Skip to main content

UofGH Class of 2021 celebrates at virtual Convocation

The University of Guelph-Humber celebrated the achievements of 1,255 graduates at this year’s Convocation. The virtual event brought together family, friends and supporters of the Class of 2021 for an evening of festivities and cheer.

The Convocation ceremony included program-specific videos, personalized graduate cards and a photo booth for graduates to capture memories at home. This year’s honorary degree recipient, Dr. Suzanne Stewart, was also recognized at the event.

Planning for Convocation began back in November, with a focus on creating a more interactive experience. The planning committee included co-chairs Leah Murdock and Susan Thomas and committee members Shannon Ho, Riyanti Poerba, Stephanie Marks, Shane Chase and Naomi Leanage.

“Based on what we were able to accomplish for 2020, we realized just how much work goes into pivoting to a virtual environment, specifically as it relates to providing grads with a Convocation experience that attempts to duplicate all of the special feelings of celebration and accomplishment that are so palpable when we all come together to celebrate our graduates at Convocation,” said Murdock.

“We were sensitive to the fact that students have experienced a virtual learning environment over the last year and a half,” added Thomas. “We wanted to do something that showed we understood the challenges they had faced for the past 18 months.”

Ahead of Convocation, graduating students were each sent a keepsake box with their degree and diploma parchments, graduation cap and other commemorative items—including a miniature UofGH bell.

“We heard from last year’s grads they wanted more in their Convocation boxes, so we included more traditional elements like the UofGH bell and tied that theme throughout the various elements. We wanted to bring elements of a ceremony to the virtual experience,” said Ho.

The celebration also included a live reception with prizes and entertainment. More than 600 graduates and supporters attended the virtual reception.

“The live reception was the key to providing our grads with the opportunity to come together with family, supporters, classmates, faculty and staff to celebrate their accomplishments and ring their bells to symbolize their transition from student to alumni,” explained Poerba.

While this year’s Convocation may have looked a bit different than past years, the most important goal for the planning committee was to create a memorable send off to UofGH’s newest group of alumni.

“What we do in Student Services is very student-centric and all of our programming is designed to support Guelph-Humber students through their academic journey,” said Marks. “Convocation is the major culminating transitional event, and we were committed to making their graduation experiences memorable, despite the challenges.”

We chatted with a few members of the University of Guelph-Humber Class of 2021 to find out how they celebrated Convocation and what graduating means to them.

Sophie Pham, Kinesiology ’21
Recipient of the Vice-Provost Award for Academic Excellence

Sophie Pham
Photo courtesy of Sophie Pham

How did you celebrate Convocation?

My parents and I enjoyed a home-cooked dinner together! I also took some time to reflect and appreciate the opportunities and individuals who have helped me get to where I am. While it was a simple celebration, it was meaningful and definitely something to remember!

How does it feel to finally graduate?

If there is one word to describe it, I would say relieved! These past four years have not been easy. My parents immigrated to Canada and like many, sacrificed their own careers and persevered so that I could fulfill mine. Witnessing the financial and social challenges my parents face has instilled motivation that has driven me to achieve my academic goals. As the first person to graduate from a university within my family, I am incredibly thankful for their support and believing in me throughout my studies. I am proud of my parents and of myself for getting this far. It has truly been a team effort to get to where I am today. We did it!

What does graduating as part of the UofGH Class of 2021 mean to you? 

To me, graduating during this pandemic has represented resilience. I think many other students will agree with me that studying fully online was an unexpected experience that brought on fatigue, social isolation and less hands-on learning. However, we’ve definitely risen to the challenge, adapted and studied throughout the pandemic! After this experience, I feel a greater sense of confidence in my abilities to persevere. I believe that if my peers and I can graduate during the pandemic, we also have the strength to overcome other unexpected challenges as we continue pursuing our future endeavours.

Aaron Posner, Business ‘21

Aaron Posner
Photo courtesy of Aaron Posner

How did you celebrate Convocation? 

My family held a virtual party for me in which my parents ordered cupcakes for my whole extended family and we celebrated together. We also ordered in a special dinner to commemorate the hard work I invested to put me over the finish line!

How does it feel to finally graduate?

