Valedictorians salute fall 2016 graduates

Posted on Sunday, October 23, 2016

A man holding a small bowl and a woman holding a feather perform a smudging ceremony in front of University dignitaries wearing ceremonial robes.

The 2016 Fall Convocation opened with a traditional smudging ceremony performed by Algonquin Elder Annie Smith St-Georges and Métis Elder Robert St-Georges. Photo: Mélanie Provencher

Meet the three valedictorians who spoke at uOttawa’s 2016 Fall Convocation on behalf of 1,751 graduating students. Below are brief excerpts from their speeches and links to videos of the Convocation ceremonies.

Brittany Johnston (BA), an Anishinabe Kwe from Serpent River First Nation, came to Ottawa to study theatre. She worked as the Indigenous outreach coordinator for the 2016 Canada Dance Festival and with NAC Dance on the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production Going Home Star — Truth and Reconciliation. She is now doing a master’s in theatre at uOttawa, with a focus on Indigenous performance.

There is a simple quote that I have reminded myself of every day since the start of my master’s: “Live in faith that the whole world is on your side.” Graduates, as you start this new chapter, I challenge you: Be brave, be bold, but most importantly, be warm and be kind. In the Ojibwe language, we do not have a word for goodbye. Instead we say Baamaapii, which means “until later.” I do hope that our paths cross again!

Rym Mehri (PhD) specialized at uOttawa in the study of the mechanical properties of blood as a biofluid by characterizing the behaviour, primarily of red blood cells, in physiological and pathological conditions. She received an NSERC postdoctoral fellowship to continue her academic career at Carleton University, where she is studying the mechanics and properties of inhaled pharmaceutical aerosols for drug delivery.

Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in our lives — a new chapter that, for many of us, remains a mystery. No matter the path you all choose for yourselves, never forget the accomplishment that is evidenced by you being here today. Our learning will continue for the rest of our lives, but today we celebrate a major accomplishment that has laid a strong foundation for us to build the rest of our careers and lives.

Michelle Hope Rumford (BSocSc) majored in anthropology and Aboriginal studies (French immersion). She is now pursuing a master’s in human kinetics at uOttawa, focusing her research on camp programs for Aboriginal youth run by Christian organizations. After her MA, she hopes to work in policy or program development and work for a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples.

This is my message to you: learn, grow, explore. Try to figure out where your passions and your skills come together, what makes you come alive. But don’t stop learning, and don’t be afraid to change directions when you hit a fork in the road. Every once in a while, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself, in the words of musician Jon Foreman, “This is your life. Are you who you want to be?”

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