Back to the Future

by Deirdre Kelly

photography by Horst Herget

Thousands of graduates returned to York this past June to celebrate the biggest convocation in the University’s history. The spring 2022 convocation honoured not only this year’s graduands but also those students in the classes of 2020 and 2021 who graduated virtually during the pandemic, when all in-person events were cancelled.

The chance to celebrate together with friends, family and fellow students drew more than 25,000 attendees, including 9,000 graduates from all three graduating classes. A combination of alumni and graduating ceremonies took place from June 3 to 18 at Glendon and the newly named Sobeys Stadium at the Keele Campus.


This year’s honorary degrees – 12 in total – recognized individuals from different segments of Canadian society who are righting the future in the fields of building, social justice, health care, the performing and literary arts, athletics and First Nations rights.

York president and vice chancellor Rhonda Lenton in convocation robes walking to ceremony
York president and vice chancellor Rhonda Lenton

“Convocation is one of the proudest events in the academic year, for students and their families as well as for faculty and staff,” said York president and vice chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “I continue to be inspired by our students’ desire to drive positive change both locally and globally.”  ■


BACK TO THE FUTURE: What the Grads Said


smiling woman grad in cap and gown
Samantha Nanton (BA Sociology ’20)

Virtual learning made things very hard. Being back on campus makes me appreciate how valuable the connections I made with people on campus and their support were. My time at York has already changed my future. Before I even graduated, I was able to get a job in my field. I’m in social work services, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to open up more opportunities. I’m looking forward to it!



smiling woman grad in cap and gown
Tiffany Wing Yin Wong (BA Hons. Children’s Studies ’21)

Convocation is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I wanted to celebrate it with my friends and family. It feels amazing to be back on campus; I didn’t really get to say a proper farewell to York because of the pandemic, so coming back here today feels like a surreal moment. My time at York has impacted my future a lot. It told me to follow your dreams and do what you’re really passionate about. That’s what I experienced at York.



masked male grad in cap and gown
Victor Mahabir (BA History Hons. ’21)

It feels good to be back on campus. I feel a little sadness because I missed out on a lot by not being here, but I feel good for the most part. Doing Zoom classes online – it’s good, but it’s just not the same. I love the human interaction aspect. I love the being here in person. It’s hard to say how York has changed my future, but I think it will help me, because in the time I was here, I got a lot of resources. I saw all the services that I needed – whether it was learning services, whether it was the writing centres, I used them.



smiling male grad in cap and gown
Timothy Fu (BSW Hons. ’20)

Being back on campus brings back some memories of times I had at York. I remember times I spent with friends, learning, having fun, going out for drinks. Why did I want to do convocation in person? Honestly, my parents. They were very happy to hear that I could go back for a convocation in person, and they were like, “Let’s do it,” and I was like, “All right, whatever makes you happy.” I got some good experience in my placements and, honestly, I’ve gotten a good job out of it, so I’m happy about everything I got from York.



smiling woman grad in cap and gown in wheelchair
Rana Nasrazadani (BA Hons. ’20)

I needed the “finalization” of feeling like I’ve crossed the stage and finished my degree. Having that moment in person is much more of an “experience” than doing things online. I was one of the inaugural 2021 Top 30 Changemakers Under 30, and I was one of the President’s Ambassadors, as well, during my time at York. I did a lot on campus, so coming back is bringing all the memories back. It’s really great.
York has a really special place in my heart. I’ve grown up on this campus. I’ve developed my character here, and I’ve gotten to know myself more as a person. I’ve been able to really develop my path – my career path and my personal path. I’m also continuing my studies here at York. I’m doing my master’s at York. I will be convocating here again this year. York opened a lot of doors for me and allowed me to really explore who I wanted to become and what I wanted to be in the future, and really gave me a great foundation to build off.



smiling woman grad in cap and gown
Samantha Nakabiri (BA Hons. Human Rights & Equity Studies ’20)

It’s exciting to be back on campus, finally getting to see all my friends and hopefully some professors. York is a diverse school and it encourages different thinking. I really enjoyed that about it. You get see such different faces. I came from Uganda to attend York, and it’s been a journey. I’ll miss the friendly faces



smiling woman grad in cap and gown
Emily Cockell (MSW ’21)

Amazing. It feels so amazing to be back on campus. I absolutely love it here. I lived here as an undergrad, and it just feels like home for me. I’m working in the field I was learning as I was doing my master’s. I was able to directly put it into the field during the day and do my master’s at night. I just feel like I’m a better worker. I honestly do. I feel like my clients noticed when I was bringing new ideas. I feel like it was very applicable to my practice. It’s a lot of “Aha” moments, and that’s a really great feeling.



smiling male grad in cap and gown
Andre Windross (BA Sociology ’21)

It feels great to be back on the campus, especially after COVID, the whole pandemic. Online school wasn’t really my favourite thing, and being back among my fellow students – it feels good; it brings back old memories. The culture is great at York, so I’m glad to be here. The world has so much to learn and to grow regarding discrimination and anti-racism, so I believe that I want to take it to the next step forward. I learned so much.  ■

Read More stories of York’s 2022 Top 30 Alumni Under 30!


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