Whether in the arts, law, health care or social justice, our Class of 2017 Fall graduates are primed to do great things. We asked some members of the Class of 2017 about their most memorable moments, points of pride and future plans. Here’s what they had to say.
Oluwatobiloba (Tobi) Agbonifo
Bachelor of Commerce, Accounting
Even though I didn't get my permanent residency, my family and I decided that I would come to MacEwan as an international student. We rushed to get a flight from Nigeria to Edmonton, but school had already started when I arrived. I missed orientation, and didn't go to my classes on the first day—I was only 16 years old and too timid to ask anyone for directions.
The second day I was determined to go to class. I went to the registrar’s office and they told me to go to MacEwan International. The staff member there was so helpful—she actually left her office to show me where each of my classes were. And all of my teachers were so nice to me. I thought they were going to be mad that I missed the first day of school, but it wasn’t a big deal at all. It was tough because the next morning, I had forgotten where I needed to go, but this time I was bold enough to ask someone because I realized how nice and helpful people here are.
Because my aunt is the only person we knew in Canada, we chose to come to Edmonton. My parents thought it was best I go to a city where we know someone. My aunt thought maybe I should upgrade first instead of going into the post-secondary system right away. I always excelled in school back home, so my parents said, “No—she’s smart. She’ll cope.” It was honestly difficult for me, but I did cope. I feel like if I started a year later, I probably wouldn’t have met the great people I met.
Bachelor of Arts, Anthropology
I was always kind of interested in history as a kid, so I took some history classes in my first year, but they didn’t really click. Then in my second year I signed up for an anthropology class and the little kid in me who loved watching Indiana Jones came out. It was the one class I really looked forward to—and it was at 8 a.m.—so that says something.
As I got into the 200- and 300-level anthropology classes, I liked it more and more, and I found myself talking to my friends, my family and even my roommates about it. There’s something dynamic about anthropology—you can study such a broad spectrum of things and the more you learn, the more it feels like there’s always a surprise waiting for you.
But looking back, it’s some of the things that happened outside the classroom that impacted me most.
Until two years ago, my days went like this: Go to classes, eat lunch, go to more classes, go home. Then one day I happened to stroll through the booths at Club Days and decided to sign up for the Indigenous Students’ Club. The following year I was asked to join the executive team, and the year after that I became president and ended up branching off to sit on the Indigenous Initiatives Working Group. It felt like I was getting opportunity after opportunity, and the chance to work on things I really cared about—like wrestling with how to make sure different nations are represented and tackling the university’s ceremonial policy. It was challenging, but very cool.
The day after my last final exam, I woke up and started getting ready to go to school when I realized that I was done. My undergrad wasn’t a thing anymore. The last year had been so busy, that the thought of being finished hit me like a wall. But there are exciting things to look forward to. I’m trying to get into law school right now—it’s something I said I wanted to do a long time ago and it feels good to try to see it though.
Arts and Cultural Management
I never had the opportunity to graduate before. High school was not a breeze for me. Growing up in a residential school environment where the systems of reward and punishment were unbalanced. Pushing those experiences aside and starting fresh with a new opinion and new approach took a lot of personal work, but it was worth it.
My first semester at MacEwan was challenging. My grades were not the best. I struggled. But I’m proud to be graduating on the Dean’s List. I earned every single one of those marks, challenge by challenge, day by day. As I learned to take notes, study and write exams, I’ve learned to become a student. I’ve learned to enjoy and embrace what it means to be in university, to learn, to have an open mind and to gain a new perspective.
What I want to say to my classmates is thank you. One, for having patience with me, and two, for accepting who I am, for working with me, and for taking the time to listen, express your ideas and share your perspectives with me. Without those particular people in my class, I don’t think I would have had the same success. They’re an incredibly dynamic group with great ideas and incredible minds, and they pushed me to be better. I’m so very thankful for them.
I didn’t take any summers off when I did my Social Work diploma, so it was two really intense, heavy years. In our classes, we discussed topics like addiction and family violence—scenarios similar to ones a lot of us had gone through in our lives. Those moments when people personally connected to the course material were the hardest.
My first placement was at the Boyle Street drop-in centre. It was tough because I often felt like I wasn’t doing enough. You do your best to help people, but in that environment, where you’re dealing with extreme poverty, homelessness and addictions, you don’t always see results. There were moments when I wondered if this was the right field for me because it was just so intense. But I kept going back to a paper I had written in first year about why I chose social work. I wrote that I was entering the field knowing I won’t be able to save everyone I meet. But if at the end of each day, I’ve helped just one person, that might mean the world to them. That’s what kept me going.
My last placement was different. I felt like I was helping someone every single day, and I could really see the results. I was working with Boyle Street again, but this time in the housing department. I helped connect people with homes, and with other agencies that help support them to live independently. I could really see the difference I was making, and that felt amazing.
There are so many ups and downs in social work. You just have to remind yourself of why you chose it and you’ll get through.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
In the first year of my degree, we learned about the 12 social determinants of health. I will never forget that experience. It has and will continue to shape my nursing practice. Gender, socioeconomic status, support networks, education—things that you’re born into and have no choice or control over—all affect your health. And when we make assumptions or judgments about people without knowing their background, it’s easier for them to slip through the cracks in our health-care system.
As a nurse, you have to take a step back and acknowledge that sometimes your patients have lived lives that you could never relate to. But if you listen, you can still acknowledge and support them. Maybe they were raised in a low-income family or they don’t come from a supportive environment that puts them at a disadvantage. I’ve learned to remove myself from the equation. If we, as nurses, are willing to listen and communicate openly, we can go so much further with our patients.
Dean’s Medal for Academic Excellence
The Dean’s Medal is each faculty or school’s highest academic honour. Each dean may award one medal to a graduating student in a certificate or diploma program and one medal to a graduating student in a degree program. Medal recipients are recognized by the dean for their exemplary success in meeting the learning challenges and academic requirements of their programs of study.
Heidi Robinson, Bachelor of Arts, Honours English
Paige Goodman, Arts and Cultural Management Diploma
Leah Harman, Bachelor of Music in Jazz and Contemporary Popular Music, Performance
Sheila Resener, Special Needs Educational Assistant
Crystal June Roberts, Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration
Catherine Meunier, Occupational Health Nursing Certificate
Celeste Bouchard, Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Kennedy Wilde, Business Management Diploma, Insurance and Risk Management
Melissa Canu, Bachelor of Commerce, International Business
MacEwan University is proud to celebrate the Class of 2017. Congratulations to this year's graduates, medal recipients and distinguished award honourees.
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.