Students speak at convocation

June 05, 2006, volume 36, no. 3
By Carol Thorbes

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As Simon Fraser University's year of reflecting on its 40th birthday draws to a close, a band of blue-gowned graduands, contemplating their future, will ascend the steps of convocation mall.

Cloaked in a sea of sameness, these graduands are as proud of their individual achievements as SFU is of its 40 years of accomplishments.

As has been the tradition for the last eight years, six students will mark the occasion with a convocation speech. Selected by Ron Heath, dean of student services and registrar, based on faculty and staff nominations, this year's convocation speakers are:

Robert Barlow
Beneath Robert Barlow's blue gown beats the heart of a highly competitive political science major. Living in Abbotsford with his wife Nancy, Barlow was a junior hockey player and a part-time college student for three years before diving into his studies fulltime at SFU. “This is where I truly discovered my passion for political philosophy,” says Barlow. He is proud to have helped reinvigorate the Political Science Student Union, and have netted almost $18,000 in private and federal scholarships. Next on the agenda is a master's in political science at the University of Toronto. “I want to explore the ways in which democratic innovations can help protect and enhance conditions of social justice in diverse societies such as ours,” says Barlow. His speech before faculty of arts and social sciences graduands is on June 7 at 2:30 p.m.

Julia Howard
SFU Clan track and field and cross-country running star Julia Howard is equally devoted to athletics and academics. Slight in stature, it's easy to see how this St. John's, Newfoundland native propelled herself to scores of athletic victories. The Coquitlam resident has broken several track records and been named one of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics' most outstanding athletes. Maintaining an upper division grade point average of 3.7, while excelling athletically, Howard started out in biology and is graduating with a bachelor of arts in psychology. “My education at SFU has shown me that I am interested in many disciplines,” observes Howard. Her convocation speech before her fellow graduands in the faculty of arts and social sciences takes place on June 8 at 2:30 p.m.

Gregory Golds
Like father like son describes Gregory Golds. The son of Bruce Brandhorst, the chair of SFU's department of molecular biology and biochemistry, Golds is as fascinated as his dad by biomedical engineering's life saving feats. It's one of the applications that make Golds proud to be a computing science grad. During eight months as a co-op student in Faisal Beg's biomedical engineering lab, Golds helped write software that uses MRI images of the heart to compute thickness at every point on the heart wall. “Faisal hopes that more precise information about heart wall thickness and other properties of the heart could lead to better diagnosis of heart disease,” says Golds. He now works fulltime at Business Objects, a Vancouver software developer that snapped him up after his co-op stint. Golds will address faculty of applied sciences graduands on June 7 at 9:45 a.m.

Margo Pearce
Jumping from the frying pan into the fire is a good thing, according to Margo Pearce, “if you're safely supervised by approachable professors.” That is how this slightly scorched master of public policy graduate describes her last two years at SFU. Pearce, who did her undergrad studies in political science at the University of Victoria, had to shift from rote learning to analytical thinking. “Often my first shot at this ended in lower grades than I'm used to, a calamitous experience,” says Pearce. But when the process of policy-making, considerate of various viewpoints on complex issues, became less daunting, Pearce knew she had learned to think, write and communicate in a new way. She cut her policy-making skills on assessing the capacity of hospitals in Dhaka, Bangladesh to handle an epidemic of HIV positive patients. Dedicated to carving out a career in disease management in developing countries, Pearce will address her faculty of arts and social sciences peers on June 8 at 9:45 a.m.

Kasia Maryniak
Kasia Maryniak will do what she loves to do, after her graduation ceremony. The biology honours grad says she will “help others to live healthier and better lives.” In July she is off to Brazil's Amazonas state to work with Helping Hands Medical Missions, a non-profit Catholic organization. She will volunteer her expertise in helping small community clinics handle local surgeries and healthcare issues. When she returns, Maryniak will investigate entering medical school. Among the unforgettable memories this native of Poland says she'll take away from SFU is her volunteer work at the B.C. Cancer Agency, and her research experience in science labs. “I loved learning about vertebrates, and the circulatory and digestive systems,” says Maryniak. Her convocation speech to the faculty of science graduands takes place on June 9 at 2:30 p.m.

Maryam Mehrtash
Originally from Iran and recently a tourist in Thailand, Mehrtash truly has a global take on life. The first class honours business administration graduand says, “As I graduate from a post-secondary school, I realize how lucky we truly are in North America. I feel as though some people take their education for granted and do not realize that some people in other countries have to focus on getting food on the table, rather than getting an education.” In keeping with one of the values in SFU's mission statement, Mehrtash is passionate about learning to do business in various cultures across the world. Her degree has concentrations in international business, marketing, and management and organizational studies. Mehrtash believes her international business concentration will be a huge asset. “With the rapid spread of globalization, I believe that being aware of disparate cultures, ethnicities and religions is essential to conducting successful business locally and abroad,” notes Mehrtash. She will deliver her convocation speech to fellow faculty of business administration grads on June 9 at 9:45 a.m.

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