communication

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After 11 years working in local television, I decided it was time to change my career path. After surviving round after round of layoffs, I accepted a severance package in 2015 and decided to go back to school.

I knew I had made the right decision after my very first class. I didn’t know what to expect or even if finishing university would be something that I could accomplish, but the professor in that class, Dr. Iain Macpherson, had so much positive energy that I immediately felt at ease. He ended up being my favourite professor, and I always looked forward to his classes. The instruction and confidence he gave me helped me achieve my educational goals.

I recently accepted a contract position as a digital communications coordinator at a multinational construction company. My duties include creating and publishing appealing and engaging content for the company intranet, administering training for other intranet publishers, and providing writing and editing support for other corporate departments. I’ve always seen myself as a leader and I like being counted on as a person who can solve problems and help others.

Alexandra Lai, Bachelor of Design

Alexandra Lai

I was born and raised in Saskatoon and moved to Edmonton in 2017 to pursue my passion for photography. Design and photography allow me to immerse myself in my creative process. Setting up the camera, lighting, props, capturing and editing photos may seem like a long and tedious process, but it's why I love design. 

I hope other students can also find what inspires them to grow creatively and as a person. For me, inspiration is hidden in the mundane. I want my work to garner appreciation for the beauty within the everyday.

My career goals are to be an editorial/commercial photographer or a freelance artist working out of my own studio.

Cassandra Leung, Bachelor of Arts, Anthropology
Dean's Medal recipient

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Humans are fascinating. We are such complex beings – physically, psychologically and culturally. I chose anthropology because figuring out even a tiny piece of the human puzzle was just as interesting as it was educational.

When I started my degree, I was recovering from a major car accident and couldn’t work anymore. I was just looking for something to fill my time, so I never expected to meet my best friends, get awards, start my favourite hobby/sport (bouldering, which two friends from my Chinese and Economics courses convinced me to try), or take all the fun classes that I did. It was often difficult to balance mental health with academic demands, but I had some of the best times with the best people here. Nothing bonds you like going through the struggle together!

I don’t have any solid plans for the future yet – I came to MacEwan during a really uncertain period of my life, and I’m leaving in the midst of a global pandemic. With everything changing so quickly, I’m not ready to continue on to a master’s right away, but I believe that everything I have learned and experienced over the past few years has prepared me for any situation I might encounter. I also think representation matters a lot, and the field of anthropology could definitely use more young, female people of colour like me.

Ashley Lylick, Acupuncture Diploma

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There were many difficult times during my years at MacEwan – my condo flooded three times (one of those times I lost all my textbooks the week before finals), I lost both of my maternal grandparents and my stepfather passed away from a rare form of cancer. But with bad always comes good. I got engaged, rescued a puppy, and my fiance and I bought our first home.

All of the good and bad I experienced deepened my love and knowledge of holistic medicine. Though it’s been a struggle at times, this program allowed me to grow and see Traditional Chinese Medicine from a new perspective.

I came to acupuncture after working 60-plus hours a week and travelling as an operations manager for a private medical company. My body and mind were wearing out, and I knew I needed to make a change. I wanted a career where I could combine my passions for alternative medicine and helping others. I had graduated from MacEwan years ago with a certificate in disability management in the workplace, so MacEwan was the first place I looked. When I found the Acupuncture program, I knew it was fate.

While I wait for the results of my provincial and national board exams to become a licensed doctor of acupuncture, I will be building my practice and relationships at the clinic where I work. In the future, I hope to combine my holistic energy practices with acupuncture to provide well-rounded treatments to my patients. Even though the journey to get here has been a struggle at times, it has brought me to the next stage in my life. I am grateful.

Melissa Mah, Office Assistant, Administrative Major

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I was looking forward to getting to know my classmates and networking with them, but when it was announced that all classes were moved online (as the program started at the height of the pandemic), I thought all of that was not going to be possible. But thanks to the thoughtful planning of our instructors, we were still able to collaborate through group projects, which created a unique bond between us! One thing that made this program very enjoyable was our kind and professional instructors. They put a lot of effort into helping us succeed no matter the circumstance.

One of my instructors helped me get a great work placement at a mid-sized accounting firm downtown, which led me right to a full-time job. After my three-month probation, I got promoted to administrative assistant, which was my initial goal with taking this program. Now that I will be working in my desired position, I want to continue applying what I have learned and explore the skills that can only be gained through real work experience as an office assistant. I will be looking for more opportunities to expand my responsibilities within the company, whether that be from joining a committee or learning from my fellow employees.

Sienna McLean, Public Relations Diploma

Sienna McLean

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was struggling and decided to change programs. My confidence was shaken, but I gained so much from my program and my grades improved. I even made the First Class Standing list, which I never thought I’d achieve during my academic career – let alone during a pandemic.

My initial plan was to become a book editor, but when we had a guest lecturer who was a public relations professional, I realized that was the right fit. I thrive when I have a variety of tasks and projects, so learning that PR professionals not only edit but write, manage social media and do marketing cemented the idea of changing career paths. Part of what made me successful, I think, is that my PR courses focused directly on the industry I wanted to go into and our projects modelled what a practitioner does on a day-to-day basis.

When I finished my practicum, I was offered a job where I manage marketing and communications for three branches of a business in Alberta and British Columbia. My plan now is to continue working and learning, and I hope to volunteer my time and knowledge to smaller nonprofits.

Adeline Piercy, Bachelor of Communication Studies, Professional Communications
Dean's Medal recipient

Adeline Piercy

I always wanted to be a writer, but I got caught up in pursuing a career path in science. Try as I might, it didn't work out. Coming to MacEwan for another degree was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I met incredible people, and I didn’t have to wait until I graduated to start my career. I pursued my passion for writing, editing and publishing, and studying in a field that balances both fine arts and business applications has opened so many doors for me.

