Meet the Class of 2020

July 14, 2020 | Arts & Culture, Business, Health, Science, Society

Our newest grads have big plans – to make their communities healthier, stronger and safer. To bring creative visions and entrepreneurial ideas to life. To ask – and find answers to – big questions. To make a difference in the lives of their patients and clients. To speak out for people who are being oppressed.

We couldn’t mark their many great achievements the way we always have before, so we created this year’s Curbside Convocation and set out to share as many of their stories as possible.

Here, close to 60 of our newest graduates share the moments, memories and milestones that defined their time at MacEwan. We can’t wait to see what they do next.

Melissa Banks, Bachelor of Arts, English, Dean’s Medal Recipient


My first year at MacEwan was pretty rough. I was a transfer student taking senior-level courses, but in some ways I felt like a first-year student. I didn’t know the campus, the professors or my classmates. I felt lonely and adrift.

As students with disabilities, we fight tooth and nail every day to be in our classes and to complete our course work. It is difficult, exhausting and stressful. However, I encountered many professors who accommodate without question, are open and accepting, adapt their teaching style willingly, and desire to see everyone succeed. Even in courses with visually complex aspects, my professors were determined that I could succeed at mastering the material. Their belief in me inspired me to continue through the hard times. And those professors were right. In every single class that someone doubted I could take because I am blind, I earned an A+.

Over the years I’ve contemplated other occupations, but having professors who also have disabilities truly confirmed for me the fact that I too can become a teacher. I will be attending the University of Alberta in the fall to obtain an after degree in education.

Nicklas Baran, Bachelor of Science, Honours Biological Sciences


I absolutely adore everything related to biology, especially plants. I think I always have. There are baby photos of me in our family garden, and I distinctly remember planting my first plant on my own when I was five years old. As I got older, my fascination with other aspects of nature and ecosystems grew. Studying biology in university made perfect sense.

I wanted to share my passion for plants and biology with other students, so in 2018 I co-founded MacEwan’s first Botanical Club to bring together fellow plant enthusiasts, regardless of their background or knowledge of plants. We held scavenger hunts, plant show-and-tells, botanist-guided nature tours, and most recently a plant photography contest. Remarkably, the club has grown to have 190 members from various programs of study.

This fall, I’ll begin a master’s program in regional planning at the University of Alberta. I aspire to use my knowledge of the natural world to help cities – and the people who live within them – connect to and be conscious of the urban ecosystem to which they belong.

Adrianna Cambridge, Bachelor of Child and Youth Care


I always knew two things: that I wanted to work with children and that I wanted to help people, so I was intrigued when I saw the child and youth care program. I called the university advisor with an endless list of questions, and she took the time to explain everything. I knew from that phone call that the faculty in this program were kind-hearted, passionate and knowledgeable. So naturally I wanted to be a part of it.

My little sister played a huge role in my life while at MacEwan. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and cortical visual impairment when she was two months old. She requires around-the-clock supervision via personal care and/or respite workers (like me), as well as visits with a multitude of specialized rehabilitation professionals. I remember reflecting on the things in my life that brought me joy, and being a part of her growth and development played a significant role in that.

I started my experience at MacEwan in open studies not knowing for sure if I was on the right path. So my advice to those who are starting university would be to look at your strengths and the things that make you happy and go from there. I never would have thought that my adorable sibling would be the epiphany that brought me to where I am now, but it did. 

Wamaitha Gitaka, Bachelor of Science, Computer Science


I started out majoring in biology, but it was during my very first computer science course that I had my “aha” moment. I had just written my very first piece of code and when I tested it, it actually worked. That was it. I realized in that moment what I needed to do and the direction I wanted my future to go.

I am passionate about computer science because it is the future. Life today would be very different without computer scientists – we certainly wouldn’t be navigating this pandemic in the same way – and I want to be part of the immense growth that is happening in my field. I want to contribute to my industry – to help develop new initiatives that will improve the quality of everyday life. Right now, I’m fascinated by the Internet of Things. I just love the interconnectedness of it all.

Alina Lee, Bachelor of Commerce, Supply Chain Management Co-op 


My parents have always told me that my education was something they can help provide, but that it was up to me to find my own passion and determination in my education. Seeing how hard they worked and the sacrifices they made inspired me to work hard in my studies. In the end, I found a career path I'm passionate about, and I'm determined to give back what they have given to me.

There were many times where I reflected on what would come next for me. I wondered whether there was a finish line that I needed to cross, but realized that there shouldn’t be. Life is a continual learning experience that will bring new opportunities. One thing I do know for sure? I want to integrate my passion for making a positive change in the community into my prospective business career path.

Jacob Sawatzky, Theatre Arts


The funny thing is I didn’t have a strong passion for theatre when I was younger. My parents had their own careers in the arts and I wanted to be something different — not to mention I was terrified of putting myself out there. It definitely took me a while to open up to going on stage.

What kept drawing me in was the way the medium affected people. How it was possible to tell fantastical stories that defied expectations, made you feel, made you think, and see it happen live in person on top of it all. The biggest reward though is the process to create those stories. A group of people doing what they love are brought together to put on a show and they become a second family to you. You grow as an artist and as a person with them. MacEwan helped me understand my passion by completely surrounding me in the arts and throwing brand new things at me every day. I know I am a changed person because of that.

Rodrigo Sosa, Bachelor of Music in Jazz and Contemporary Popular Music, Performance 


I was about to begin my second year in Fall 2016 when I became homeless. I was 19, working nights at my summer job and living out of my car. I had planned to quit once school started, but I couldn't. So I worked nights on the north side, and then came to campus for 7 a.m. so I could shower and take a nap on the couches before class.

