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Father and daughter join the class of 2016

Convocation Medallions

In just a few weeks, the University of Guelph-Humber’s class of 2016 will don their gowns, cross the stage and receive their degrees. As they officially become graduates, there will be cheering and photos as their family members celebrate the achievement.

For one student though, her family won’t just be in the audience, they’ll be crossing the stage. On June 20th, Kaitlynn Downey and her father Bruce are both graduating from UofGH.  

Kaithlynn came to UofGH in 2012 to study Kinesiology. She’d been an athlete in high school, playing both soccer and rugby, and wanted to prepare to become a personal trainer. She was attracted to the university’s mix of theoretical and practical learning and liked the sound of getting a degree and a diploma so she applied, was accepted and moved into residence that September. Kaitlynn started her classes and fell into the rhythms of student life. She started working at the Athletic Centre and had her eye on a physiotherapy placement. As she prepared for her second year of school, she fielded a question from her dad. He was thinking of making a change and wanted to run it by her first. After nearly 25 years working for York Regional Police, Bruce was thinking about doing one of UofGH’s degree completion programs.

“Before I started second year, he asked me if I was fine with us both going to the same school,” says Kaitlynn. “I thought it was pretty cool. It was something he really wanted to do.”

Bruce’s career with YRP had taken him from being a patrol officer, to a detective and then to the Cybercrime department, a field then in its infancy. Though he’d done a certificate in police foundations and classes in data forensics, Bruce wanted to go back to school.

“This has always been a personal goal for me and I’m now at a stage in my life where I’m ready for it,” he says. “It’s my choice, and I enrolled because I wanted to be there. I spent a lot of time researching, looked at the UofGH website top to bottom and saw something that appealed to me.”  

He enrolled in the Justice Studies Degree Completion program and began taking classes online, coming to campus every six weeks for weekend classes. Mostly, Kaitlynn and Bruce stuck to their own programs, but from time to time, they had some overlap. Both happened to be tackling courses on research methods at the same time, and when Bruce came to town for his weekend classes, he stayed with Kaitlynn and her roommate at their nearby apartment. While he says the chance for family time was great, the best thing about the program was the chance to learn alongside other professionals.

“For all of the topics we covered, each of us had life experience to bring to bear,” Bruce says. “It gave me a better understanding of how and why some policies came together, which is useful after seeing which ones do and don’t work in the field.”

Now on the eve of graduating, both are looking towards what’s next. Kaitlynn’s two placements in athletic and physiotherapy inspired her to change her focus. Rather than personal training, she’s now planning on becoming a massage therapist. For Bruce, retirement from the police service is just 18 months away. After his experience pursuing his BAA, he’s thinking about continuing on to a master’s program. In the meanwhile, both are excited for graduation, celebrating the work they’ve done over the last few years.

“We’re in different ceremonies, but we’re both excited to be there for each other,” says Kaitlynn.

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