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Becoming a Golden Hawk means more than just cheering on our (really good) varsity teams – it means being a student who cares about your community, who works hard in the classroom, and who takes advantage of all the learning opportunities that can happen outside the classroom, too.


Nov. 5, 2018

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Congratulations graduands and my warmest welcome to everyone here who is celebrating with you today.

You are the newest graduates of Wilfrid Laurier University, joining more than 100,000 alumni who have come before you.

Can you believe it? You are now part of a worldwide community of more than 100,000 people who are forever Golden Hawks!

Convocation day is a mix of emotions: happiness, relief, excitement and, dare I say, a little trepidation for what comes next.

I suspect all of you graduating today feel some combination of what I’ve just described.

As far as life milestones go, this is one of the big ones.

Earning a university degree is a significant achievement and still relatively uncommon in Canada and around the world.

You should be proud. I am proud of every single one of you.

Now, this next stage in your life is an exciting one, filled with ambiguity. There is no set path.

Some of you will be starting your first professional jobs, some will go to grad school. Some will be entrepreneurs working around the clock to get your big idea off the ground.

Some will be travelling to experience more of the world and the people in it.

It is my sincere hope that you take risks and do those things that make you a little bit nervous.

One week after my own undergraduate convocation, I was leaving my small town in Nova Scotia. I got on a plane to Winnipeg to go to graduate school. I had never been to Winnipeg.

This was in the time before the internet. My only conversation with my grad school supervisor had been through written – snail mailed! – letters and one brief telephone call.

I had one suitcase and a little bit of money in a savings account and just showed up, not really knowing what to expect.

It was a big risk, but it paid off. That leap into the unknown began a series of experiences that led me here, addressing you today as Laurier’s president.

It is my sincere hope that all of you here today will take similar risks and do those things that make you a little bit nervous.

Sweaty palms and an elevated heart rate are good signs you are on the right path, unless of course you’re in the forest and start to feel that way. If that’s the case, it may be your flight or fight instincts kicking in. As a biologist, I suggest you start climbing a tree.

But on a more serious note, put yourself out there. That nervous feeling means you’re pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone.

If you see a problem that needs solving, throw yourself into it. Who better to make a difference than you?

The world needs you.

It can be easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom of the news cycle these days.

However, when I speak to our graduates, and see how engaged they are in the world around them, I feel confident that the future is in good hands.

I know that all of you will use your Laurier education to make a difference.

Just a few weeks ago, I was a panelist at the Bridging the Gap to Her forum at THEMUSEUM in Kitchener. This forum, in celebration of Day of the Girl, examined how we can invest in developing the next generation of business leaders and innovators.

Our panel featured engineers, coders and executives. The discussion quickly turned to the technological disruptions facing work forces.

During the panel, I highlighted the value of a university education in this age of great change and upheaval.

While technical skills may change, the critical thinking skills you’ve gained at Laurier will always underpin your work.

These are the skills that make you adept learners and collaborators. These are the skills that help you parse ethical issues, and think creatively about solutions to problems.

Your years at Laurier have given you a foundation that I hope will give you a lifetime of confidence as you approach new challenges.

At Laurier, we are committed to inspiring lives of leadership and purpose. I know that you will carry this spirit with you in all that you do beyond these walls.

My congratulations and very best wishes as you embark on the next chapter of your lives. I am confident that Laurier has equipped you with all the tools that you will need to challenge yourself and the world.

Good luck to you all!


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