Crossing the stage: The Spring 2023 Convocation ceremonies

Academic regalia. Awards and pins. Applause and celebrations.

Over 1,100 students crossed the stage in five in-person ceremonies this June, joining more than 200,000 of our BCIT alumni community. We are proud of our graduates for their achievements, and we are confident in their abilities to create sustained and meaningful impact beyond BCIT.

Each ceremony begun with the acknowledgement that our campuses are located on the unceeded traditional territories of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Our graduates were then welcomed by Junior Elder Deanna B. George, William George-Thomas, Manager of Culture, and Elder Carleen Thomas from the Tsleil Waututh Nation, as well as the Indigenous Women’s Ensemble M’Girl, who performed a traditional opening song.

Dan Reader, Chair, Board of Governors, BCIT, Paul McCullough, Interim President, BCIT, and Jennifer Figner, Interim Vice President, Academic, were among those who gave their congratulatory remarks for our graduates’ momentous achievements. Paul praised our graduates for their incredible resilience during their time at BCIT. “You have shown incredible perseverance and commitment throughout this time, which will undoubtedly serve you well as you embark on the next phase of your journey through life.”

In the spirit of celebration, BCIT also recognized the Institute’s strength and array of expertise across our faculty and staff, who have gone above and beyond to make a profound impact on each one of our graduates. A Distinguished Service Award, four Faculty Emeritus Awards, and a BCIT Student Association (BCITSA)’s President’s Award were given during this week’s Spring ceremonies.

Before the crossing of stage, BCIT invited notable keynote speakers to share their valuable words of advice for our graduates who are starting to make their mark in the world.

To symbolize closing this chapter and moving on to the next, our graduates heard from representatives of the BCIT Alumni Association at the end of their ceremony.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2023, 9:00am ceremony [video]

The first ceremony celebrated the graduates from the School of Business and Media in Business Administration, Business Management, Human Resource Management, Operations Management, and Digital Arts, Media, and Design.

In a particularly heartfelt moment, Paul awarded a Distinguished Service Award to Dr. Brian Gillespie. Brian worked at BCIT from 1976 to 2000. His remarkable 24-year tenure at BCIT began as Dean of the Core Division, then as Dean of the School of Health Sciences, Vice President of Education, and most notably, as President of BCIT. We are honored to recognize Brian for his significant contributions over many years of service to BCIT and the educational community that our Institute serves.

Before our graduates crossed the stage, keynote speaker Brent Charleton, President and CEO of EnWave Corporations delivered his speech. Starting as an entry-level Marketing Coordinator, Brent made his way up to CEO and President of EnWave – a publicly-listed proprietary drying technology company with over 50 food manufacturers located throughout 25 countries, and has raised more than $40M through the capital markets to support EnWave’s innovation and growth.

In his speech, Brent parted words of wisdom to our graduates who are eager to enter the business workforce. “Life is not solely about reaching a destination but about embracing the journey, the process, and the continuous pursuit of growth and learning,” he shared. “In this rapidly evolving world, success is not static but dynamic – a constant state of adaptation and evolution.”

READ MORE: Our 2023 Spring Convocation keynote speakers share their advice

As a BCIT alumni himself, Brent recognized the unique advantage our BCIT graduates have, including their strong multidisciplinary skills, proficient creative thinking, and advanced analytical prowess in innovation and adaptation. He also reminded our graduates to remain steadfast in ethical principles. “Let your actions align with your values. Use your influence to affect positive change,” he said. “Success should never be pursued at the expense of ethical conduct.”

To close the ceremony, Valedictorian Cor Vanderwolf congratulated his graduating class for completing the rigorous curriculum at BCIT. “Whether it was academic achievement, professional advancement, or personal success. You’ve found ways to get the most out of your time here. So, take a moment to appreciate what you’ve done here at BCIT because what you’ve accomplished in the last 2 years is nothing short of incredible.”

Cor wrapped up his speech by expressing his gratitude toward the people who has helped him become who he is today. “That’s the special thing about BCIT. For all the obstacles, and challenges we faced; we also met extraordinary individuals who helped us grow into the next stages of our lives.”


Tuesday, June 20, 2023, 1:30pm ceremony [video]

As one of the largest business and media schools in Western Canada with over 100 programs and 300 courses, BCIT continued to celebrate our School of Business and Media graduates in the second ceremony – specifically our accounting, finance, and insurance, and marketing students.