I lived that way for about a month until I finally found a place to live. The whole year was tough, but I'm glad I never left. My time at MacEwan was fantastic and full of great moments with my peers and faculty members. Even when things were stressful, we always had fun and found a way to laugh at things and support each other. Having finished my degree, I'm so thankful for all the help I received from my friends and peers, the university and my professors. MacEwan is where I found safety, comfort, guidance and help.

Now that I’m done, I'm looking at starting a graduate diploma in business at Thompson Rivers University.

Mary Vincent, Bachelor of Science in Nursing 


I was in my first year and brand new to being in a clinical environment when one of the patients I was caring for received a terminal diagnosis. In the final weeks of their life, I was able to sit at their bedside and have an amazing conversation. They talked about how much they had enjoyed life, their favourite memories and the lessons they wished they had learned sooner. They also gave me some advice, which I took to heart. They said that life is too short to be stuck on the what-ifs and what could be – to live in the moment and enjoy each one as fully as you can, to take chances and to know when an opportunity is staring you in the face.

I’ve tried to live up to that advice. I completed a nursing course in Scotland, travelled to Europe, am in the process of becoming a published author and am trying to get more involved in my community.

I’ve always been passionate about promoting justice, equity and equality, but nursing helped give me the skills to better fill this role. Eventually, I hope to study law and use my nursing background to advocate for vulnerable populations on a national, or even global, scale.

Lisa Waschyshyn, Speech Language Pathologist Assistant Diploma


I returned to university as a newly widowed mother of three. I never imagined that I would be returning to school in my 40s – what was I thinking? I knew I had to make a better future for my children after my husband had passed. Although a big part of me was excited to start this new adventure, I was also terrified because I had not written or studied for an exam in over 20 years. On the first day of classes, as I listened to the introductions of all my fellow classmates and how much they had already achieved academically, I knew it was time to pull up my socks and commit to this program. How could I possibly be as good as all these wonderful students? I had to prove to myself and to my family that I could do this.

One of my first placements was at the Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic at the Stollery Children's Hospital. I gave it everything I had. Within eight weeks of practicing what I had been taught in lectures, the feedback I got from my supervisors was, "You practice like a seasoned clinician and the clients respond so well to your therapy techniques." I knew I had chosen a field I could shine in. I hope to be able to practice my skills in a clinic setting in the near future.

 Read more from the Class of 2020 

Dustin Allen, Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy Back in 2008 when I was 18 years old and took my first philosophy course at MacEwan, my mind was blown. I was a terrible student at the time, but I loved going to philosophy class because it confused me in the most rewarding way.

After switching to Theatre Arts, completing my diploma and taking a break from my degree, I started studying philosophy again in 2018. I was in the final semester of my third year and taking five courses when I was asked to volunteer as a comedy and music performer in refugee camps overseas. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that meant missing an entire month of classes. I worried about taking so much time away, but my professors and fellow students supported me – and I ended up receiving the Academic Achievement Award in Philosophy that same semester.

I’d love to work abroad on more international projects, but until travel opens up again, I’m going to keep trying to contribute to meaningful projects and doing what I can to make the world a better place. Dana Anderson, Bachelor of Music in Jazz and Contemporary Popular Music, Performance I have always, always loved music. The first time I picked up a saxophone in Grade 7 band, I fell in love with it, and as the years went on, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else with my life. Coming into the music program at MacEwan felt like coming home. As I continued to learn, my love for the instrument, the music and performance grew infinitely. This major has allowed me to create and develop a voice through music that I didn’t know I had.

I was, and continue to be, inspired by all of my colleagues, but particularly the other horn players in my year. We were able to form a supportive community, full of friendly competition and encouragement. Each one of them has a different style, with different influences and different musical language, which inspired me to try new things and continue learning. With everyone bringing something different to the table, I was constantly pushed to be a better musician and better person. Kate Ashton, Bachelor of Music in Jazz and Contemporary Popular Music, Composition Music has always been a huge part of my life. I grew up singing and whistling, writing and performing, listening and producing. My passion flourished while learning about the intersections of music, physics, history, anthropology and technology – i.e., discovering music as being a fundamental function of human existence. Throughout my program, I was able to explore all of these intersections in an academic setting. MacEwan challenged me and made me a more thoughtful artist, connected me with people who share similar passions, provided me with opportunities, and equipped me with the tools I needed to turn my passion into a craft all while pursuing a formal education.

One notable moment for me was when I was chosen to take part in a multi-faculty project and write some of the music that would be used for the MacEwan University-produced biology video game, Life on the Edge. It was an amazing experience to collaborate with people across interdisciplinary fields and produce something made by students for students. It was also a very proud moment of mine because I’ve been inspired by the artistry of video games my entire life and it’s been a longtime goal to score for one. Ali Bazzi, Bachelor of Commerce, Accounting I aspire to pave my own career path, and accounting was a good start to understanding the ins and outs of business. I'm taking some time to decide on my career path as situations evolve. My advice for future students would be to keep going until they find what works for them; there is no single path that must be taken. In my own experience, I've spent a lot of time pondering what's next and I've mapped out various paths. However, I decided to take a step back and focus on the present.

I will remember this last semester more than anything else about my time at MacEwan. It will be a great story to tell in 20 years about the wild rollercoaster ride that 2020 has become, but I'm happy to be part of the graduating class of 2020 and I'm looking forward to what the future holds. Kristen Berg, Bachelor of Commerce, Supply Chain Management When I started at MacEwan I was right out of high school and had no clue what I wanted to do. I chose to do a commerce degree on a whim, but it turned out to be one of my best decisions.

My defining moment was when I did a semester exchange in Steyr, Austria. On top of taking supply chain-related classes, I took an introduction to German and an Austrian life and culture class. During those six months abroad, I travelled to 10 different countries! Travelling is something I’ve always loved and doing a semester abroad was on my university wishlist. Supply chain is a global industry now more than ever, so having a passion for travel helps because there’s always a possibility that you’ll be travelling for your job.

