Ask almost anyone what they were feeling during Humber College’s spring convocation and the answer, almost universally, was pride.
Whether it was the pride felt by the graduates and their loved ones for what they had accomplished or that same emotion shared by the professors and instructors who helped guide them towards graduation, it was an incredibly proud bunch at the Toronto Congress Centre.
There was an audible buzz in the building as graduates milled about before the formal ceremonies began, chatting with loved ones and classmates. As they entered the hall for the start of convocation, many scanned the crowd to find and acknowledge their families and friends with little waves or smiles.
Business Marketing program graduate Chioma Amadi said the feeling of graduating was “euphoric.”
Bianca Bozzo, who graduated from the Bachelor of Digital Communications program, said it was a nice feeling to now be able to call herself a graduate.
“It feels good and it’s exciting to be able to walk across the stage and be recognized for my hard work at Humber,” said Bozzo.
More than 8,000 graduates over ceremonies from June 14 to 17 crossed the stage to receive their degree, diploma or certificate.
Humber President and CEO Chris Whitaker presided over what was his final convocation ahead of his retirement at the end of the month. He had some final words for the graduates.
“We encourage you to be life-long learners, think critically, ask questions,” said Whitaker. “Be collaborative and inclusive, embrace diversity in all its forms. Challenge the norms and lead the change you want to see. We already know you can do remarkable things.”
Not all families came from just around the corner and many travelled long distances to attend convocation.
Scott and Nicole LeBlanc flew in from Nova Scotia to watch their daughter Erin graduate from the Journalism program.
“We know she has worked hard,” said Nicole. “We’re very proud of all she has accomplished. We wanted to be here to support her.”
Luc and Mandy Desbiens travelled from North Bay to watch their daughter Miranda graduate from the Music Business program.
“It was important for us to be here with her,” said Luc. “Nothing beats graduation and it’s important in this day and age to celebrate success.”
However, not all families could be there in-person, but could take part through a livestream broadcast.
Humber bestowed two Honorary Degrees as part of this year’s convocation.
One was awarded to Film and Television Production program graduate Frank Siracusa – an award-winning producer and the CEO of Whizbang Films. The other was presented to Christiane Germain, co-president and co-founder of hotel chain Germain Hôtels.
After the last two convocations were presented virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of those in attendance were excited about celebrating the occasion with classmates and professors. For some students, it was the first chance they had to connect with peers in person.
“This is the first time we’re able to do this in two and a half years so this is a very, very special occasion,” said Guillermo Acosta, senior dean, Faculty of Media & Creative Arts.
Baking and Pastry Arts Management program graduate Emma Kilgannon was absolutely elated to learn that convocation was going to be held in person this year. She missed out on her high school prom due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was excited to make memories at Humber’s convocation.
"I think I took a thousand photos already,” she said with a laugh.
Journalism professor Mike Karapita noted that in-person convocation is the restart of an important tradition. Karapita gave credit to the graduating class for persevering through a tough few years of post-secondary learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Students have been through so much in the last two years and we really owe them a big thank you for hanging in there and doing good work,” said Karapita. “I can’t even imagine how relieved and happy they must be today.”
For the first time, Humber presented students who self-identify as Indigenous with Indigenous medallions to wear during convocation.
“It’s part of many Indigenous nations to gift during special times and, in our way, we are gifting to our graduates and celebrating their success with them,” said Jason Seright, dean of Indigenous Education & Engagement at Humber. “We are proud of our graduates and who they are, and the group just thought it would be nice to express that by gifting the medallions.”
While convocation was a joyous occasion, it was also bittersweet for some.
Sarah Saccomanno, the President’s Medal winner for the Faculty of Media & Creative Arts and a graduate of the Bachelor of Design program, was pleased to have earned her degree but was going to miss Humber.
“I’m extremely ecstatic to have graduated but am also sad knowing I’m leaving my friends and the faculty,” said Saccomanno.