Susannah Pierce, President and Country Chair of the Shell Canada Ltd., was invited as the keynote speaker for the second ceremony. With over 20 years in the environmental, social, and governance sector in Canada and abroad, Susannah is a distinguished leader in bringing businesses, governments, communities, and Indigenous groups together to support the development of energy resources.

In her speech, Susannah called for our graduates to adopt a mindful perspective, “this era is calling for a more advanced and humanistic approach to leadership.” As our graduates set off on their own paths, she reminded them how their thoughts often affect their actions, which in turn affect the outcome of their destinies. “Your perception of the world around you define your experience,” she noted.

During the ceremony, a posthumous diploma (with distinction) was given to 19-year-old Maya Uyeno, who sadly passed away in February. Maya’s father, Richard, accepted her diploma in Maya’s honour. Maya was an exceptional student who was well-known and well-liked by her classmates. She passionately kept her study group on track and was a joy to have in the classroom.

After the crossing of stage, Valedictorian Isabel Carter delivered a sincere closing speech. She recalled her first experiences at BCIT, noting that her journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing. “During my first presentation at BCIT, I had a panic attack, ran out of the room and questioned how I was going to make it through.”

Despite the ups and downs, Isabel felt grateful for the lessons she’s learned during her time at BCIT. “My hope for everyone sitting here today, is that you go out in the world and find what you love. When you find what you are meant to do, you are willing to work for it. When you encounter challenges (whether it be big or small), be scared, be brave, and everything is going to be okay.”


Thursday, June 22, 2023, 9:00am ceremony [video]

Our third ceremony celebrated graduates from the School of Business and Media in Broadcast and Media Communications, and the School of Energy. The theatre was packed with excited family, friends, and special guests.

Our graduates heard from our keynote speaker, Chris O’Riley, President and CEO of BC Hydro. During his 32-year career with BC Hydro, Chris contributed in leading operations, overseeing capital projects, and managing risk for BC Hydro’s trading subsidiary, Powerex, as a professional engineer in electrical engineering.

In his speech, Chris spoke about the changing energy sector, and the need for skilled workers which BCIT graduates are perfectly positioned to fill. “There will be many jobs in the future that don’t even exist today,” he said. “We have many grads from BCIT working at BC Hydro. Many of you in this room will enter the energy sector and will help create and implement solutions in this energy transition.”

Chris also reminded our graduates of the importance of lifelong learning. “There is no end to education, and your whole life will be a process of learning,” he shared. “Don’t limit yourself [and] be open to experiencing different experiences.”

Upholding our promise to ensure that BCIT is a place in which all people—learners, faculty, and staff—are continuously valued, BCIT also granted Faculty Emeritus status during the ceremony to former faculty, Dr. Hassan Farhangi, for his significant contributions to industry and academia and continued commitment to the Institute.

READ MORE: Recognizing our outstanding faculty at BCIT

Sharing his personal experiences, Valedictorian Ian Wilson described his busy life working seven jobs, and his long commuting experience to campus from Agassiz. He mentioned that his story is one of many among the graduates being presented today. Understanding the academic rigor of BCIT, Ian praised our graduates for their hard work and commitment, “Whether it is pushing through the deadlines, managing course load, commuting, health or family issues, or even just getting up in the morning on days where life in general is just too much, your perseverance is valid.”

Quoting Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda, Ian closed his speech by reminding our graduates to attain their highest purpose in life. “A simple ask really to each and everyone here – do me a favour and be the best version of yourself, good luck in whatever journey life holds for you next, and I hope we talk again soon.”


Thursday, June 22, 2023, 1:30pm ceremony [video]

Graduates from the School of Computing and Academic Studies and the School of Health Sciences were celebrated in the fourth ceremony. BCIT has the largest Computing and IT education in Western Canada, offering over 250 courses and 40 different programs that can be completed both full and part-time. On the same note, the School of Health Sciences provide many programs that are the only ones of their kind in BC, including nuclear medicine, magnetic resonance imaging, and radiation therapy.

Rick Ilich, CEO of Townline Homes, was the keynote speaker for this ceremony. Rick established Townline Homes in 1980, and under his direction, the company grew into an industry-leading real-estate developer and investor leader in the residential, commercial, and mixed-use development and construction industry.