Something I would like to remember is just how far I’ve come from that scared kid that started university all those years ago. Mark Bombak, Correctional Services Diploma I have always had a fascination with crime and the criminal justice system, and I've always liked helping people out. I wanted to do some meaningful work in my life and I figured why not explore my interests? I reached a point in my life where I realized I wasn't happy where I was. After going to a MacEwan information session, everything just clicked and I knew I had to be here.

My defining academic moment was rebounding back from failing very badly on my first exam in sociology, where I scored 34 per cent. I knew I failed that first exam because I didn't study as seriously as I should have. So I studied a lot more seriously for the next exam, and even though I expected I would pass, I did not expect to score the highest mark in class. I had never had the highest marks in high school and being one of the older people in class, I was blown away, especially because I had been struggling with imposter syndrome very early on..

What I hope for the future is to make some meaningful difference in my career, whether it's helping even one person's life for the better or improving a workplace or system. Kristjan Buckingham, Bachelor of Design I love the challenge of applying creativity in a way that helps bring ideas to life. Whether working on my own projects or collaborating with others, it’s exciting to see a concept come together and take form — like when I got to work at the university's record label, Bent River Records. That defined my experience at MacEwan more than anything, and if I had to pick a particular defining moment, it would be when I first got to listen to an album that I had designed the cover and packaging for.

It was really cool to be part of big events, like Bent River's artist spotlights, the recording competitions and album package design competitions, but also just working with other students and taking electives that complemented my focus of study. Honestly, I had a pretty great experience overall.

Next, I'm off to Toronto to pursue my master’s degree. I got into the Digital Futures graduate studies program at OCAD University, where I’m planning to continue exploring augmented reality experiences. It’s a little scary, but I’m excited for this next chapter. Cassandra Carroll, Early Learning and Child Care Diploma I have been passionate about early learning and child care since I was young. The minute I first held a baby I was smitten! I believe that I was born with a space in my heart for educating and caring for children. No matter where I go or what I do, I enjoy the amazing memories that come from interacting with children. The immense satisfaction of having an impact on a young life is the greatest feeling I think a person can have.

I started the Early Learning and Child Care Diploma program at MacEwan University in the fall of 2014, but I began to face health issues that physically prevented me from continuing on in the program. I worked and struggled with my health issues for years following, striving to one day return to the program and get my diploma. After finally receiving a Lupus diagnosis and getting the treatment I so desperately needed, I returned to the program and received my diploma! I am so inspired by the experience I have had that I decided to venture into the new Bachelor of Early Childhood Curriculum Studies. My journey hasn’t ended at MacEwan. It has only just begun and the sky's the limit.
Emilee Cowan-Nelson, Bachelor of Science, Honours Psychology I never would have imagined that in my last year of university I'd be handing in an honours thesis. During my first year, my grades were very low and I began questioning whether I was suited for university. It took a lot of hard work and determination, but by my third year, I’d improved my marks by two letter grades. I'll never forget the overwhelming feeling of pride and excitement when I received my acceptance to the honours program

While my fascination with the mind and brain came about early in my degree, it wasn't until I started learning about neurological deficits following trauma that I truly became invested in studying brain damage. I've accepted an offer to complete my Masters in Neuroscience at the University of Calgary and will be studying motor rehabilitation following brain damage in individuals who have experienced a stroke. After that, I hope to pursue medicine and eventually specialize in treating traumatic brain injuries.

One of my faculty mentors shared some wise words that I think everyone should hear: “Where you are now is not where you will always be.” Just because your first year may not go according to plan doesn’t mean that you can’t go on to pursue your dreams. Lisa Dack, Bachelor of Science, Biological Sciences I was still a full-time police officer when I enrolled in my first course at MacEwan. I was fascinated with DNA analysis and wanted to pursue forensic casework, but as a single mom, I was apprehensive about quitting my job. So I decided to start with PSYC 104.

My first prof was the daughter of a retired police officer. I loved her classes and could relate to her stories. When I received 104 per cent on my first midterm (I got the bonus question too!), I was hooked.

It wasn’t always easy, though. I was living on student loans, working part time, and coaching my daughter’s hockey and soccer teams. There were times I felt disappointed in my marks, and I was always doing something stupid in the lab – accidentally putting my E. coli cultures in the fridge instead of the incubator or dropping my gel and watching it shatter into pieces. But I didn’t give up. And I had my classmates, who quickly adopted me as their school mom, supporting me (and setting their alarms so I could avoid parking tickets) through it all. Blake Dickson, Bachelor of Commerce, Legal Studies in Business You get out what you put in. If you are only doing what an average student does, you will probably have more trouble after your degree. Join extracurriculars!

Every time I got to compete in a case competition was a defining moment. The Creative Shock Social Business Competition was an incredible experience. I participated in the hybrid MacEwan–UVic team, and we went into three rounds of preliminary cases and aced them, beating all 250 teams to make it into the grand finale. We then travelled to Lithuania and that was incredible. I refined my knowledge of case study, and my networking skills levelled up again.

My goal right now is to get into law school and then find a way to mold together my interest in entrepreneurism and my legal/business knowledge. Kira Ferguson, Bachelor of Science in Nursing I chose nursing because I wanted to give back to people and communities. I wanted to leave the world a little bit better than I found it. That still rings very true today, and completing my degree has only extended my passion for helping people. I care about what happens to our health-care system. I have a greater sense of responsibility. I want to be a leader and an advocate for my profession. I’m willing to stand up when I see our system moving backwards. I want to be a voice for people who haven’t yet found theirs.

