We’re incredibly proud of the more than 2,200 people who earned the privilege of walking across the stage at the university’s Spring Convocation ceremonies on June 18, 19 and 20 at the Winspear Centre, and we’re thrilled to be able to tell some of their stories.
Here, members of the Class of 2019 reflect on valuable lessons learned, tell us why they love what they do, share bittersweet goodbyes and look to the future.
Breanna Tait, Bachelor of Arts, Anthropology
Anthropology doesn’t shy away from the uncertain. It doesn’t ignore its messy colonial past. It isn’t afraid to be self-reflexive and critical of itself. At its essence, anthropology is about embracing our humanity. That’s what I love most about it.
In my final semester, I coded a narrative video game to explore homophobia and sexual harassment in archaeology. Based on the player’s choices, the game presented random outcomes to real situations archaeologists have faced in the field, lab and classroom. Not only was this “un-essay” an opportunity to present and communicate research I did all semester, it was also a way to combine my academic and creative sides and demonstrate how academia can be more accessible.
Jaimie Ironstone, Early Learning and Child Care
Halfway through my final year of the program I went through one of the hardest experiences of my life, one that I didn’t think I would make it through. Having this program to focus on is what got me through, and the support and guidance from my professors and my cohort were instrumental. During that difficult time, I received a letter from MacEwan telling me that I received the highest marks in the first year of the program. Receiving that letter solidified that this is what I’m meant to do with my life.
Keeghan Hobbs, Asia Pacific Management
In the beginning, my choice of program was driven more by pragmatism than passion. I wanted to make the “right” choice — get in, get out, get a job, bing bang boom, done. Reality, however, went much differently. I didn’t really figure out what I wanted to do until I started taking different courses. And now, contrary to my initial plans, I’ll be continuing on to complete a degree.
It’s okay for plans to change, and for goals to evolve — even if achieving them takes longer than you thought. If you were able to pre-plan your life for the next 50 years, what would be the point in living it? You would already know what’s going to happen, after all. So, for anyone coming to MacEwan, I would say don’t stress if things don’t go according to plan — evaluate the current situation, create a new path and keep going. The only thing that holds a person back is not doing anything.
Ron Walker, Arts and Cultural Management
I began dancing when I was 20 as a way to get out of trouble and learn about my culture. I was fighting all of the time and using that as a way to deal with my anger over my life growing up. Looking back, I see intergenerational effects brought on by the residential school experience, colonial scoops of Indigenous kids and colonial processes geared to assimilate Indigenous people. As a dancer, I learned about spirituality and that gave me the clarity to appreciate and start thinking about how I could be a performer.
Now 27 years later I’m producing festivals, acting in TV, movies and commercials, and promoting local entertainers. I’ve also made friends with other festival producers. We cooperate and share — that is how it’s supposed to be between Indigenous people and other cultures. That is reconciliation in practice.
Cheryl Arntson, Bachelor of Arts, Sociology
I often felt out of place at MacEwan until Dr. Fiona Angus shared her own educational experience and journey as a mature student during a lecture on the sociology of gender. Suddenly, my experience was normalized. I was inspired to continue, knowing it was possible to achieve a post-secondary education beyond your 20s and despite family obligations.
I’m glad I did. I’ve always had a heart for social justice, and sociology gave me a framework to explore how individual experiences relate to larger social structures and institutions. In the process, I unpacked my own assumptions and social privileges, and I look forward to transitioning into a new career where I can apply what I’ve learned to create safe, inclusive environments that welcome people of every age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and religion.
Sejal Tiwari, Bachelor of Commerce, Honours International Business
When I came to Canada five years ago to find a second home, I experienced so many good and bad emotions. It motivated me to study what connects us globally rather than what divides us. I have been part of Enactus and the Model United Nations (UN) Club, and travelled to many different countries, which strengthened my intention to understand the field of international trade and diplomacy. I would love to work for the UN and use my expertise for the development of sustainable goals or work for Global Affairs Canada. Who knows? We'll see where life takes me.
Duncan Giebelhaus, Bachelor of Science, Honours Biological Sciences
I was always fascinated by nature and amazed by the complexity of life, but my first-year labs terrified me. Things eventually got easier as I developed my scientific abilities, explored a variety of disciplines and gained a better understanding of the natural world. I said yes to every opportunity and found myself exploring the Ecuadorian rainforest, growing human pathogens and cancer cells, synthesizing cough medicine, and extracting orchid DNA. The countless hours of troubleshooting, work and data analysis that came from each of those opportunities fuelled my passion and curiosity. Now I’m planning to pursue graduate research in plant science. Looking back, it’s hard to believe those simple, straightforward first-year experiments were so scary.
