Thursday, November 15, 2012

Education as a catalyst for change

Reflections from Fall Convocation

Convocation offers the opportunity for reflection, a chance to think deeply about the role education plays in our lives and in our communities. In a world marked by political conflict and growing social and economic inequality, education is a powerful tool that offers us the chance to use our skills and knowledge to improve our shared world. Last month, as we celebrated this fall’s 340 graduates and their many accomplishments, I was reminded again of the power we have as individuals to be catalysts for positive change, through actions large and small.
Our convocation student award winners, including our fifteen Senate medallists, have demonstrated through their academic and personal success an aptitude for leading by example. Their hard work, perseverance, and tenacity have served them well during their time here at the Mount, and as these students and the rest of this year’s graduating class continue their journey as Mount alumnae, I look forward to many more stories of leadership, determination, and examples of the Mount spirit of engagement with the world in action.

Shown here is Dr. Joan Glode, addressing guests during
 the Chancellor's Dinner.

This fall’s convocation ceremonies also marked the opportunity to recognize the leadership and lifelong service of two very remarkable women, both of whom were awarded honorary doctorates. Dr. Joan Glode is a proud and respected member of the Mi’kmaq First Nation community of Acadia. Dr. Glode has dedicated her life’s work to advocating and working for Aboriginal families and children as executive director of Mik’maw Family and Children’s Services of Nova Scotia, as well as through her work with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and the Micmac Native Friendship Centre. As she received her honorary doctorate from the Mount and addressed this fall’s graduates, she shared the powerful life stories of several Mi’kmaq teens she has worked with during her career, and spoke of the need for every individual to have a clear sense of belonging and identity. Her passion, vision and ability to bear witness to these stories serve as a powerful reminder of the difference compassionate leadership can make.

Shown above (L-R): Sarah Veinot, Board of Governors (Chair);
Dr. Margaret Casey, CM, MD, LLD, DHumL; myself, and
S. Donna Geernaert, University Chancellor.

Dr. Margaret Casey also received an honorary doctorate in last month’s ceremonies. Dr. Casey’s primary focus of work as a doctor has taken place at the North End Community Health Centre, an inner-city resource that provided her with the opportunity to gain an understanding of the impact of social determinants of health and social justice. Dr. Casey’s skills and abilities might have taken her anywhere, but she chose to dedicate her career to supporting and empowering those in need. As a lifelong advocate for social justice, Dr. Casey urged graduates not to stand on the sidelines of life, but to consider their individual responsibility to use the tools they have acquired to make positive change in the world. “Whatever you can give matters,” she said. “Each of us has a role. Opportunity for change exists in each career path.”
The path to success is indeed a very personal journey, one that is not always measured in awards or external recognition. Sometimes success is a quiet, private affair, recognized by overcoming tremendous odds and obstacles that may be difficult for others to comprehend or fully appreciate. During this year’s convocation, I was moved by many such stories of individual success.

Dr. Elizabeth Church, Vice-President (Academic); Dayle
Eshelby, Valedictorian (morning ceremony); and myself.

Dayle Eshelby, one of this fall’s valedictorians, is testament to such determination of spirit. As a teenager, Dayle was involved in a motorcycle accident that left her with catastrophic brain-stem trauma. Over the years, Dayle worked as a research technician and a variety of jobs while balancing life as a young mother and active community member in the town of Lockeport. She returned to the Mount part-time as a mature student and continued to be actively involved in community organizations. Recently, she was elected to municipal council and she has now started her own company. In addition to graduating as class valedictorian, Dayle was also awarded the President’s Prize and the Kappa Gamma Pi award.
At the Mount, we believe that each of us has a responsibility to lead by example. I’m inspired by the stories of students like Dayle and by the selfless examples of leadership-in-action demonstrated by the work of Dr. Glode and Dr. Casey. These individuals are forces for good, and their work inspires us all to continue to be part of the change we wish to see in the world.
Until next time,

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