Being at MacEwan and specifically in the nursing program encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone. It truly made me realize I could do and accomplish a lot more than I ever gave myself credit for. I learned that you get out of your degree what you are willing to put into it. Seeing myself transform, learn and mature in so many ways – both personally and academically – has been such an empowering experience. Sara Fortin, Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy Before I came to MacEwan, I had a rewarding, but stressful, career as a chef. I loved reaching people’s souls through food, but I needed to do something more – I needed to feed my own soul.

I’m passionate about philosophy because it embraces the unknown and the uncertain. It seeks to clarify and build upon the various and often conflicting interpretations of what it means to be human and to live a good human life. It allows us to engage in open and honest dialogue – dialogue that brings into question our personal histories so that we can grow and learn; dialogue that renews our wonder within the unpredictability of encountering another, the alien, whom we strive to reach within genuine conversation. To me, that is beautiful.

I was accepted to the Master Arts in Philosophy at Concordia University in Montréal this fall, and plan to complete a doctorate in philosophy as well. My goal is to pursue a career as a teacher and mentor in post-secondary education, while continuing to actively research and learn in order to help others. Sarah Gibbs, Police Studies Diploma After my first year of the program, I still had doubts about becoming a police officer. I wasn’t sure if I had what it takes to become one. Then I received a letter that said I had made the dean’s list. This reinforced that I was on the right path.

My sister, Mary Anne, takes credit for me taking police studies. She recommended that I look into it and said that I would be a good police officer. I am passionate about policing because I want each day to mean something and I want to have a positive impact on the world.

All of my profs inspired me, but the one who made me want to do my best every day and pushed me to achieve more was Danielle Campbell. I always looked forward to her class and learned so much more than just the course material. She taught me that integrity, selflessness and willingness to help can define you. Sheri Greaney, Investigative Studies Diploma When I began at MacEwan, I was returning to school after 20 years. I am a mature student with three school-age kids at home, so I had to be very efficient with my time in order to juggle their schedules as well as my own and running a household.

I am returning to the workforce and I really wanted to choose a career that enabled me to give back to the community and be of service. I was lucky enough to complete my field placement with the Alberta Sheriffs and see firsthand that this is a career I would enjoy and one I hope to achieve in the near future.

To anyone starting out in university, I would say make sure to manage your time. And ask questions! Don't be shy about asking for help or clarification about a topic. Above all else, enjoy your time and the learning experience! Jalene Hanke, Bachelor of Commerce, Accounting Co-op What I would like to remember most about my time at MacEwan is, honestly, everything. There were so many amazing moments and opportunities during the six years I spent at MacEwan, from participating in the co-op stream to working as a lab tutor. When I look back, I can see how much I grew from my very first day at MacEwan to my very last day where I completed my last final. Handing in that last final was bittersweet — it signalled the end of my time at MacEwan, but also how proud I am of what I've accomplished.

Now I'm currently in the process of obtaining my master's degree at the University of Saskatchewan. Christina Hardie, Bachelor of Arts, History Before coming to MacEwan, I worked at a small local history museum. I enjoyed the work, but I couldn’t help but see how that museum – like many focused on pioneering history – elevated the white settler narrative and how exclusionary that single perspective is.

During my degree, I was interested in anything that focused on the stories of here and that helped me understand my position and identity: local histories of Edmonton, Alberta, the North West, the Prairies and Western Canada, and Métis history. But it was a trip to Mexico in 2018 that was the defining moment of my time at MacEwan. The four-day intercultural exchange at Universidad Intercultural del Estado de México was not only an opportunity to visit a new country – to learn from other Indigenous students and educators, eat amazing food, dance together and sit in ceremony – it was a chance to expand both my understanding of colonial histories and my own Métis identity.

In my new role as curator of the Edmonton City as Museum Project, I hope I can help share more nuanced and polyvocal perspectives of both this history and of this place. Karin Hunsche, Bachelor of Music in Jazz and Contemporary Popular Music, General I was trained classically from a very young age and I wanted to expand the kind of music that I could play. I chose MacEwan because I was interested in broadening my musical abilities and using my classical training and techniques to learn new genres.

I performed piano and keyboard in the showcase band in my second and third years. Bands like showcase give students a fun environment to experiment in, which I think is important because it’s easy to consider music just like school work after a while. Playing live with other people in these settings is a good way to keep inspiration flowing and your abilities sharp.

My advice for future students is don't compare your journey to other students' journeys. Spending too much time focusing on how much other people are performing and gigging outside of school takes away the joy from your own experience. Hazel Javillonar, Bachelor of Commerce, Supply Chain Management Co-op My parents are my role models and have always been my source of inspiration. They taught me at an early age the value of education, and to never take for granted the opportunity to pursue my studies. I was born in the Philippines, and my family immigrated to Canada when I was in elementary school. Back then, I didn’t understand the sacrifice my parents had made as they uprooted their lives to move to a foreign country and were told that their credentials needed to be upgraded to meet Canadian standards.

But through hard work and perseverance, they showed me that knowledge is robust and cannot be taken away. They renewed not only their careers, but also helped me and my siblings access opportunities that would have been out of reach had we stayed in the Philippines. Their legacy is my source of motivation as I strive to push my boundaries, overcome my limitations and claim my own opportunities.
Carley Jewell, Bachelor of Science, Psychology Being a student-athlete has been a big part of my university career. Winning three back-to-back championships with the MacEwan women’s hockey team and being awarded the ACAC Player of the Year during my third year are definitely defining moments.

Psychology allowed me to tailor my studies to the things I was truly interested in, so during my last semester, I did an advanced independent study to look at the effects of concussion injury on the mental health of varsity hockey players. As someone who has had several concussions, it was really exciting to study something I know can be valuable to the hockey community.

