Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Acadia Honour

On Sunday, I had the great honour of addressing the 2016 graduating class of Acadia's Environmental and Sustainability Studies program, moments before they crossed the stage. This was an incredible honour for me, not only as a proud member of the Acadia Alum family, but as a proud graduate of this unique program. I have shared some of the achievements of this program in the past, but this is only the beginning. The program is still in its infancy, and I continue to be giddy with anticipation to know what will come next. 

But, Sunday's honour was extra special, because I have studied, worked and been friends with the majority of this year's crop* of ESST graduates. Even those I did not have these experiences with, I have heard many great stories about their contributions to the program, and so, I feel that through those, I am equally connected. 

The students that come from this program are often critical thinkers, who are compassionate, driven, and unbelievable energetic and passionate about how they want not only their own futures to be shaped, but that of the world they live in. They understand the connectedness of the human-built world and the natural world. The understand the complexity of problems big and small. And while the program itself isn't super technical, it is built on the premise of hands on learning. This means, rather than talking about the theory of doing, they are given countless opportunities to test out ideas, from the safety of a welcoming community, eager to see each of them succeed. Furthermore, this community is not just the program itself, or even the Acadia campus, but the surrounding community of Wolfville - where residents frequently come out to events and activities hosted by the hard work of ESST students. Of course, this is also true of other programs, but as a biased ESSTer, I tend to only focus on them! 

Anyway, I've digressed. My mission on Sunday was to act as the voice of my fellow graduates. I was given 10 minutes to ease the minds of the attending parents, and talk about what life after Acadia looks like. Sure, I can only give my own account, but I know I'm not the only one of us that is making their mark on the world outside of the university bubble**. 

In these moments I shared snippets of the impacts from my time in Ghana and Manchester, but mostly Uganda. I spoke of the first-hand experience of witnessing incredible transformations that no one foresaw. I spoke of the excitement I have for my future plans, and my return to the country that I have overwhelmingly fallen in love with. And I spoke of how, as graduates, we are equipped to test the waters of various sectors, positions, and geographic locations. I spoke of the amount of work required to secure a career that is exciting and satisfying, and admitted that I'm still on the hunt. But most of all, I emphasized the fact that possibility and opportunity are out there. 

Sharing stories about post-ESST experiences
Photo credit: Kim Vaughan 
The 2016 Graduating Class of the Environmental and Sustainability Studies program
Photo credit: Kim Vaughan
Then on Monday, I began my new job. Talk about a bubble burster! But, at least I had an epic view of Halifax from the ferry to give me a few moments to reflect and just be grateful. 

Once again - I want to offer a massive congratulations to all of the graduates of the ESST Class of 2016. You have all worked hard to cross that stage. You have been challenged and will continue to be challenged as you go forward with life, and build your careers. And I, for one, cannot wait to see where you go!

-the Orange Canadian

*See what I did there... because we're an environmental program... so I used a farming pun to describe the new cohort of graduates...
**A few are currently enrolled in Master's programs across the country, further developing their areas of expertise and interests. Others are working on community development-related programs both in Canada and internationally. The range of post-graduate activities (meaning education and employment) is amazing and really showcases the variety of students this program attracts!

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