Now I’m working on starting a publishing house, and a freelance writing and editing career. I have a lot of projects in mind. Ultimately, I’m hoping to get a masters and PhD so that I can teach in a post-secondary setting.

Receiving the Dean’s Medal at the end of this degree was the moment I looked back with pride on all I had accomplished and overcome. The last four years have been some of the hardest that I’ve been through personally, but when I enrolled, I told myself I would graduate with honours. I exceeded my own expectations despite a lot of hardship. And I am grateful for the support I’ve received from faculty, friends and family.

Jasmine Ramage, Bachelor of Arts, Honours English

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Words shape the way we live and what we know about the world beyond our own limited direct experiences. Studying English is not just about high-falutin' literature, but about the meaning we get from a newspaper article, a tweet, a story our friend tells us about their day. I guess that could be an argument for me to have studied communications, but then, I also like the high-falutin' literature! Or literature, at least.

A lot of my work has been in contemporary literature and film, and I lean more towards analyzing pop culture than “serious” works. I also have a history minor and I see a big overlap – fiction lets us inside the heads of people who never existed, while history allows us into the heads of people who lived long ago or who are long dead. None of these things exist in the present, outside of language. How cool then that language exists to let us study them?

This is my second degree, and I had a lot of doubt that I’d even be able to complete it. In 2016, I thought I was four courses away from finishing when I discovered I’d missed reading some of the requirements for subsequent baccalaureate degrees. I actually needed 15 more classes to graduate. I was pretty discouraged for a while, but my partner at the time encouraged me to keep taking courses that interested me and chipping away at it, so I took a course or two a semester for the next few years.

When COVID hit and my work temporarily shut down, I realized that there was never going to be a better opportunity to complete the remaining courses. I committed to full-time studenthood and blitzed out the last eight courses I needed. Even better, I discovered that with all the extra coursework I’d completed years earlier, I actually had already fulfilled nearly all the requirements for the English Honours program and would be able to complete it on the same timeline.

Even with the setbacks and scheduling challenges, this has always been a passion project for me. I’m so proud that I’m here.

Sharmin Ruda, Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration
Dean’s Medal recipient

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Education is important to me – and to my family. My oldest daughter is currently working on a master’s in occupational therapy, my son just graduated as a chemical engineer and my youngest daughter, who is in Grade 11, wants to study biomedical engineering.

I currently work as an early childhood educator at a non-profit daycare, and I decided to pursue my Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration in order to progress in my career. I’ve always wanted to be a manager in a medical clinic or daycare, and I knew this degree would provide the educational foundation for those aspirations.

It wasn’t all easy. Most of my classes involved reading and writing – processes with which I felt comfortable, but when it came time to take an accounting course, I felt significant anxiety. I spent a considerable amount of time reading and rereading the text to understand the rules and formulas, and I needed to repeat many of the processes and search the internet for information about accounting. I learned how to use Excel – with some help from my husband and son. But by the end of the course, I felt much more comfortable with spreadsheets and accounting. That experience taught me that persistence and hard work can pay dividends.

Radhika Saini, Bachelor of Science, Physical Sciences

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When I started my undergraduate degree, I had no idea what I wanted to specialize in, but studying maps, satellite imagery and landforms in my first year excited me. So I chose earth science.

In my second year, I discovered that I liked research. But it wasn’t until taking on an independent research project on carbonate sedimentology in my fourth year that I realized how much. I had a lot to learn about mineralogy and sedimentology, and I had no idea how much time, effort and mental capacity it takes to conduct and convey research. That’s why I was so very lucky to have had an incredible supervisor and mentor in Dr. Hilary Corlett. I would never have guessed that I could have connected with a professor so strongly. Her advice, on so many levels, guided me through the last year of my undergrad.

Completing that independent research project was a defining moment for me. It showed me that I am capable of learning and applying concepts in a short amount of time. In January, I will be starting a master’s in science at the University of Alberta and using the technical knowledge I gained in my research to study meteorite samples. I know it will be tough, but I am really looking forward to it.

Kemp Skripitsky, Business Management Diploma, Aviation Management Major

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Being able to manage a full-time course load while also obtaining all of my pilot's licenses and ratings in record time was very rewarding for me. If one could find a positive in the past 18 months, I would say the online classes sure helped me meet my goals.

I've always had a passion for both business and aviation. Being able to combine the two into a diploma made a ton of sense. The flexible class options allowed me to become one of the youngest Class 2 Rated flight instructors in Canada.

I'm currently interviewing with a private aviation company as a first officer on a medium-sized business jet. Long term, I would like to transition into a management role of some kind.

Andrew Stangowitz, Bachelor of Commerce, Supply Chain Management
Dean's Medal recipient

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Honestly, I was not sure whether I would attend university when I graduated high school. Now that I reflect on my experiences during the past few years, I have no regrets. MacEwan enabled me to discover my strengths and hone many of the skills that I will need as a member of the workforce. I grew to have a new appreciation for teamwork and can now write lengthy and complicated reports without much trouble, which would likely surprise my younger self. Most importantly, the friends I've made and the experiences I've had are invaluable.

My defining moment at MacEwan occurred during my BUSN 450 class. As a part of a business simulation, teams competed to determine which firm would achieve the highest stock price and best implement the triple bottom line. I worked alongside my teammates to devise unique ways to carve out a competitive advantage for our firm. Although we made some missteps during the practice rounds and were slow to find our footing during the actual simulation, we learned from our mistakes and created a strategy that put us ahead of the competition – we finished in first place. The experience taught me that trial and error are necessary for success, strategic thinking can be fun and teamwork is often immensely rewarding.

Watch the Fall 2021 Convocation ceremonies
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