Next I’ll be preparing for medical school so I can go on to study perfusion – eventually I want to be part of the cardiac teams that perform open-heart surgery. Holly Johnson, Bachelor of Arts, History Returning to school after so many years was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. Not only would I be much older than my fellow students, but I would be studying while raising three children on my own. I was truly fearful that I might fail.

Even though I didn’t fail, there were difficult moments – like when I planned to transfer to a teaching program, but the timing didn’t work out and my application was declined. I had to come up with a different plan, so I switched my major to history and never looked back.

At one point, I came across an architectural guild book from the 18th century that highlighted the changes in architecture of estate and manor homes and noticed a change to sleeping chambers beginning in the 1500s. Eventually that one book led me to women’s history and how changes to laws during that same time period left women vulnerable in cases of rape. History is amazing that way – there is always another door to open or another page to turn. The possibilities are endless.

I’m so happy with how my journey has turned out so far, and am excited to begin a master’s program at the University of Waterloo in the fall. Shyann Kelndorfer, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Dean’s Medal Recipient I’m from a small rural town in Central Alberta. It's where I grew up, went to primary school and the place I still call home. I live in a larger centre now, but I choose to travel half an hour to work in a rural hospital because it reminds me of what I loved most about my childhood – knowing everyone and always having someone there to help when you need them.

The past four years have had lots of ups and downs. I clearly remember the days when simple tasks, like giving an injection, taking a patient’s blood pressure manually or putting in a Foley catheter, were so intimidating. But all the late nights, endless study sessions and patient research paid off. The shy and timid nursing student I once was is gone, and now I can confidently take care of multiple patients independently.

I’ve always had this innate need to take care of other people – whether they were sick, hurt or just needed a hand with their homework. I want to be a nurse who my patients can trust, someone who advocates for their health and well-being, and the person who is fully committed to their needs while they’re in my care. Nathan Kerr, Bachelor of Science in Nursing Nursing is a job I was born to do. I love and serve others and help out in crisis situations.

My greatest achievement during my nursing degree was right at the beginning. I had to upgrade several of my classes to get into the program, and I worked very hard to get my grades where they needed to be.

I remember receiving the news that I was accepted into the nursing program and it felt like a dream come true. All the hard work had paid off and I was accepted into the profession I was meant for – it’s a memory I will not forget.

I am currently employed at the Mazankowski Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit where I care for a very vulnerable population of patients, and hope to make a difference in many lives. Rachel Kondor, Early Learning and Child Care Diploma Being the oldest in my family, I grew up being surrounded by younger children. My youngest cousin is 20 years younger than me. There was a period of time where my parents owned a daycare and that's where I really began to enjoy my time with children.

Many times throughout my program, I felt like I was about to give up. This program is challenging. But if there was one person who I could say really had my back, it would be my grandma. She is always so passionate about my studies and asks me questions to help me think deeper. When I wanted to give up, she could hear it in my voice and was always able to bring up a memory from my childhood or told me something that inspired me to push a little harder. She even follows a Facebook page that has different activities for children and texts me to asking if I saw any of the ideas and if I want to make them, or if she can make them and bring them to me. I am incredibly thankful to have her in my life! Kavya Korthiwada, Early Learning and Child Care Diploma When I became a mother, I realized that young children are so much more capable than I was taught to believe. I needed to learn more and felt joyfully compelled to play a meaningful part in the developmental journey of young children. Studying early learning and child care at MacEwan continues to inspire me to dream and work towards universal education for all children.

I am fortunate to have met (and continue to meet) great professors, classmates, families and children since my first day of class. When I see my professors, I am in awe over their level of commitment to the field of early learning and child care and its future. I think it is the perseverance and humility of the human spirit that inspires me to look ahead.

Learning is not just about getting to know something new and fantastic. It’s also about stepping back to look deeply into what we learn and ask why it is the way it is. Courtney Krentz, Bachelor of Arts, English/Psychology People are often surprised when I say that I study English. “What are you going to do with that?” is a question I get a lot. There are many memes that poke fun at English scholars for reading too deeply into a symbol or a metaphor, but English is about so much more than reading books and looking for symbolism. It’s a complex and engaging discipline that teaches critical thinking and provides insight into the lived experiences of people who are different from us.

I’ve been a research assistant for the past two years, and in March, I had the chance to attend an international conference in New Orleans and act as a respondent on my research supervisor’s panel. In the months leading up to the conference, I was very nervous, but being on that panel was one of the defining moments of my degree. I got to share my ideas, wrestle with new ones, meet other scholars from all over the world, and have so much fun in the process. The experience reassured me that I have found a discipline I am passionate about, and I’m excited to continue my studies as a master’s student at the University of British Columbia this fall. Odette Lauzon, Bachelor of Commerce, Marketing My son, Waylon, inspired me to be the best I could be throughout my university experience. He encouraged me to be the best role model and to show me that dreams are possible if you never give up. Children are just as much an inspiration to adults as adults are to kids.

Balancing being a full-time parent and student was very challenging, especially when I joined the MacEwan University Marketing Club as digital marketing director and challenged myself to compete in a case competition. My choice to be more involved in extracurricular activities in university was such a positive experience for me. It allowed me to gain practical skills, connections and helped me grow in ways I did not expect.

I'm so thankful that I never gave up and persevered until the end. Kohley Lucas, Bachelor of Science in Nursing Nursing kind of fell into my lap. I was always drawn to medicine, and was discussing what I wanted from my career with a paramedic when they explicitly told me to go into nursing. So I did, and I was determined that I was going to be a nurse – no matter what.

