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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.

June 15, 2018

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President Deborah MacLatchy's message to Laurier's spring 2018 graduates:

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!

This time of year brings me back to my own convocation at Acadia University in Nova Scotia.

I have a picture of myself with my two best friends from that day. It’s bright and sunny, we’re all smiling in our gowns – and we all look so young.

I remember there was this sense that we were finally real adults, ready to take on the world.

For four years I had lived and breathed university. I had mentors who had challenged me and experiences that extended beyond the classroom that had allowed for real personal growth.

And now I had a degree.

I had never felt such a sense of pride and achievement like I did that day, coupled with the joy of sharing the day and accomplishments with family and friends.

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

Only one week after my own 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.

Whether it’s pursuing a passion project, taking a job on the other side of the planet, or flying out to Winnipeg with only a few dollars in your pocket, put yourself out there.

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 fight or flight instincts kicking in. As a biologist, I suggest you start climbing a tree.

But on a more serious note, that nervous feeling usually means you’re pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone, and that’s the place where real growth happens.

Don’t let the fear of failure stop you. Nobody gets things right the first time. Not even the people who seem to make success look easy.

Last month, I had the pleasure of introducing Pixar president Ed Catmull at the True North tech conference in Waterloo.

Ed is a true visionary who has revolutionized animation. His team has created 19 films. You’ve probably heard of some of them: Toy Story, The Incredibles, WALL-E, Up, Inside Out, and my absolute favourite, Finding Nemo.

Every single one has grossed more than $300 million globally.

What’s his secret?

His comfort with failure.

In his book, Creativity Inc., Ed writes “early on, all of our movies suck. Think about how easy it would be for a movie about talking toys to feel derivative, sappy, or overtly merchandise-driven. We dare to attempt these stories, but we don’t get them right at the first pass.”

“We are true believers in the iterative process – reworking, reworking, and reworking again.”

I would challenge you to consider life an iterative process. Move forward, engage in your work, then step back and reflect on how you can improve.

Your years at Laurier have given you a foundation that I hope will make you confident in your own skills and abilities as you move forward.

We have helped you learn how to learn and hopefully this has instilled in you a love of learning.

It is this love of learning that will propel you throughout life as you seek new challenges.

At Laurier, we are committed to inspiring lives of leadership and purpose. I hope 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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