By: Daniel Cress
The journey through academia for 700 Algonquin students came to its official end on Nov. 7 as they crossed the stage at the National Arts Centre to receive their diploma and walk off stage as a graduate.
Students clad in the traditional black robes strode confidently across the stage in front of on-looking professors while hearing the cheers of those who have supported them throughout their college careers.
Michael Ryan Smith, a 31-year-old graduate of the HRVAC program, heard some of the loudest cheers as he was presented with the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence award. The award recognizes outstanding performance by a graduate who demonstrated consistently strong leadership, innovative ideas, superior skills and maintained a high level of academic achievement.
“I was kind of surprised, I wasn’t expecting it,” said Smith. “It’s certainly a boost to the ego and gives me a sense of accomplishment, as well as bolstering my confidence for the future.”
That future is the all-important next step that graduates must now take. For Smith that next step is obtaining a career in the refrigeration industry, and he hopes this award will help set him apart.
“It certainly is nice to have something like that to put on the resume when I start looking for work,” said Smith. “When you’re in a position with several other candidates that’s something that would make you stand out.”
The ceremony was a fitting conclusion to a year which saw a great deal of change in Smith’s life, including the addition of a now four-month old baby boy to his family.
“I’ve got a little guy here, and it’s been kind of a tumultuous year for us so this was kind of a nice way to finish it off,” said Smith. “It was nice, a little nerve wracking – I’m not used to being on a stage or standing in front of large crowds – my wife said she could tell I looked nervous, but it felt really good.”
The ceremony also included the presentation of an honorary diploma to Roger Greenberg, the CEO of the Minto Group.
“I was very honoured to receive the degree,” said Greenberg. “I’ve watched the growth of Algonquin College over the years and I’m just delighted that it’s really found its own place and provides such a valuable service to our young people.”
Greenberg accepted the degree and proceeded to give the keynote speech to the graduates focusing on striving for your goals, while still not forgetting to look back on past accomplishments.
“It’s like climbing a mountain, if you only look up, you only see what’s in front of you. It’s important to look back and see how far you’ve come, and recognize what you’ve already accomplished,” said Greenberg, “Today is one of those moments.”
Algonquin President Kent MacDonald was the busiest of the stage party shaking hands individually with each graduate as he handed them their diploma in his first convocation ceremony as president.
“He was very enthusiastic to greet all of his students, he looked them right in the eye and made a personal comment and really wasn’t going through the motions, he genuinely enjoyed being there,” said Greenberg.
MacDonald’s address congratulated the graduates on their success and urged them to move forward following three messages. Get into the game, pay forward positive experiences and take risks.
“I was really honoured to provide the president’s address, but my highlight was meeting every graduate as they came across the stage,” said MacDonald.
The ceremony went smoothly as a result of the hard work put in by the registrar’s office and the volunteers who guided the students.
“We work year round to prepare for convocation,” said Algonquin registrar Kathryn Moore. “We’re actually seeing right from the application to the graduation stage so it’s really exciting. The convocation is really the culmination of all our efforts and what we’re all working for, it takes a village.”