But it wasn’t easy. I failed one of my first nursing classes twice. It was awful. I was actually asked to leave the nursing program and I felt like such a failure. My anxiety went through the roof, but I found my way through it. I took open studies and worked extremely hard to raise my grades. When they were high enough, I reapplied to nursing and was accepted. I passed the same class I had so much trouble with and my grades improved dramatically.

It’s still hard to admit that I failed, but I truly believe that I’m a better nurse for it. That experience has made me more compassionate to others – and to myself. Jennifer Mader, Bachelor of Commerce, Honours Management I have always wanted to start my own business, so when it came time to choose my major, it made the most sense to learn about leadership techniques and styles. This allowed me to determine what style fits my personality the best.

Being a lab tutor helped me to break out of my shell and demonstrate my strength in working with numbers. It also let me experience what it was like to lead a team, even a small one. My lab tutor position involved teaching two statistics labs, as well as answering student questions and aiding lab helpers in each respective lab. I really enjoyed the role – it challenged me to become more confident in my abilities and improved my presentation, communication and teaching skills. I will be forever grateful to have had this opportunity. Andrew Malmquist, Bachelor of Arts, Sociology I started at MacEwan as a high school drop out with a GED. I really pushed myself, and as I began to see that I could succeed, I opened myself up to the idea that anything is possible – I worked as a research assistant, did a semester abroad in Ecuador, took a service-learning course in Ukraine and completed an independent study on the relationship between ethnic communities and urban planning.

I spent four and a half years pushing through my degree, trading leisure time for study time, facing days and weeks of high stress, and drinking countless cups of coffee, the whole time thinking about being finished and starting my career. Now I’m doing just that. As an arts and cultural coordinator for a municipality, not only do I get to engage with different cultural groups, I also get to help educate and raise awareness about those groups within my community.

But when my last exam was finished, even with all the stresses over the years, I was disappointed it was over. MacEwan has become such a big part of my life that finishing my degree feels like both a big achievement and a little bit of a loss. Elaine Maynard, Investigative Studies Diploma When I was in high school, I went to MacEwan’s Open House. I remember clearly now, five years later, flipping through the brochure and searching for a program that interested me. My attention was caught by a section titled the “Police and Investigations Diploma.” This sparked my aspiration to become a private investigator. Knowing I would have the opportunity to complete a field placement with a private investigation company was a key factor in my decision to apply and complete the program, and this cemented my decision to follow this path.

There were many people who made an impact on my time in university. One was my instructor, Danielle Campbell. She is one of the most compassionate, invested and genuine people I have ever met. I am grateful that I got to take a number of classes with her and for the opportunity to hear her share her experiences, so that I could learn about the force that women can be in the fields of policing and investigations. Gil Andrew Mendoza, Bachelor of Commerce, Accounting I was an introverted person before going into university. Volunteering played a vital role in allowing myself to achieve heights and to reach my goal of becoming a confident, enthusiastic and effective business leader. Community service and volunteer initiatives – including the MacEwan University Accounting Club, Golden Key International Honour Society, and the MacEwan Ambassadors – enabled me to enhance my leadership skills. I think my defining moment was getting to experience the hectic, energetic and fun nature of university life through volunteering while also being in the top 15 per cent of my program.

I have always been fascinated by numbers and analysis. I am passionate about financial literacy and how I can apply it for the greater good. And contrary to popular belief, accountants are super social! Through recruitment events, I learned that accounting not only focuses on theoretical and technical competencies, but it also enhances one’s social skills through strategic collaboration and fruitful networking. Kali Norn, Correctional Services Diploma Since I was young, I’ve wanted to be involved in a career that merged community and justice systems. My mother shares my strong passion for criminal law and community impact. She’s always in my corner when I need her, and while I was in the program, I would call her whenever I had things to tell her or when I was missing home.

When I was at MacEwan, I was 1255 kilometres from home with no immediate family nearby. But during that time, I was able to explore and grow as a person on my own. I got the chance to meet new and amazing people, but most importantly, I made friendships that will last a lifetime.

My passion for advocacy and criminal justice has grown, and the program broadened my view of the meaningful impact we can have on others within the justice system. James Odera, Bachelor of Arts, Honours Sociology Completing my honours thesis in criminology allowed me to explore Blackness in Canada and my own identity, as it continues to change. This project opened my eyes to what sociology can be.

I am passionate about criminology because of the large-scale issues it tackles. Not only did it help me understand the way that crime and the criminal justice system interact with society, it showed me the ways in which care and trust can help people overcome the obstacles that they are forced to face. Sociology let me question the world that often confused me, and although it did not always give me answers, it gave me a better understanding of myself and those around me.

My advice to new students is to trust your gut. Follow your passion. Be ready to change. What you come into university expecting may or may not unfold the way you expect, but if you trust yourself when you find an interesting topic, or complete a fascinating project, double down. Keep pushing in that direction and explore what you find fun, because those are the things you will care about the most and the things that you can spend hours of your time with. Alana Osbaldeston, Bachelor of Arts, Psychology Early in my undergraduate career, I was involved in a car accident that almost claimed my boyfriend’s life and my own. After that, it was difficult for me to drive the considerable distance from where I live to MacEwan. But I knew that I wasn’t alone in my struggle with anxiety – there are so many different reasons that students feel the same things I was feeling. So I tried to be proactive. I used the psychology support systems at MacEwan, and I focused on my goal of completing my degree and pursuing a career in occupational therapy.

I used my out-of-faculty electives to take human physiology and anatomy. I volunteered. I went to Grad School Fair and learned more about where a degree in psychology could take me. I shadowed occupational therapists to understand what they do and the fields they work in. And I discovered that I didn’t have to choose between my interest in the human mind or my interest in the human body – I could pursue both. I’m so excited to start my master’s degree in occupational therapy at the University of Alberta this fall. Maureen Plante, Bachelor of Arts, Honours Psychology I did an independent study on restrictive eating in my third year. Receiving feedback from participants about how important and needed research into eating disorders is made me realize that my work had real-world implications – that one day I could help others who are struggling.