It is still hard to process that I am actually done! I started a full-time job the Monday after my last exam, and some days I feel like it is just another summer job (similar to what I did in past summers on my break), but I know that come September I am not doing what I have done for the past 17 years and going to school. I do not think it will truly hit me that I am officially done until September when I do not head back to the classroom (or log on to the screen for lectures). I am however very lucky to be working for a tight-knit company that has the family feel similar to UofGH. The transition to my new home has been amazing and Career Services has been amazing throughout. I am still transitioning to life after university but the friendships and lessons I gained throughout my four years at UofGH will carry on for years to come.

What does graduating as part of the UofGH Class of 2021 mean to you? 

Graduating as part of the University of Guelph-Humber Class of 2021 symbolizes perseverance and resilience. As a member of the Class of 2021, we need to be open to experience new challenges, but with every challenge comes a life lesson which makes me and all members of the Class of 2021 a stronger and more productive member of society.  

Being part of the Class of 2021 reminded me why I chose to stop by the UofGH booth at the Ontario University Fair on that October day in 2017 and ultimately accepted the offer to come to UofGH. At UofGH, we are more than a university: we are a community—one that looks out for each other. During the time when we could not be together physically, we were together virtually even closer than before.

Most importantly, being part of the Class of 2021 means picking up my degree from a box on the front porch, rolling out of bed at 7:50 a.m. for an 8:00 a.m. class and wearing pajamas for a team presentation practice run the night before presenting to the class. 

Metaxia Driva, Early Childhood Studies ‘21
Recipient of the Vice-Provost Award for Academic Excellence

Metaxia Driva
Photo courtesy of Metaxia Driva

What was your favourite part about the virtual celebration? 

My favourite part of the virtual celebration was connecting with classmates, friends and professors and sharing our most fond and challenging memories.  

How does it feel to finally graduate?

Graduating feels bittersweet and surreal. I find myself reflecting on the great and challenging moments throughout this journey and being thankful for the empowering community of classmates, friends and professors who have made this journey worth taking. 

What does graduating as part of the UofGH Class of 2021 mean to you?

Graduating as part of the University of Guelph-Humber Class of 2021 (#CovidGrad) means recognizing that my successes and accomplishments were possible because of the wonderful community of individuals behind me (classmates, friends, family, professors) who helped me achieve my goals despite unprecedented circumstances. I am truly thankful for their support, prayers and encouragement. I also realized, using the words of one of my mentors, "Clearly you can accomplish whatever you set your mind on!" I acknowledge this to be true for me and anyone else committed to pursuing their future endeavours.  

Alexis Ford, Media Studies ‘21

Alexis Ford
Photo courtesy of Alexis Ford

As a Media Assistant at UofGH who worked on Convocation, what was the experience like planning Convocation and getting to see all your hard work come together?

It was great to be a part of the inside scoop of Convocation. Although Convocation was an experience few of us could have imagined when we walked into Guelph-Humber four years prior, I got to see that the team behind it all worked so hard to make the best of it. If people got to see behind the Convocation lens as I did, they'd find a very small group of staff who have so much love and care for creating a positive student experience. All the stresses of planning and creating a virtual event that still means something special is not an easy task. In the end though I think it was worth it. While I was watching the live ceremony, all I could think about was how proud I was of how everything came together. 

How did you celebrate Convocation? 

I spent my Convocation with my family and a glass of wine in my hand. We all sat around the TV and watched the live ceremony together and then followed it up by having a nice dinner. Although It was unfortunate that I did not get to say goodbye to my friends, I'm thankful I still spent the evening with those I care about. 

How does it feel to finally graduate?

It feels surreal to have finally finished university. We spend so much of our lives inside of a classroom that it's almost impossible to fathom that I don't have to step inside of one again. I am grateful to be finished with not one, but two papers to show off my new learned expertise. It's a great reminder to myself that I really accomplished something, and I should be proud that I remained vigilant and dedicated to something that can (hopefully) progress my future goals forward.

On the other hand, I constantly find myself saying, "Okay, so now what?" This is the first time in 18 years where there is no one giving you a firm direction in life, and it's as exciting as it is terrifying. There's no textbook to assist you beyond this point and that can prepare you for the ultimate test: post-graduate life. 

Ivan Wong, Psychology ’21
Recipient of the Vice-Provost Award for Academic Excellence

Ivan Wong
Photo courtesy of Ivan Wong

What was your favorite part about the virtual celebration?

