As provost and vice-president (academic) of Memorial University, Dr. Noreen Golfman knows her way around the university environment, to say the least.
So it was that she had a wealth of helpful advice and guidance to offer first-year students during the university’s first academic matriculation ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 6, Day 3 of Memorial’s Welcome Week.
As part of the academic procession on stage at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre — the very stage many of those in attendance will cross to collect their degrees in a few years’ time — Dr. Golfman, in a ceremonial robe and velvet bonnet, delivered a keynote address that included tips about how to make the most of the university experience (take advantage of study abroad opportunities, volunteer, join a club, etc.), but she also talked of the collective experience of “becoming.”
Using her own undergraduate days at McGill University in Montreal, Que., as an example, she shared with the students that she, too, found her first day on campus “pretty scary, somewhat disorienting and largely overwhelming.
“Gaining confidence in who I was, or in what I had learned, did not happen overnight.”
“But slowly and surely, through some stumbling and a lot of challenges and opportunities, I ended up at the other side of my program,” said the provost, who studied English and film. “Gaining confidence in who I was, or in what I had learned, did not happen overnight. One might say that project is always a work in progress, but the great opportunity you have while pursuing a degree at university is that you have so much space and time to develop that confidence.”
Dr. Golfman’s heartfelt address was delivered amidst other important messages and ceremonies, among them a land acknowledgement by Catharyn Andersen, special advisor to the president on Aboriginal affairs, a performance by Aboriginal drum group Eastern Owl and a pinning ceremony to highlight Memorial’s special obligation to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Established as a memorial to the Newfoundlanders who lost their lives during the First and Second World Wars, Memorial University serves to honour that great sacrifice through educating the people of this province.
To underscore this connection, a Memorial alumnus and a student in each year of study participated in a pinning ceremony. The students spoke of the soldiers’ supreme sacrifice, of their courage in times of fear and danger, and of their youthful vibrancy and potential. First-year student Emily Webb spoke of remembering that lost potential as she and her fellow students begin this new chapter in their lives.
“We honour this sacrifice and the service of others before us who created this opportunity to learn and grow,” said Ms. Webb. “As we reflect on this legacy, we accept our responsibility as new students of Memorial University. We pin ourselves with the forget-me-not, a symbol of lives lost and remembered. This little flower, while seemingly delicate, survives harsh climates and terrain, year after year. It reminds us that we can prevail through our challenges, and thrive against all odds.”
The matriculation ceremony ended with Chancellor Dr. Susan Dyer Knight, officially receiving the students and leading them in singing the Ode to Newfoundland, led by the Ennis Sisters.
“On the authority of the Senate, I, as Chancellor, receive these students on behalf of Memorial University and bestow upon them the rights, privileges, and responsibilities now belonging to them as undergraduate students they begin their academic journey.”
Dr. Jennifer Massey, director, Student Life, says the event was exactly how she envisioned it: a formal induction into Memorial University.
“Success requires knowing where you’re heading – and to do so, you also need to know what came before you,” said Dr. Massey. “We want students to understand the history and legacy of the university and to situate themselves within that broader connectedness between the university and the province.”