I’m recovered now and I can see clearly all of the things my eating disorder took away from me – the happiness, the fearlessness. And there’s this whole list of wonderful things that have happened since I started to get better. I can see the potential I have. I feel like I have even more control – that I can rationalize and make decisions for myself.

Being able to critically evaluate the information we are exposed to, especially when it comes to our health, wellbeing and eating is so important. There is a lot of false diet and health information out there, so for my honours thesis I examined a different avenue as to why people are persuaded by dubious health claims.

Now I’m going on to a master’s program in counselling psychology, which focuses on weight bias, eating disorders and weight stigma. Deanna Portz, Bachelor of Science in Nursing All students in the Faculty of Nursing are automatically members of the Canadian Nursing Student Association (CNSA), but it wasn’t until my third year that I went to my first meeting. I was hooked. I had amazing opportunities to attend nursing conferences with students from across Canada, and I attribute some of my best friendships to becoming active with CNSA.

In my fourth year, I was responsible for a new mentorship program that helps new nursing students. It was CNSA’s first year organizing the program and it was lovely to see such a great response – I was responsible for managing the program’s over 65 members and each semester I had a surplus of students who wanted to be mentors. I think that shows just how willing MacEwan students are to help each other out. The nursing program is a wonderful, close-knit community.

I recently accepted a job in general surgery, and I’m excited to see where the future will take me. I love that there are so many possibilities with nursing. Ross Ramsankar, Police Studies Diploma My defining moment was doing Run with the Recruiters, a workout put on by Edmonton Police Recruiters. We met at 6:30 a.m. every Friday. The challenge to stay committed summed up my time at MacEwan. Policing requires dedication and requires you to be able to step out of your comfort zone. I've never been a morning person, so to be up at 4 a.m. to do some of the hardest workouts I've ever done wasn't easy, but it showed me what I was really capable of. There are many circumstances that I might face in the future where I'm required to be out of my comfort zone, often with higher stakes. My experience with Run with the Recruiters will benefit me not only in my career but also in life.

The reason I am passionate about police studies is simple: I wanted to help people and make a difference. There are not many jobs where you can directly help others in need so often. I am very excited to see where this career takes me. Adam Reeves, Bachelor of Science, Honours Mathematics I struggled during my first term at MacEwan. I was studying engineering, but I just wasn’t that interested in the material and my grades were suffering. It all came to a head when I was writing a final exam that I knew wasn’t going to end well. I walked out of that exam and immediately switched out of engineering and into the Bachelor of Science program.

Even though math was intimidating at first, the process of grasping and understanding abstract concepts is what makes it so enjoyable to me. Math can be self-contained – solving problems purely for the sake of curiosity – but it can also be applied to beautiful and important problems in other fields.

Thinking back on that engineering exam, I can see that it wasn’t just a wake-up call about how much effort university takes, it also showed me that failing an exam or even a class (or two in my case), doesn't mean you’re a failure. This fall, I’m going to Carleton University in Ottawa to start my master’s in mathematics. Jessica Schnell, Theatre Arts Our final rehearsal for Legally Blonde the Musical began on Friday, March 13 (coincidence?). Just moments before we took to the stage, we learned we were rehearsing for a show that would never go up. That will stick with me forever. As a theatre geek about to perform her dream role as Elle Woods, I was devastated. When you find yourself in the frenzy of preparing for a show like Legally Blonde, you can lose sight of what it’s really all about.

That rehearsal will always be special to me because it was a reminder and a wake up call. No matter how important a scene is, real life wins. No matter how hard you work on establishing the connections between characters on stage, the real relationships win.

I feel grateful that I was able to wake up each morning and go to school to sing and dance all day! And on top of that, I got to do it alongside friends that I will have for a lifetime. I don’t think I will ever take for granted the long music rehearsals or the exhausting tech days again. Anna Schroeder, Bachelor of Design Two years ago, I learned that the Design Studies diploma was approved to transition into a four-year degree program. I was at a crossroads: say "yes" to the flood of industry positions available or continue to pursue academia. I chose the latter, despite worrying about falling behind and I was pleasantly surprised that quite the opposite took place. Not only did I gain valuable skills of independence, creative direction and project management, but it emphasized the kind of creative work I was made to do; work that never separates itself from research and creates room for commentary on the way we live our lives.

I love how I don’t know what will come next. Sounds a bit crazy, yes? The industry is always evolving and adapting along with the rest of the world. One thing is for sure: I plan to keep transforming this uncertainty into excitement — whether I end up hand-lettering billboards or making that tiny computer in your pocket more user friendly. Sydney Shannon, Bachelor of Science in Nursing Throughout this degree, my peers have been my rock – my nursing friends have always been there to lend an ear or share their experiences. It meant so much to know that I wasn’t alone, and that we all have challenges or fears.

When I swapped my preceptorship at the last minute, I was offered a spot in the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit (PCICU). I was terrified. I had never worked in pediatrics, I had struggled with cardiac and the unit I was going to work in literally had the word “intensive” in its name. But my nursing friends encouraged me to go for it and reminded me that every experience – good or bad – is a chance to grow.

I worked alongside two registered nurses and loved everything about that experience. Caring for and supporting families who were vulnerable and scared taught me so much, and left me so incredibly fulfilled at the end of each shift. Now I can really see myself being a PCICU nurse one day. Tarren Smallwood, Bachelor of Commerce, Accounting I initially chose to study accounting, not necessarily out of passion, but because of the career opportunities the field offered. I did not have a field I was passionate about, so I chose one that the mentors in my life recommended. It felt like a safe choice. My passion for commerce and accounting grew through exposure to the field during my time at MacEwan. I have found a whole new world of solving problems, assessing risk and making strategic business decisions that I am indeed passionate about. I have found a career path that brings new excitement each day and does not feel like work.

