June 27, 2019
Seneca's spring convocation celebrates diversity, family
More than 18,000 attend 13 ceremonies
When the blanket was brought on stage, Emma Greenfield couldn’t control her emotions any longer. It wasn’t just that she was graduating with an honours bachelor’s degree or that she had just addressed her class as Seneca’s first Indigenous valedictorian. It wasn’t even the fact that she was the recipient of this year’s Seneca Cup, the highest award that can be bestowed on a Seneca student.
“It’s not about me. It’s about what’s next and setting the stage for Indigenous students who will come after me,” Greenfield said. “When I saw my two aunties coming towards me with the blanket, I was done.”
While Greenfield had expected to see her family and friends in the audience during her ceremony, she had not expected to be honoured with a traditional blanket ceremony on stage by her Seneca family: “aunties” Peggy Pitawanakwat, Co-ordinator, and Karen White, Indigenous Counsellor, from First Peoples@Seneca.
The blanket, a Pendleton, is designed by Metis artist Christi Belcourt. The "blanketing" is a traditional way of honouring someone who has contributed or continues to contribute to a community. It's a way of claiming someone in a community.
“It was really emotional in almost every single aspect. I’m still overwhelmed,” said the new Honours Bachelor of Child Development grad. “While I will hang my framed credentials with pride, this blanket means a lot to me. It will be a constant reminder of not just hard work but the community I’m involved in. It’s wrapping me with that love and my heart is wrapped with gratitude that Seneca and First Peoples have claimed me.”
Greenfield credited Seneca for providing her with a space “that feels like a manifestation of the world my grandmother and mom dreamed for me.”
For example, she had the opportunity to be Professor Darcey Dachyshyn’s teaching assistant for the class, Indigenous Awareness: Towards Truth and Reconciliation. The experience led her to find her passion in social justice education and this summer, she’s assisting to develop Indigenous-focused curriculum for Seneca's School of Early Childhood Education.
With the support of First Peoples@Seneca, housed in Odeyto and a home away from home for many Indigenous students, Greenfield said she got to learn about herself and her people. She became a student ambassador and role model for her peers — something she also extended to classmates in her program.
“I was very fortunate to be within a tight-knit cohort,” she said. “Going to class felt like going to visit family and friends. We loved and appreciated each other and our professors were extremely supportive of us. I feel like I was carried through.”
Greenfield wasn’t alone in feeling grateful for the support she received at Seneca.
Nora Lipfeld, winner of this year’s Governor General’s Academic Medal, enrolled in the Office Administration – Health Services diploma program as a mature student through the provincial government’s Second Career program. While she previously worked in English as a Second Language education, Lipfeld found herself starting all over as a student at Seneca.
“It has been a mind-blowing experience for me,” she said. “I had to learn a lot about technology and I learned from the young. It was empowering.”
Now working part time in the emergency department of the Brampton Civic Hospital, part of the William Osler Health System, Lipfeld said she wouldn’t have achieved her goal without the support of her professors, classmates and Seneca’s Counselling & Accessibility Services.
“The professors believed in me, they were amazing. They had passion and they provided unconditional support for all of us,” she said. “I consider this award a gift that teaches me to believe in myself and strengthen my self-esteem. It was so moving to receive it. I didn’t see this coming. It’s too crazy for me. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for everything this place has offered me. That’s Seneca. Only at Seneca.”
The largest-yet cohort of Seneca’s INSCOL partnership programs took over an entire convocation ceremony this year. With more than 600 international grads from the Nursing Leadership & Management, Coronary Care Nursing and Chronic Disease Management graduate certificate programs, close to 1,600 grads and their guests celebrated at Newnham Campus on Sunday.
Headquartered in India, INSCOL partners with postsecondary institutions around the world to transform nursing professionals into global nurses who meet the needs of the international health-care industry. Since the Seneca-INSCOL partnership began in 2010, with 20 students in the first cohort, the initiative has grown from one program to three and expanded its reach from India to include Africa and the Philippines.
Prashant Srivastava, Director, Regional Business Development South Asia at Seneca International, has overseen the partnership in recent years.
“It was an honour and a privilege for me to be in the platform party and shake everyone’s hand,” he said. “I can see light in their eyes as they start their careers in Canada.”
Two professors in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering Technology got front-row seats to their daughter’s convocation this week.
Professor Catherine Khani, who teaches in the School of Environmental & Civil Engineering Technology, and her husband Professor Mark Khani, Program Co-ordinator, School of Electronics & Mechanical Engineering Technology, took part in the platform party on stage as both faculty and parents.
Their daughter, Laura, graduated from the Cosmetic Techniques & Management diploma program in the School of Fashion. Laura is an entrepreneur who also benefited from workshops offered by Seneca's on-campus incubator HELIX.
“It was thrilling to see her walk across the stage and for us to be on the platform to congratulate her,” Catherine said. “She chose to come to Seneca on her own and she’s totally in her element with the right program. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment!”
It takes a village
The Spring 2019 Convocation saw more than 18,000 grads and their guests come through Newnham Campus over the last seven days, with 13 ceremonies in total. The event saw hundreds of students and employees contribute their time and expertise to make convocation a success.
In addition, Seneca faculty spent numerous hours choosing this year's 13 valedictorians, who possess the qualities that most represent student success at Seneca. To learn more about each of the valedictorians, read their bios here.
For more photos and videos from convocation, check out our Spring 2019 Convocation — Photos & Videos.