My favorite part about the virtual celebration was when we took part in the Guelph-Humber tradition of ringing a bell as we graduated at Convocation, which symbolizes the beginning and end of our education at GH.

How does it feel to finally graduate?

I am happy that my hard work and perseverance over the past four years has led to me graduating at the top of my program and obtaining the Vice-Provost Award for Academic Excellence. That was a pleasant surprise and it made me happy that I ended my education in psychology (officially) with such an honor.

What does graduating as part of the UofGH Class of 2021 mean to you? 

As part of the University of Guelph-Humber Class of 2021, my graduation is only one step in my educational and occupational career. It means that I need to continue my education and use what I have learned for myself and others. Even though I may not end up having a career in psychology (as I am pursuing a post-graduate certificate in human resources management), I will continue to apply my knowledge and skills that I have gained. My education is an ongoing process and I look forward to all the things that I will learn, experience and master as I grow older.

Tahera Teja, Early Childhood Studies ‘21

Tahera Teja
Photo courtesy of Tahera Teja

How did you celebrate Convocation? 

My family and I celebrated Convocation at home due to the situation with the pandemic, but we made the most of it by ordering take out, dressing up and sitting as a family to watch and celebrate this huge milestone. My daughters even insisted that I do a little photoshoot in the park with my diploma and graduation cap, which was a lot of fun (albeit a little embarrassing)!

What was your favourite part about the virtual celebration? 

There were a couple of items on the agenda that were my favourite parts of the virtual celebration. The first one was the magic show—it was phenomenal! The second one was when we were in the breakout rooms with our program leads and got to share our reflections from our journey at UofGH. Everyone had different dilemmas that they had to overcome over the past couple of years, but we all were happy to share our proud moments with each other!

How does it feel to finally graduate? 

It feels great to finally graduate but it’s definitely a bittersweet moment. I am so proud of myself for earning my degree and it feels amazing to be done with this chapter of my life, but it is definitely heartbreaking to know that I will not see my peers as often. However, I really hope that we all stay in touch so that we can continue to celebrate each other’s successes!

Julia Okoth, Media Studies ‘21
Recipient of the Vice-Provost Award for Academic Excellence

Julia Okoth
Photo courtesy of Julia Okoth

How did you celebrate Convocation?

I'm living with one of my fellow graduates, Julia Soumas, and thankfully we could celebrate together. It was really lovely to watch our names roll across the screen and be with each other on that day. She’s one of the first closest friends that I made at the University of Guelph-Humber, so it's really nice to finish that chapter with her. My mom and sister came down to our apartment to celebrate with us, so we opened up our grad boxes, which was really lovely, and we got to eat some Chinese food and just celebrate together.

What was your favorite part about the virtual celebration?

I was really proud of my roommate, who has been working at UofGH in the public relations department. She's been working so hard over the past few months to make a wonderful Convocation ceremony for everyone. She was making a lot of the filters that ended up on Instagram and Facebook. I was so proud to see the final product of her work, so that was really lovely to watch her growth as a digital designer and to celebrate with her, in addition to the triumph of being a graduate, also putting together a really memorable event.

What does graduating as part of the Guelph-Humber Class of 2021 mean to you?

The word that I keep hearing when it comes to people who have graduated this year is “resilience,” and I have to agree with that. This is a really isolated way to finish off what I think was meant to be a very communal and collaborative space, so it was really interesting to see the way that other students navigated that. It shows how resilient this year of students can be and also how adaptable they can be, which I think are two extremely important qualities of people who are about to enter the workforce and about to enter into a life that is completely unpredictable. I think it's really wonderful that they have shown their strength in a time that was just completely unprecedented and have shown their ability to succeed even against unfavourable odds. I'm super proud of my fellow graduates.

A huge thank you also to all of the professors over the years who have taught me that resilience and have continued to encourage me to grow, to learn and to continue to have passion in a pretty unpredictable work environment. To have people on your side like these amazing professors at Guelph-Humber who are telling you to keep trying, to keep learning and to not let things bring you down even when the odds are against you—I think that is so important. I am so grateful for all of their help, and I want to thank them for their strength over the past year of still being able to provide a healthy and helpful learning environment for all the students that graduated this year.