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Convocation is a Time of Celebration, Reflection and Inspiration


By:Justin P. Goodrich, LL.M


Spoiler alert – this week’s edition of For The Record will have absolutely nothing to do with politics or public affairs.  This week I am putting on my academic hat and getting introspective.

For those who may not know, when I’m not busy serving as the managing partner of a public affairs consulting firm I have the privilege of serving as one of two Vice-Chairs on the University of the Fraser Valley Board of Governors – and I can honestly say it is a privilege.

My journey with UFV began in my late twenties when – after having had to drop-out of college in my early twenties due to health challenges – I enrolled in a two-year Associate of Arts degree program.  Little did I know how UFV would change my life.

First and foremost, I fell in love with learning and researching (this from a guy who previously only read chapter headings and summaries).  In fact, in addition to my Associate of Arts I went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts (UFV) and ultimately a Master of Laws (Lancaster University).  However, it’s important to note that my academic journey did not evolve simply because I feel in love with learning and researching, but rather because I also fell in love with all the things that make-up university culture.

As a student I loved the small class sizes and the meaningful relationships I was able to build with my fellow students and my professors.  As an alum I love being able to guest lecture, mentor students, attend events, and through those activities both maintain the aforementioned relationships while also building new ones.  Having said that, it is my service on the UFV Board of Governors – and my subsequent participation in our annual convocation ceremonies – that give me the greatest satisfaction.

For The Record…

Like most grads, I’ll never forget my graduation.  Surrounded by family and friends, it was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.  I’ll never forget crossing the stage and feeling the tremendous sense of satisfaction that comes with having received my credential.  Of course, these days convocation looks very different for me.

These days, it’s not about ‘me.’  That is to say, when one attends their own convocation they are naturally focused on themselves.  However, as a board member, it’s all about the students.  So… let me set the stage for you.

As a board member I am a member of the platform party.  This means I – along with our senior administrators, faculty members, members of Senate, alumni representatives, etc. – get drummed-in by our First Nations drummers in advance of our student processional and sit on a raised stage overlooking the audience.

Once on stage, and upon the conclusion of the drumming, our musicians begin and our student processional makes its way on to the floor to assume their positions.  As they do so the first thing that catches your eye is the sea of black gown off-set by the many colours that represent the various credentials and disciplines being awarded.  It is in that moment you begin to feel a sense of nervous anticipation for what is to come.

The entire program is rather extensive (even with four ceremonies, each last no less than two-hours), but regardless of the length of the program there are three moments that are – for me – the highlights.

The first moment is a moment celebration.  When our Chancellor officially confers credentials on our students and instructs them to move the tassels on their caps from the right to the left the crowd always erupts.  In this moment – from my vantage point on the stage – I see it all.  The smiles, the hugs, the laughs… it’s awesome.  Moreover, not only do I get to see the looks on the faces of our students, but also their family members, friends and supporters in the bleachers.

The second moment is a moment of reflection.  This generally takes place when our students cross the stage one-by-one.  This is the moment where, for many, it becomes real.  From beaming smiles to chocking-back tears… from hand-shakes with our President to hugs with faculty members… this is the moment where it really ‘sinks-in’… they’ve done it!

The third and final moment is one rooted in inspiration.  It’s the moment when the student speaker concludes his or her remarks.  In listening to our student speakers, one cannot help but feel inspired.  Nominated by faculty members and students, the student speakers are not only strong academically, but they are truly inspiration human-beings and it is their message to their fellow students that often times leaves me emotional.

For some, university has been an awesome experience.  For others, however, such is not necessarily the case.  From health challenges, to the loss of loved ones, to balancing their academic responsibilities with family and work obligations, to those who have returned much later in life to accomplish a life-long dream because of challenging circumstance that forced them to put their academic pursuits on hold earlier in life, the reality is that these students have demonstrated what it means to take-ownership of their lives, remain resilient and to achieve their goals despite some substantial personal challenges.

Though I may not get paid for it, I can honestly say that serving on the UFV Board of Governors is the best job I have ever had.  There is no greater moment during the year than participating in our convocation ceremonies and being privy to these special moments.

Justin P. Goodrich is the Managing Partner at Alliance Public Affairs Group (www.alliancepag.ca).

For previous editions for For The Record please visit: www.patrika.ca/for-the-record.

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