Resilient Brock graduates prepared to face challenges ahead

“The world needs you, now more than ever.”

That was the message Interim Brock President Lynn Wells hoped would resonate with the more than 1,000 graduates who were celebrated at the University’s 110th Convocation ceremony on Friday, Oct. 15.

As she looked into a camera that livestreamed the event for graduates and their friends and families watching from home, Wells spoke about the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the opportunity the unique situation has presented.

The past 18 months have created the chance to “reshape our society into something more equitable, more sustainable, more caring and more just,” she said to the virtual audience. “You are graduating at a significant moment in our country’s history, and we’ll be looking to you — our leaders of the not-so-distant-future — to help us do this.”

Wells assured the graduates that although complex issues are on the horizon — including those related to climate change, affordable housing and finding truth and reconciliation with Indigenous communities — they are not insurmountable.

Former Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Chief Ava Hill (centre) is presented with an honorary doctorate by Brock University Chancellor Hilary Pearson (left) and Interim President Lynn Wells.

“No matter what you studied, your time at Brock has prepared you for anything the world may throw your way,” she said. “The critical thinking and analytical skills honed during your time here will serve you particularly well in the coming years, and I urge you to use them with the goal of becoming a more aware, more engaged and more connected global citizen.”

Brock University Chancellor Hilary Pearson reminded the graduates of the obstacles they faced head-on in order to reach Convocation.

“You have had to participate in and perform through unprecedented remote learning. You have been asked to do things that you could not have imagined. And you have been missed on campus in ways that you could not have predicted or wanted,” she said. “Yet, you admirably rose to meet these challenges, and you have arrived successfully at this graduation day.

“I honour each and every one of you for your hard work, for your resolve and for your resilience. You have learned more about yourselves and your abilities than you might ever have under conditions of pre-pandemic times. I applaud you.”

Pearson also took the time to commend Brock’s leaders and educators for helping the University community to navigate these uncertain times.

While the day was about celebrating the accomplishments of the graduates, including the Spirit of Brock medal winners and Governor General Silver Medalists, it was also an opportunity to acknowledge outstanding faculty members.

Leanne Taylor, Associate Professor of Educational Studies, was honoured as the Distinguished Teaching Award recipient and Bareket Falk, Professor of Kinesiology, was recognized with the Distinguished Research and Creativity Award.

Taylor has spent more than 15 years researching and teaching about equity, diversity and activism in education. She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses addressing social justice, critical anti-racist practice, and the inter-relationship between pedagogy, culture and identity.

Her most recent research explores how to talk to children about racism and inequity — a project close to her heart as a mother of a creative and curious eight-year-old. With this grounding, she also believes in educational leadership that ‘makes space’ for difference, inspires new ideas and prioritizes voices that are not always at the table.

Falk has spent the past three decades investigating children’s responses to exercise and the physiological effects that physical training has on healthy children and those living with chronic conditions. Her current work focuses on how exercise and training impact neuro-muscular function and bone health during growth and maturation.

The outgoing Director of Brock’s Centre for Bone and Muscle Health and her research team examine the mechanisms explaining child-adult differences in muscle performance and metabolism during exercise. Her research results can be used to guide those who design and deliver exercise or rehabilitation programs for children.

In addition to the faculty awards, the live ceremony, which was paired with a personalized Convocation Portal for each graduate, also featured the awarding of an honorary doctorate to Indigenous leader Ava Hill and saw the names of each degree recipient displayed on screen for proud families tuning in.

The portal included access to a Celebration Wall, where anyone can post congratulatory photos and video messages to the Class of 2021.

In the weeks ahead, all graduates will be mailed a package that includes their degree parchment, a Convocation program, letters of congratulations from Brock administrators and student leaders, an alumni pin and other information from the Brock University Alumni Association, information from the Campus Store and a bag of Class of 2021 confetti.

Graduates are encouraged to update their address and phone number on their Brock student portal.

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