June 10, 2020
Perhaps we should begin by stating a simple truth: when you started your academic journey all those years ago, this is likely not what you expected. Or, even more to the point, this is not what any of us expected!
Convocation is supposed to be about shouting from the mountain top, “Look what I have done — look what I have achieved! I worked hard for this. I cared about this, and I saw it through to the end. I took my opportunities. I overcame my fears (remember day one?) and I met all of the challenges. I finished, and I won.” And our friends and family are supposed to echo back, “Yes, you certainly did. We’re proud of you too.”
You know, I always encourage students to go to convocation for this very reason: You earned it. It’s public. It’s a statement. Walk slowly. Smile big. And take pictures. After all, convocation is an important moment in your life, and whether life be long or short there are surprisingly few of those. So they all matter. It’s an important moment for the institution too, the highlight of the academic calendar as we celebrate together. Our communities come together to rejoice in what has been accomplished.
Then came the pandemic.
So this convocation is different. We cannot come together. We should not come together. Out of respect for each other, out of caring for each other, and in order to make sure that we all stay well and stay healthy, we must stay apart.
But maybe it is for the best, anyway. Just maybe. When we strip away the trappings of convocation — the Pomp and Circumstance, the long walk up the hill, the speeches, the advice, the robes, the anthems, and the dreaded walk down the stairs (how hard can it be, there are only three of them?) — it gives us more time to focus on the heart of the matter. We can spend more time thinking about what you have learned, who you are, who you have become, where your work may take you … how you have grown. These were not the things first on your mind when you came to the university — it isn’t for any freshman! But laying bare convocation in this way allows these thoughts to rise to the forefront of our attention now. And that’s a good thing.
But what about the public statement we wanted to make together? Well, the world will know what you have done. They will know it in what you do from this day forward. How you act, the difference that you will make in the lives of children, families, parents, communities and schools. Pandemics are not the only things that change the world forever. You will change the world for the better. You will do it in the lives you will touch as a teacher, one student at a time. After all, this was and is the essence of these years of study.
I am so very proud of you. I am proud of you because I have confidence in you, confidence in our program, confidence in the faculty who have worked with you, and confidence in the communities who come together to make it all possible.
I know the teachers who graduate from this program at this university, many of them by name. It isn’t wrong to simply be proud, and I am simply proud. You can be too — in your self, and in each other.
Thank you for spending these past years with us! It has been a journey with many interesting moments, challenges, setbacks and victories. These years were made of new experiences and new best friends. New mentors, and new aspirations. Lots of memories. They are what helped us grow. Reflecting on these is the point of convocation, and each reflection and memory is something no pandemic can touch.
Take care, stay well, and stay in touch,
A. Craig Loewen, PhD
Professor & Dean
Faculty of Education
University of Lethbridge