The opportunity to work with community business leaders through the co-op education stream ultimately solidified that I'm making the right career and life decisions. It has been the most enjoyable period of my life and I look to continuing this work in the future. Jessie Swanek, Bachelor of Arts, Honours Psychology Presenting my honours supervisor’s research at the American Psychology-Law Society conference this past March in New Orleans definitely solidified my love for research. I’m a pretty shy person and still get really nervous, so I never thought that I would be giving an oral presentation at an international conference. Just being there was amazing. I got to hear firsthand about the work done by researchers that I recognized from my textbooks or published articles I had read. I knew I had chosen the right career path.

I love figuring out why people do what they do, and psychopathy still has so many areas to explore. My honours thesis looked at the association between psychopathic traits, the use of different forms and degrees of sexual coercion strategies, and how sexually coercive interactions are interpreted.

Now I'm going to Carleton University to study forensic psychology where I will be continuing to conduct research. Brittany Tonsi, Bachelor of Science, Honours Biological Sciences I’ve always had a passion for biology. It’s everywhere and affects everything – health, policy, socioeconomics and the environment. To me, studying biology isn’t just learning facts about the natural world, it’s about developing the skills to ask and answer questions about what’s happening around us.

I think that’s why my most defining moments as a student involve research. Last summer, I studied the effects of sodium chloride (a common component in commercial salts) and calcium chloride (which has been piloted as a de-icer) on white prairie clover, a legume native to Alberta. I wanted to see how these salts impact germination of urban vegetation after spring thaw.

It was a particularly wet summer, so keeping the experimental units in my backyard from drowning was a challenge. But every trial and tribulation taught me about the creativity, critical thinking and persistence conducting research requires. I plan to do an after-degree in education so I can ignite curiosity, wonder and appreciation for the natural world in others.Research helped shape me into a more reflective biologist and, I hope one day, a better teacher. Karina Tremblay, Investigative Studies Diploma Leaving a career in accounting to go back to school as a mature student and a parent of three children was one of the scariest decisions of my life, but the most rewarding. Dealing with different generations of students was the biggest challenge that I had to overcome. I learned to work with them in terms of different technologies and different mindsets, and it became a great achievement to make friends and form social bonds with classmates from younger generations.

I am riveted by the idea of helping people and my community. I have a passion for investigating situations and working with others to find solutions to problems. I want a career that allows me to be involved in the community that I live in, that allows me to work within the rules that I am passionate about, so becoming a peace officer would be a dream come true.

Life has taught me that you only get out of it what you put in; education is the same. If you want to develop social connections, you need to put the time in. If you want high grades, you need to put the time into studying and working on assignments and ask for help when you need it. The key to a successful life is continuous learning and growing. Christopher Twin, Fine Art I've always been interested in telling stories through art and I felt that learning the fundamentals of art and artistic practice would be a crucial tool. MacEwan's Fine Art program is serious. I knew the courses and instructors would be of a high quality and that the assignments would push me to be better. If a student tries their hardest, they will produce results.

Taking part in critiques was so new and different for me. I enjoyed giving and getting feedback from the students and instructors. The process was so open and honest, and it allowed me to see areas in my work where I could improve along with recognizing the things I did well. It was also encouraging to see other artists have some of the same problems I did and that we could improve together.

I'm applying what I've learned during my time at MacEwan to my comic creation practice. Work hard, but have fun and enjoy your time here because it goes by fast. Emily Vilcsak, Bachelor of Communication Studies, Professional Communications How can I pick just one moment? Looking back on my experience at MacEwan, there were so many incredible moments — volunteering with the MacEwan Ambassadors and the Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity were certainly opportunities that helped me grow. Organizing and hosting events, speaker series, panels and Q&As for my program were highlights during my time at MacEwan. I also became a member at Roundhouse soon after it opened, which was a great space to foster the entrepreneurial projects that I was working on.

I worked with local, national and international non-profits and startups during my degree and it allowed me to apply what I was learning in the classroom. I now mentor students who are looking to freelance and work in the industry. Kylie Weatherall-Waldner, Bachelor of Science in Nursing As a kid, I was chronically sick with pneumonia and asthma attacks. I spent a ton of time in the Stollery Children’s Hospital and even though I was very sick, the nurses who cared for me made sure I had very fond memories of my time there. Years later when I was in high school, my dad was in a hunting accident. I remember him having some amazing nurses, along with a few who weren’t so great. That experience showed me just how important communication and the patient-nurse relationship are. It’s those memories that drive me every day to treat my patients as I would my own family and friends.

Sure there were some tough times during university, but there were also some of the best times. I have made the best friends I've ever had at MacEwan, travelled to conferences across Canada and had so many incredible professors who are passionate about the future of the profession. It feels strange to say goodbye for good, but I also feel so proud for graduating – especially in the middle of a pandemic. Ben Windsor, Bachelor of Commerce, Marketing When I became president of the MacEwan University Marketing Club, I met amazing people who are extremely passionate about the future of the marketing industry. Being a part of this club allowed me to connect with owners of marketing firms and some of the most talented marketers in Edmonton. I also got to start my own portfolio in this club that I use to promote myself in job interviews.

Almost all the opportunities I've ever had were specifically from volunteering and connecting with other people. Despite the global pandemic, I was able to find a new job in just a few days because of the volunteer experience I had as a communications director.


Congratulations to our Class of 2020 award recipients

Congratulations to each of our students award winners. We’re so proud of their many contributions and achievements, and we can’t wait to see what they will do next.

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