Speaking up

Oct 02, 2003, vol. 28, no. 3
By Carol Thorbes

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Their reasons are varied for choosing Simon Fraser University as their place of higher learning, but this fall's convocation speakers are all graduating with the same sentiment.

They are convinced that the current economic uncertainty cloaking higher education should not make it a road less travelled.

Erin Chapple, Jabir Nathu, John Trueman and Carlene Van Tongeren feel that the benefits of attaining a higher education are so important they are worth striving for, no matter what the hurdles.

Coming from small town Comox on Vancouver Island, Chapple chose to study at SFU in part because it was close to home and her older sister was studying there.

But what really helped her conquer her fears of the big city and of racking up a $30,000 post-secondary education bill was her passion for science.

“Maybe that comes from the times when my Dad would take out the telescope and we'd look at the planets when I was a kid,” says Chapple, a graduate of Comox's Highland secondary school.

Scholarships, a bursary from the Canadian Daughters, co-op experience and flexible loans have helped Chapple pay for her B.Sc. in honour physics.

Chapple, a Vancouver resident, agrees the road to higher education is rough, but adds there are ways governments and universities can help smooth the ride.

“We need to raise public awareness of how to get loans, bursaries and awards, while also finding a way to reduce the cost for students,” says Chapple, whose convocation speech is on Oct. 2 at 2:30 p.m.

Nathu, a resident of Richmond, credits inspirational professors with helping him reach the end of his road to an honours bachelor of business administration degree in management information systems.

The former vice-chair of the Management Information Systems Association agrees that a passion for knowledge is essential.

“With passion, the acquisition of knowledge is effortless, enjoyable and hopefully ongoing,” reflects Nathu, who hopes to earn a master of business administration degree.

The graduate of Vancouver's St. George senior school will share how a passion for learning drives him when he speaks on Oct. 3 at 9:45 a.m.

Trueman says he was fortunate to have parents who could pay for a big chunk of his BA major in Canadian studies.

He also worked part-time and says his academic journey was invaluable.

It transformed him into a well-rounded arts graduate doing groundbreaking research on the history of the former Technical University of B.C.

“It was virtually all primary research, including dozens of interviews,” says Trueman, a New Westminster resident and graduate of Canada's only Quaker high school, Pickering College in Newmarket Ontario. “The result of my research was a 121-page paper that is attracting other researchers' attention.”

Trueman is now planning to work in the non-profit sector and considering his graduate options.

With less public money in the pot, he is somewhat pessimistic about the accessibility of higher education to even highly motivated, resourceful prospective students.

Van Tongeren, who obtained her BA with a major in psychology at SFU in June and is now receiving a liberal arts certificate, is more optimistic.

The Burnaby resident and recipient of almost a dozen major scholarships at SFU questions whether society can continue to view higher education as an automatic right when the pressures on its social net are mounting.

“I empathize with how difficult it is to fund studies,” says Van Tongeren, a graduate of Victoria's Oak Bay secondary school and star track and field athlete at SFU. “But I've also witnessed friends without parental support getting through school successfully through working, bursaries or scholarships.”

Van Tongeren sees conviction, confidence and hard work as the stepping stones to higher education, no matter what the obstacles.

Tongeren, herself, is currently waiting to hear the fate of her application for a Rhodes Scholarship to pursue a master's in psychology at Oxford University in England.

Trueman's convocation speech is on Oct. 2 at 9:45 a.m., Van Tongeren's is on Oct. 3 at 2:30 p.m.

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