"Mr. Chancellor, Members of the convocation, Family, Friends, and above all, fellow graduates of the class of 2009.
It is my pleasure to stand before you today as a fellow graduate and a member of such an inspired group of individuals.
First things first, congratulations, we’ve made it, we are through.
In preparation for this speech, it was intimidating to think I had only 2 weeks to collect my thoughts on 5 years of experiences. Such a small block compared to the 5 years we have spent here. 5 years that have brought us from calling home to ask how to use a washing machine to preparing cover letters for full time employment. 5 years of all-nighters in res to all-nighters in our 4th year study rooms. It is thrilling to consider what lies before us, yet bitter-sweet for what we are leaving behind.
I started at UW as a naïve 17 year old, boasting of my high-school calculus marks and eager to impress my profs. Little did I know, nothing could prepare me for the ride I was about to take. I came from a very small town where engineers were people who drove trains and the discovery channel was something your grandparents watched. Frosh week was an interesting start to my time here and to this day I still have no idea where I got lost or how I made my way back to res. Residence was a new-fangled freedom that few had experienced but also a bit scary with no one to worry about what time you got home. We were young first-years who knew nothing but had so much energy; the upper years were intimidating in a sort of ‘I sure hope I can make it that far’ kind of way. Little did we know that we would make it that far and become those mentors that we saw in our first months here, that we too would make the claims ‘I never even opened that textbook’ or ‘watch out for PDEng 45.’
It was humbling to learn that I wasn’t alone, nor was I even part of the minority in my new stresses. We were all embarking together, most of us away from home for the first time, bringing a different value, culture, background, and enthusiasm to the table. These peers became our family and the labs became our home. Together we churned out our homework, prying our eyes open and trying not to go crazy from lack of sleep. Along with managing our demanding workload, many of us found other niches to spend our little free time in. With so many opportunities on campus alone, it is no wonder we argue how exhausted we are. We made time to be dons, orientation leaders, athletes, tutors, activists, and artists, though sometimes it felt as though we couldn’t escape engineering with our conversations veering back to the glu-lam arches in our spring break hotel.
Above all, this degree has taught us the importance of critical thinking and problem solving. Tools that we can apply to everything that we do and talents that were tested in our dual learning environment of school and co-op. The combination of moving every 4 months, relocating to new cities, and starting new jobs more than most do in their lifetime ads up to a well refined library of life skills to enhance our already appealing resumes. Today, we move forward with these tools in our next pursuits of employment, grad school, and so many other paths we have chosen. And for all of this hard work and perserverance we each have our iron rings as lasting reminders of what we have accomplished, the responsibilities that have been given to us, and the opportunities before us.
Given everything we have achieved, it would be foolish not to mention those that stood behind us throughout our uphill battle. Our families, for giving their time to listen to us and sympathize with our efforts, I remember so many phone calls home describing to my mom just how much work I had and how unlikely it was that I would be sleeping tonight or ever this week. To our mentors that we found in our co-op terms and their seemingly everlasting patience and dedication to stay after work and teach us the finer details of pouring concrete. This patience was also found in our profs and TAs who gave up their own time to help prepare us for our looming exams. And finally, to our peers that we now call friends who stood with us while we came into our own, shared stories and experiences and helped to mould each other into the outstanding individuals we are today.
Fittingly, I prepared my speech in our 4th year study room, surrounded by my peers as I put off finishing our design project and ignoring the pile of lab work sitting beside me. I speak to you today, clearly having finished all of that homework. Looking back and seeing that we have truly become responsible adults, prepared to face the hefty challenges ahead of us. In these times of economic uncertainty, who better to bring our country to its best potential than a group of young engineers? We have been crafted into some of the most talented and innovative individuals. Some of us are heading to medical school, law school, teacher’s college, and an array of other critical roles in our society. Who better to re-build what has been lost than a group so well-rounded and motivated? Engineering graduates truly are some of the most employable individuals. We are willing and we are able.
Albert Einstein stated ‘I never think of the future, it comes soon enough.’ Our 5 years are up; we can finally stop thinking about it. We have arrived. To the University of Waterloo, Engineering class of 2009, I wish you success and good-luck. "
Performed June 13, 2009, University of Waterloo AM Engineering Convocation; PAC.