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The living room convocation

MacEwan students talk about the cancelled ceremony,
high tuition and life after graduation

MacEwan’s trademark clock tower would be a perfect backdrop for graduation photos. (Chris Ranta)

By Brittany Burridge

WHAT DOES convocation mean to you?
For some, the celebration signifies the recognition of years of hard work. For others, graduation may mean a night to revel in praise from friends and family.

However, for others, maybe, convocation means nothing. Watching countless peers you don’t know walk across a stage may not be your idea of a pleasant afternoon. Perhaps you’re relieved that, legally, you must avoid the gathering and, instead, celebrate from the comfort of your home.

We surveyed 21 MacEwan grads-to-be with these five questions:

      1. Do you feel the education you have received in your final year has been worth the tuition you have paid?
      2. Has your last year of school prepared you for a career in your specific industry?
      3. Are you upset that there will be no convocation?
      4. Did you have thoughts of deferring your education until COVID subsided?
      5. Do you wish MacEwan handled COVID differently?

The 12 students who answered “Yes” to Question 3 cited many reasons they would miss being at convocation, including to celebrate with peers, and that they won’t “feel graduated without it.”

One respondent wrote, “I paid all this money, and I was hoping to walk across the stage to at least show my parents that I graduated, and not just some piece of paper.”

Jamie Van den Brink, 21, is set to receive her psychiatric nursing diploma in June. She says graduating in the middle of the pandemic feels uneventful.

“Our program was planning a dinner that we aren’t able to do, which is kind of disappointing,” she says. “I’m still happy to be graduating and to have been able to finish through this. I had a small gathering with my immediate family. And some friends and I from the program hope to do something when restrictions change.”

While 20 of those surveyed felt that their final year of schooling either partially or did not prepare them for their careers, Van den Brink says she’s ready.

‘I felt like it was delivered well
and I learned enough to prepare me’

“Luckily, I was able to finish all my clinical hours in the hospital. I only had one online class to do, and I felt like it was delivered well, and I learned enough to prepare me.”

Most students – 81 per cent – reported that they did not think the amount of tuition they paid was worth the education they received. Van den Brink says her clinical requirement and having face-to-face instruction made her situation different, and she thinks she got her money’s worth.

Stefan Salegio, 24, graduated in June 2020 with a Bachelor of Communication Studies and a major in journalism. His has different feelings about the amount he paid for his degree.

“That is f**king ridiculous. That is criminal. I’m not an expert, but it seems that if nobody has to be in the MacEwan building, there would be less cost of maintenance and therefore less need to pay tuition. If you’re not given as many resources, why should you be expected to pay that much? No justification for it holds water, in my opinion.”

Salegio describes finishing school during a pandemic as surreal.

“I knew that I had graduated, but it didn’t feel like it. It feels like there’s a chunk of my spring of 2020 that was just removed.”

Salegio says studying online did not affect him or how he completed his degree.

“I could see how it would for somebody who needs to be in the classroom and kind of have everything at their disposal. I’m okay with learning online – it was very different. I had never done that before.”

What used to be a study and social spot for students has become deserted. (Chris Ranta)

Unfortunately, Salegio says, he has been unable to find work due to COVID-19 and bad luck. Pre-COVID, he worked as a photographer and helped run social media for Free Footie, a company that organized free soccer leagues around Edmonton.

“I’ve applied for a few jobs, but I have not worked since probably February or March of last year. I think COVID, for a while, was a massive shock to the system. It almost felt too paralyzing to go out and get work.”

Salegio says he’s happy his convocation was cancelled, because he found his high school graduation of 500 people tedious.

“It was more so for my family, that they were looking forward to it and they were disappointed. They knew there was no realistic way it was going to happen.”

Instead, Salegio celebrated his convocation in an online ceremony with his family and girlfriend.

“It was nice. I probably enjoyed that more than I would have enjoyed the actual ceremony, to be quite honest. I don’t have to share the spotlight.”

Salegio advises this year’s graduates to find a career at their own pace, to remind themselves that COVID has changed the work field, and to look into any government assistance available.

“It sucks out there; there’s no sugar-coating it. Employment is a little fraught, and everybody’s mental health is the worst it’s ever been. I think that’s all the more reason not to be super hard on yourself about finding a job right out of the gate and busting into your career. It’s not the same world it was two years ago, and you have to account for that a little bit.”

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