Kaitlyn Leibel, Bachelor of Child and Youth Care
In my teenage years I volunteered with a summer camp. That was where I discovered I wanted to work with children and youth, and help them throughout their daily lives. Studying child and youth care allowed me to do what my mission has always been, and that’s to show the children and youth who I work with that they can do whatever they set your minds to. In the future, I hope to be a voice for the disability population, and begin to change the way disabilities are viewed within society.
Eric Stewart, Bachelor of Arts, Economics
I struggled a lot when first started at MacEwan. I didn’t like what I was studying, I didn’t have a good work ethic, I surrounded myself with poor influences and was making bad life decisions. Eventually, I realized that I had to make serious changes in my life. When I switched programs to economics, I found something I was passionate about. My grades drastically improved, I made the dean's list and next year I’ll be working on a master’s degree at Carleton University. I want to help others, and one day I hope to play a part in developing policies that will better society.
Dorian Oliver-Lyons, Theatre Production
My defining moment happened during the first show of my first year, Sister Act. I was on the carpentry crew, building pretty much every part of the stage — both on deck and those meant to be flown. When I got messaged by my head of carpentry, I thought I was in trouble, like I had messed something up big time. But when I came in, he asked if I would be interested in being head of rigging, flying the set pieces during installation and running the flies during the show. This defined me because it became the aspect of theatre I enjoy working on the most and what I hope to continue with in the future.
Justin Haack, Bachelor of Science, Psychology
In the early days of my degree, I didn’t think I was interested in research. I never dreamed I would spend my last semester working on an independent study that I would share at Student Research Day and with renowned researchers at the North American Correctional and Criminal Justice Psychology Conference.
My time at MacEwan taught me that studying psychology — true psychology, not the popularized notion of what psychology is — can create better mental health awareness, direct a paradigm shift towards attitudes of acceptance and address prominent social issues, including sexual violence. It also challenged me, enabled me to grow as a person and inspired my aspirations to go beyond a bachelor’s degree.
Emily Gryba, Bachelor of Music in Jazz and Contemporary Popular Music
Interning with MacEwan's record label (Bent River Records) in my third year really set the tone for how I saw my future in the music industry. I've always known I wanted to work in music, but was terrified to come out of school with a degree and no experience. I believe that internship started the fire inside me to actively search for opportunities in the business while pursuing my education. It made me realize that I can always do more and led me to taking on a summer internship in Nashville, freelance work with local musicians, as well as being hired onto the Bent River Records staff the following year.
Hyrum Sutton, Bachelor of Communication Studies (Professional Communication)
I think some of my biggest inspirations were my classmates. Whether it was being supportive in class or doing better than me on assignments, they always pushed me to work harder. I’d also like to give a shout out to my wife, without whom I would have crashed and burned in university.
I'm the kind of person that naturally edits as I read, and I thought it would be fun to work in the publishing industry. I would still like to work within the publishing industry on contracts, copyrights, intellectual property, et cetera. However, I'm actually going to be continuing my education at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law.
Kelly Cartwright, Bachelor of Commerce, Honours International Business
I think that Canadian businesses need to expand abroad but many don’t know how to do it successfully. I want to work either in government or as a consultant to help companies grow internationally. The world needs more Canada and I want to help make it happen.
My advice would be to have fun and try to enjoy your time in school. It can feel like a lot sometimes, but try to relax and enjoy the experience. Get out of your comfort zone as soon as you can and try new things. You’ll meet lots of great people and learn a lot about yourself.
Monica Quintana, Early Learning and Child Care
I have a major in marketing but discovered my interest in child development later in life, so I decided to switch paths. I learned a lot from each of my instructors, but the communication classes changed my perspective entirely. We learned skills to have positive interactions with children and families, and I have applied this knowledge into my personal life.
I had the great fortune to work at MacEwan’s lab school. I have a job as a program supervisor at an after-school care centre now, thanks to the field placements. My advice to other international students is to remember that courses and field placements will help them understand Canadian culture in a better and faster way than any other experience.
Meghan Russ, Bachelor of Arts, Economics
MacEwan has been my home for almost 10 years. I started my legal assistant diploma in 2009 and then decided to work on an undergraduate degree while working full time as a paralegal.
As a mature student with only Math 20, the three mandatory math/stats courses I had to take to major in economics seemed almost impossible. I dedicated a lot of my time to practicing – over and above the assignments I was given – and my knowledge and skill set improved. Challenging myself to do well in those courses made me realize that if I have patience and believe in myself, I can overcome any weakness.
I’ve accomplished a lot within these walls, shed tears in every building, and made great and strong bonds with my fellow students. I will always be proud to call myself a MacEwan alum.