Whether in genetics research, law, politics, mathematics or social justice, graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Science are primed to do great things. We asked some of the Class of 2017 about their most memorable moments, points of pride and future plans. Here’s what they had to say.
Bachelor of Arts, English
I'm not a typical student. I will receive my English degree three months to the day before I turn 65 years old, I have 18 grandchildren and I’m expecting my fourth great-grandchild this fall. I’m not going to be here forever, so I hope to leave behind some of my words for all of them.
When I was asked whether I might be willing to get a degree, I was almost 60 years old, had already worked 18 years in retail management, earned certificates in a number of holistic modalities and was teaching in MacEwan’s Holistic Health program. Nursing seemed like the obvious choice, but I chose English, in part, because Alice Munro had just won the Nobel Prize in Literature and if she was 80 when she won that award, then there was no reason I couldn’t write until I was at least 90.
I’m proud of many things that happened during the last five years—getting an A-minus in Introduction to Physical Science (I’m a Bachelor of Arts student, after all) and a paper I wrote for the Linguistics of Anthropology course on swearing cross-culturally and historically. But having pieces I wrote published in MUSe and the Bolo Tie Collective’s first anthology are my most memorable moments. It felt like, okay, maybe I really can do this and do it well.
One of my profs suggested I go for a master’s in fine arts—I’m pretty sure his intention was to keep me writing because applying for the program means putting together a portfolio and digging through and reworking things. I may do that, but not until after the summer.
I’m going to be busy volunteering and spending time with my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I know some of them will be at Convocation, and I hope that when they see me walk across the stage, they are thinking about how important learning is no matter what stage of life you’re at. You’re just never too old.
Bachelor of Arts, Political Science SAMU President
My family watched the news together every night when I was growing up, and in elementary school I was already getting myself into heated debates. By the time we started learning about government in Grade 6, I knew I wanted to be a politician someday. I started working at the Alberta Legislature as a page in Grade 11 and loved it, but when it came time to retire at age 19 and I started working in a more administrative role, I just couldn’t see myself pursuing a public life in the future.
I was in my second year of university, and was feeling a bit lost and having second thoughts. But around the same time, I decided to start the MacEwan Ukrainian Students Club—and that led to some awesome things. I was a MacEwan Ambassador in my second year, and met so many people who were passionate about service, leadership and giving back to the community. I also joined Model UN and took a course in international relations, where I fell in love with a different side of politics.
I started to really see myself as the person behind the scenes working in international relations and diplomacy. Becoming SAMU president was not in my plans.
I had already been accepted into a joint masters at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa in international affairs and law, so when people kept telling me I should run in the SAMU elections I just kept saying that I was going to law school. But the more I thought about it and talked to people, the more I realized that this opportunity would never come again. So I deferred law school for a year.
I’m looking forward to being able to support other students the same way I’ve been supported. My greatest memory of my time at MacEwan is the feeling that everyone was there for one another. This isn’t a cutthroat place, it’s a community. And I’m really proud of that.
Bachelor of Arts, Sociology President, MacEwan Changemaking Initiative
I remember being at New Student Orientation and hearing the SAMU president say that the more you get involved in school, the more you get out of it. I was super shy, so at the time I thought that sounded crazy. I kept thinking that until my final year, when one of my Sociology profs approached me and asked if I wanted to help her start a student volunteer initiative.
Nine months later, the Change Making Initiative was awarded SAMU’s New Club of the Year. It was such a proud moment for me because, in a way, this club feels like my baby.
It started with a small idea—that a lot of students may want to volunteer but don’t necessarily know how. So we make sure to do all the legwork. Students just need to show up, and most have time for that. We’ve volunteered all over the city, but fundraising before Remembrance Day is one of my favourite experiences.
When we picked up three boxes of poppies at the legion in October, I thought there was no way we were going to get through all of them. But I was wrong. We sold every single one on the first day and raised over $1,000 for the Poppy Fund. Walking through the halls with these boxes and seeing students excited to get their poppy made me feel so proud of everybody.
Being president of a club during my fourth year while I was taking five classes was a lot of work, but so worth it. Now the Change Making Initiative has over 50 members and we volunteer all over the city. It’s one of the many things I’ll be celebrating at Convocation with my parents, siblings and grandparents. I’m the first person in my family to get a university degree and everyone has been so supportive. I feel like this is an accomplishment for all of us.
Bachelor of Arts, Political Science Honours
I was one of the UN Club leaders when we went to Model United Nations in New York last year. The club won nine awards and ultimately came in second place among hundreds of schools that were there, including many large American schools. One of my proudest moments during my time at MacEwan was seeing my fellow students, who I had helped train, have that experience and succeed.
My Model UN experience, the courses I’ve taken and the semester I spent on Students’ Council have helped me become a better critical thinker and writer, have given me a better understanding of the world and of history, and have made me more receptive to a variety of opinions. I think those are all good things.
I’m going to McGill in the fall to start my master’s in political science, and I’m excited about working with the faculty there to further the learning I’ve done and the research ideas I’ve developed at MacEwan. I’m hoping to pursue research on how international norms—things like choosing to adhere to a UN document or following the laws of war— spread between states and through diplomacy networks. Three years of Model UN and my experience working as a research assistant in the Political Science department definitely influenced that interest.