In his speech, Rick emphasized on the importance of resilience. “Resilience can flourish when life does not go as planned,” he said. “For me resilience is a learned attribute. I am a resilient person because of the choices I made.”

As one of the founder’s of Townline Housing’s sister company, Townline Housing Solutions, Rick has also contributed to providing more than 3,000 units for women fleeing domestic violence, those with special needs, as well as Indigenous and workforce housing, among others. He heartily spoke about our duty to lead positive change. “The systems [of the government] cannot succeed without all of our help,” he shared. “Your education has empowered you to be agents of change, to lead with integrity. Never lose sight of the power that you possess to make a difference.”

After degrees were awarded,  Jean Scribner, retired faculty from the School of Computing and Academic Studies, was recognized as Faculty Emerita. Joining the Communications Department in 1980, Jean has taught business and technical communications in more than 25 different BCIT programs and has served as Program Head Curriculum for the past 43 years. We are honoured to recognize her as one of our BCIT Faculty Emeriti for 2023.

Toward the end of the ceremony, our graduates heard from Valedictorian Sally Poon. In her memorable speech, Sally paralleled her BCIT journey to a bowl of ramen. She mentioned that similar to the diversity of ramen noodles – thin, thick, straight, or wavy, our journey often has twists and turns. Sally continued by applauding our graduates for prevailing against the challenges they faced during their time at BCIT.

Noting the importance of community, Sally then advised our graduates to appreciate their loved ones. “Just as a rich soup enhances noodles, a diverse community enriches life’s journey. Take a moment to appreciate those you share your triumphs and tribulations with, the ones who deserve a seat at your table.” Finally, just as there are always new ramen toppings to explore, Sally encouraged our graduates to continue trying new things. “Remain curious, seek out new experiences and fearlessly pursue your ambitions.”


Friday, June 23, 2023, 9:00am ceremony [video]

Our final ceremony celebrated graduates from the School of Construction and the Environment and the School of Transportation. Not only is BCIT a leading contributor of trades, engineering, applied science, and natural science professionals, but we are also the only post-secondary in North America to deliver globally-recognized accreditation in all modes of transportation – air, sea, road, and rail.

Keynote speaker Sarah Clark, President and CEO of Fraser River Pile and Dredge, delivered an inspiring speech during this ceremony. Sarah joined Fraser River Pile and Dredge as Chief Operating Officer in 2014 and was promoted to President and CEO in 2017.

In her speech, Sarah praised BCIT graduates for their top-tier skills upon completing their degree. “When we want to hire someone, BCIT is our top choice,” she said. Sarah attributed our graduates’ success on their deep resilience and close connections with their communities. “You’re sitting here today because you dug deep and you figured it out,” she noted, “Why do we go to university? It’s to challenge ourselves. To make life long meaningful relationships.”

Closing her speech, Sarah reminded our graduates to appreciate the people that have supported them. “I never questioned that I wouldn’t be successful because good people supported me along the way.”

Celebrating our outstanding faculty and staff who have gone above and beyond during their service at BCIT, the Student Association gave the BCIT President’s Award to Hong Sy. Hong is a Research Associate at the BCIT Natural Health and Foods Products Research Group. For her extraordinary dedication in collecting donations and volunteering for our Food pantry, BCIT is honoured to present this award to Hong.

Russell Oye from the School of Transportation was also recognized as Faculty Emeritus in this ceremony. Russell Oye was recently the Interim Associate Dean of the BCIT Marine Campus and the Acting Associate Dean of the Motive Power Center of Excellence. For 25 years, Russell has taught, trained, and mentored students and has performed applied research at the Emission Reduction and Research Test Hub.

Wrapping up the Spring ceremonies this year, Valedictorian Austin Molby addressed his peers in a genuine speech. He reminded our graduates to celebrate our strengths. “Each of us is unique and our time at BCIT has been nothing short of transformative,” he shared. “Through collaboration and teamwork, we have grown not just as students, but as individuals who are prepared to face any challenges that lie ahead.”

Taking it a step further, Austin encouraged our graduates to use our strengths for the greater good. “True excellence is achieved when our skills and knowledge make a difference in the lives of those around us.”


Congratulations to our Spring 2023 graduates!

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