“Persevering through adversity” – STU Celebrates Summer Convocation

If Maria Oakes could describe the class of 2021 in one word, it would be resilient. 

Oakes, who is from Bath, NB, was the valedictorian at St. Thomas University’s Summer Convocation. She spoke virtually to the more than 110 graduates who were receiving a Bachelor of Education, Bachelor Arts, and Bachelor of Applied Arts. 
Convocation was livestreamed and included traditional elements of an in-person Convocation, including remarks from the president, address to the graduates, and valedictory. Revisit the ceremony at STU.ca/Classof2021
“By completing a university degree during a global pandemic, we have persevered through adversity, and conquered barriers that stood in our way,” she said. “We have continually demonstrated resiliency and I believe the challenges we have faced and persevered through have not at all reduced us, but dignified us as educators and graduates, and most importantly, citizens of the world.” 
She also reminded her fellow Bachelor of Education graduates that choosing a career in education extends beyond reading Shakespeare plays in English classes or explaining that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell in science classes.  
“We are much more than teachers of curriculum, but we are teachers of equity, principles, and values. Thinking back on a conversation I had with my mentor teacher about our role as teachers, he reminded me to always remember “the human aspect” of teaching; our students are not just students, they are our fellow human beings,” she said.  
“We have to always remember to model kindness, compassion, and respect in our classroom, just as much as we emphasize the importance of solving mathematical problems. I am extremely empowered to know that I am dedicating my career to working with the young people of today who are so resilient, smart, and caring. They are eager to learn about the world and change it for the better. By entering our careers with open minds and open hearts we can be part of this real change.” 
President and Vice-Chancellor Dawn Russell also spoke to the graduates about the importance of teachers in society.  
"Teaching is a tremendous gift that you give to society. Our country and our world desperately need the kind of teacher that you have been educated to be. And after today, each of you will have the opportunity to shape the world, one student at a time,” she said. 

Guest speaker Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, commended the graduates on completing their studies during a global pandemic. 

“I read about some of the challenges you overcame to obtain your Bachelor of Education degrees and Bachelor of Arts degrees. You were flexible, adaptable and resilient and learned to deal with the blue screen on your computers like so many of us did. Eye 
strain and dry eyes became a part of our lives,” she said.  
“Then there were wi-fi issues and not being together as a group added to the challenges you overcame.  But you all persevered and made it. You are now ready to take all you have learned, all your achievements and put them to work in classrooms all across New Brunswick and beyond.” 
University Medal 
The University Medal for Academic Excellence in Education: Lara Whalen, Fredericton, NB.  


To revisit the ceremony, please visit STU.ca/Classof2021.