Doing research during my undergrad was a really valuable experience. I’ve collected and coded data—both things I know I will need academically moving forward—and I feel like the fact that I had the chance to do them while I was at MacEwan gives me a bit of a head start.
Bachelor of Arts, Sociology
I’ve been at MacEwan for six years now and looking back, my experiences during that time feel like the many pieces of a puzzle. The more volunteering I did and the more I got involved, the more I learned and the more I grew. Every time I added something different—becoming a MacEwan ambassador, volunteering at Hope Mission or Habitat for Humanity, speaking to high school students or working on a community-based criminology project—it felt like the picture would get a little clearer. Graduation is a bit like putting the final piece of that puzzle in place.
There are two things I want to do with my degree. The first is to travel the world, and while I’m doing that, I’d like to work on community initiatives—creating places where deaf people can meet and access resources—because there are a lot of countries where deaf people don't have the access or education they need to meet their basic needs.
My second goal is to be an advocate. I want to be the middle person between the deaf community and the criminal justice system—to educate police, EMS and firefighters, to help deaf people access the tools they need to communicate, and to make them feel less alone in that experience.
I got to give my second goal a try during my community-based criminology project. During my last year, I worked with the John Howard Society to evaluate and analyze how they work with deaf people and people who are hard of hearing. I interviewed staff, collected data, analyzed it and wrote a report. It was such a great opportunity to apply what I learned in my classes, and the first real chance I had to try what I want to do in the future.
The past year has felt a bit like having one foot inside and one foot outside the door at MacEwan. I’m looking forward to convocation and officially taking that next step forward.
Bachelor of Science, Mathematics
I’ve always been passionate about hockey and baseball, but finding a way to tie those things to the numbers wasn’t easy and took some time.
In my third year, I began working on the first of several sports analytics projects related to baseball and hockey. One project related to the Boston Red Sox, my favourite team, and used categorical data analysis to look at which factors of the game are most significant for success—whether a team wins or loses an individual game. We found that, in general, pitching was a bit more valuable than hitting, and were able to summarize the game pretty effectively with just a handful of variables.
One of my profs suggested that I apply for an NSERC Undergraduate Research Award and my application was successful, so this summer I’m going to be doing some research related to time series analysis. Once I establish some more knowledge about the new theory, I’ll apply it to a data set—either cancer-related research data on toxic cells or more hockey analytics. Either way, it’s an exciting project that will keep me busy until the fall, when I’ll start my master’s in statistics at the University of Alberta.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really good people here at MacEwan—as I moved through my degree I enjoyed working in groups with other students and appreciated the support from my profs. I’m looking forward to celebrating that, and the support I’ve had from my family, at Convocation. Everybody has been so good to me.
Bachelor of Science, Computer Science
My goal was always to be a police officer—and I did that—but after a couple of months on the streets, I realized that it wasn’t the right fit for me. So I started looking for something different.
I enjoyed math in high school, so I googled mathematician and statistician, and eventually found computer science. I had always been passionate about computers, so I decided to try some online courses using simple languages. I really liked it, so I decided to hit the reset button and go back to MacEwan.
I was walking away from a good career and I had a lot riding on this, so I worked hard to finish my degree in four years. I’m probably proudest of the projects we worked on in this program—there are a lot of cool things we got the chance to develop. One of my favourites was working on a project with the Edmonton Public Library to help them find a solution to replace the spreadsheets they were using for business planning.
I just landed a job with a web development company and I’m pretty excited about that. I’m also working with a friend as part of a start-up company that is building a social media application for the iPhone based on geolocation. Eventually, after I have some experience, I’d like to lead a team. I want to be the person people ask questions of, to be able to help them out and to keep growing and learning myself.
Melissa Van Staalduinen
Bachelor of Science, Computer Science
For my capstone project, I applied to work with Mozilla, the company that created Firefox. Mozilla is open source, so people from all over the world are contributing their own code all the time. There were four of us from universities across Canada working on a project to run nightly code coverage—a system that looks for problems in the software’s code.
At first, I didn’t really feel like it was a big deal. I was learning a lot, but it wasn’t until I started telling other people what I was doing and the scale of it that I realized how cool it was.
We were working on a project that affects something in the real world and makes a real impact. I got an email from my capstone mentor a few weeks ago saying that they are now running code coverage nightly—Mozilla is running the code we wrote every single night. It may not seem like much—it’s really just a few lines of code—but when you know how much work goes on behind the scenes to find a process and write code that works, it’s really cool. And getting that email was a really great feeling. I was really proud.
But I would never have even been studying computer science if I hadn’t needed to fulfill a math requirement for my degree. I used computers just like everyone else, but I was never particularly interested in them and had never even considered computer science before that one course. I just loved it—it’s really creative and so much fun—and it’s unbelievable how much you can do with it. So much so that it’s hard to pin down just one thing that I want to do, so I’m learning more and I know I’m going to find something that I love.
One of my favourite parts about watching convocation in the past has been seeing all the beautiful shoes, so I went shopping way back on Boxing Day and got a gold sparkly pair. I'm so excited to walk the stage and show them off!
MacEwan University is proud to celebrate the Class of 2017. Congratulations to this year's graduates, medal recipients and distinguished award honourees.
Get MacEwan University news delivered to your inbox. Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.