Alumni welcomed back for in-person convocation ceremony

May 02, 2022
Recent SFU alumni are invited to cross the stage and celebrate in-person at the Welcome Back Alumni Convocation, May 4-6.

For the first time in its 57-year history, SFU is hosting two spring convocation ceremonies.

From May 4-6, SFU is holding a Welcome Back Alumni Convocation to celebrate recent graduates who were unable to cross the stage in person because of the ongoing global pandemic.  

Convocation is one of the most important moments in a student’s journey. The May ceremony is an opportunity for new SFU alumni to celebrate their achievements in person with friends, professors, family and former classmates. A second convocation ceremony in June will be held for students graduating in the spring of 2022.   

Hailey Gearey, right, who played softball for SFU, celebrates her graduation in 2020 with her friend and teammate Samantha Ruffett.

“Being able to finally have an in-person convocation means so much to me,” says alumnus Hailey Gearey, who played on the SFU softball team and graduated in June 2020 with a bachelor of arts with a major in communication and a minor in gender, sexuality and women’s studies.  

“Even though some years have passed since finishing, I feel like I never got to properly close that chapter,” says Gearey, now the team and business coordinator for the Vancouver Warriors, Vancouver’s professional lacrosse team. “I am super grateful that SFU is allowing past graduates the chance to come back and cross the stage.”

In April 2020, SFU made the heart-breaking decision to cancel that spring’s convocation ceremony. A virtual celebration was held in June. At the time, it was thought graduates would be able to cross the stage at a ceremony later that year.  

Virtual convocations were held for the graduating students in the fall of 2020 as well as the spring of 2021. The virtual ceremonies aimed to replicate the in-person convocation and included reading out individual names and degrees, along with photos and short messages from the graduating students. Convocation boxes containing the student’s parchment and mortarboard and tassel were mailed to all graduates.

In-person convocation ceremonies resumed in the fall of 2021.

“The pandemic is a profound moment in history and we’ve come back stronger in many ways,” says Nicole Dorssers, SFU’s director of alumni relations. “Welcoming alumni back to convocate in person is a reflection of that growth. It is not only a celebration of the transition from students to alumnus, but of the tremendous resilience they have shown to get to this moment.”

SFU alumnus Daljot Singh graduated with a master's in mechatronic systems engineering in 2020.

For alumnus Daljot Singh, who finished a master’s in mechatronic systems engineering in 2020 and now works as a technical writer for Samsung Research Canada, convocation is significant event, made even more special as his mother – the only member of his immediate family – is travelling from India for the ceremony.

“Convocation is special for me and my mom as she had to drop out of her bachelor’s degree due to various circumstances at the time,” says Singh, who missed his undergraduate convocation in India because of his move to Canada. “This is the first time that I’m going to walk the stage. My mom will finally be able to sit there in the audience and be proud of me.”

Karina Khartanovich graduated in June 2020 with a bachelor of applied science in systems engineering.

The Welcome Back Alumni Convocation runs Wednesday to Friday with ceremonies at 9:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The celebration will also include in-person speeches from some past honorary degree recipients who were unable to receive their honorary degrees in person. The honorary degree is the university’s highest honour, awarded to distinguished individuals in recognition of their scholarly, scientific or artistic achievement, or in recognition of exceptional contribution to the public good.

In addition to the convocation ceremonies, faculties and departments will also hold faculty celebrations to honour and celebrate the achievements of graduates.  

For alumnus Karina Khartanovich, who graduated in June 2020 with a bachelor of applied science in systems engineering, the upcoming ceremony offers a great chance to reconnect with friends, classmates and professors.  

“It does feel weird crossing the stage two years after you’ve already started working,” says Khartanovich, an engineering project manager with Shift Clean Energy. “But I never got a chance to wear the gown and I’ve always loved convocation – the balloons, the bears, the champagne and flowers. I’ve always wanted to share that vibe and take some photos for my family, because I never ended up taking a photo with my diploma.”