University convocations cancelled amid coronavirus concerns
- Jeanelle Mandes | March 28, 2020
The spread of the coronavirus has forced many educational institutions to temporarily close, but many students didn’t think it would impact an important milestone in their life – convocation.
Elicia Munro, a Nehiyaw Anishinaabe woman from Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation, was looking forward to that moment of crossing that big stage to receive her degree.
“I was looking forward to having my daughters watch me walk across that stage and them having that memory forever, like I do, of my mother, when she received her education degree,” she said.
Munroe is a fourth year Indigenous Social Work and Reconciliation Studies student at First Nations University of Canada and is also president of the FNUNiv Saskatoon Campus Student Association.
When Munroe found out about spring convocation cancellation, she was disappointed.
“I definitely felt disappointed. However, I knew it was coming and I understand due to the circumstances right now,” she said. “I am hoping that our convocation will be postponed instead of [being cancelled]. I feel us students still deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated.”
This was her and her two daughters’ year for graduation, as her children were to graduate pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, but given the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it was something they’ve come to accept.
“It was supposed to be a special time come June. However, we will have our own celebration together and that will be just enough,” she added.
Munroe is definitely not the only student who is feeling the loss.
Robyn Badger, who is studying Indigenous Social Work at FNUniv in Regina, also felt the sadness after she found out the news.
“I cried because this was such a big accomplishment for myself and my kids. It was something I worked hard for but then again safety comes first,” she said. “I was also feeling sad that my son (who) was completing his grade 12…I mostly felt sad for him that he had to finish early.”
The University of Regina (U of R) announced the cancellation in a statement on social media on March 24th.
“Students can be assured that all U of R credentials will continue to be awarded when earned, and this change in plans does not, in any way, affect the timing and awarding of degrees, diplomas, and certificates,” it said in the Facebook post.
Kayla Ironstar-Murray from Meadow Lake and Cega Kin, SK. Will finish a Bachelor of Indigenous Social Work and Certificate in Reconciliation Studies in April.
She said the cancellations didn’t come as a surprise to her.
“I was hoping they would be cancelled due to the pandemic,” she stated. “Ultimately, the university wants to keep the students and their families safe. I'm sure they have plans of a convocation for the future.”
For the student and mother of three, the journey wasn’t easy, but through blood, sweat and tears, she did it.
“I definitely felt the need to plan around their sleeping and napping schedules. During my pregnancy, was a time I felt most crucial because you’re carrying a life inside of you, and bettering yourself in education while caring for your family,” she added. “I looked to ceremony, my partner, and my children for added support and I'm happy to be nearly done in April.”
Ironstar-Murray’s daughter wanted to do something to honour her mother’s achievement. It’s a gesture that warmed her heart.
“My oldest daughter, Faith mentioned we should create our own (convocation ceremony) with paper hats and a paper scroll,” she said. “I said to her, that could be something we can do!”
Ironstar-Murray hopes people realize the importance of staying home during a time of sickness.
“Remember the water ceremonies, medicine teas, smudges, and family,” she said. “There's always a time for celebration, but your health and the health of your family comes first.”
The University of Saskatchewan has postpone spring convocation. Details are still to be determined.