Meet the class of 2024: Faculty of Arts and Science

Date:

| 2024-06-18 06:00:00

We’re so proud of the nearly 2,400 people who earned the privilege of walking across the stage at the university’s Spring Convocation ceremonies on June 20, 21 and 22 at the Winspear Centre, including more than 650 from the Faculty of Arts and Science.

Here, future psychologists, doctors, community workers, scientists, lawyers, dentists and researchers look back on their time at MacEwan and forward to their bright futures.

Haley smiles while standing against a neutral background

HALEY BOYD
Bachelor of Science, Biological Sciences

Ever since elementary school, science has been my favourite subject. I love understanding why things happen and how things work, especially within the human body. From the beginning of my time at MacEwan, I knew I would major in molecular/cellular biology and minor in psychology.

During my second year, I was sitting in on a BIOL 208 lecture when a speaker came into our classroom to promote the peer support service on campus. I was intrigued and reached out right after the lecture to volunteer. The experience was life-changing and brought many opportunities to learn about mental health, develop supportive listening skills, empower people and meet other volunteers. I will forever cherish the Peer Support Volunteer of the Year Award I received during my last year at MacEwan. 

I plan to continue pursuing my love for science and devote my studies to health care. I want to use my knowledge to improve the lives of others in my community, with a dream of pursuing a career in dentistry.

Ava stands outside, smiling, against a green backdrop

AVA BUCHSDRUECKER
Bachelor of Science, Biological Sciences
Governor General’s Silver Medal (Degree)

When I was little, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and then an autoimmune disease and was really sick. This experience of looking after her and my siblings has shaped me into the person I am today. I strive for compassion, knowledge and excellence in everything I do. I know that’s who I want to be and what I need to be able to help others to the best of my ability. My dream is to become a doctor. That’s why I chose to study biological sciences.

I loved my experiences at MacEwan, no matter how big or small, because they made me grow. I participated in career panels, travelled to foreign countries, worked in labs, completed reviews, collaborated on a paper with a professor, attended a fieldwork course and so much more. What makes MacEwan special, and what I will always remember, is the support and kind words I received from professors. Whether it was asking if I understood a lesson when we passed in the halls or their excitement about sharing their work, experiences and material during office hours, I received so much encouragement and many opportunities from them. I will never forget how much everyone here has taught me. 

Next for me is medical school! I look forward to applying everything I’ve learned at MacEwan to make a difference in other people’s lives. I am forever grateful for the connections I’ve made with peers and colleagues, and I know, without a doubt, they will make me a better future physician.

Myles stands smiling with mountains and a sunset in the background

MYLES LUCAS DYKES
Bachelor of Arts, Political Science

I’ve been fascinated by human history and society for most of my life, always asking questions about how we got where we are. When you grow up queer and feel like the world wasn’t made for you, it’s easy to wonder who exactly it was made for and what could have been had things been different. 

I had been planning to take a second gap year after high school when life threw me a curveball. With MacEwan’s more flexible enrolment schedule and extra encouragement from my father, I headed to university. My father passed during my first year at MacEwan, but I know he would be proud to see me today as the first university graduate in the Dykes family.

Being elected president of the students’ association for two terms was a defining experience for me. We spent 2021 largely focused on engaging with and keeping students safe during the pandemic. The priorities for my second term were affordability and mental health, where student leaders across Canada mobilized for change and secured millions in financial aid. 

To quote Selena Meyer from Veep, “Politics is about people.” She may have overshadowed sociology and anthropology, but she was right about how politics should involve gathering to make decisions about the collective and put a critical lens on the power, influence and privilege in our decisions. Supporting justice and opportunities for folks who face marginalization has long been important to me, but I’m now empowered to further make change because of the knowledge I gained at MacEwan.

Today, I’m working with the Fort Edmonton Foundation where we help people find themselves in Edmonton’s history. I work on strategy, partnerships and making connections with government and community. At some point, I expect my love of learning to take me back to higher education.

Yaseen smiles while sitting in front of a colourful background

YASEEN EL-HAKIM
Bachelor of Arts, Sociology/Psychology

Sociology and psychology are part of everything people do. That flexibility makes me like the theory, history and research involved in both.

Publishing my first academic article is probably the moment that really defines my experience at MacEwan. It was my second year, and I was in a sociology class that focused on families. One of our assignments involved writing a paper based on reviewing a work of literature. The papers with the top grades would be considered for publication. On the first day of the course, I decided to make that paper the best I’d ever written. That experience taught me how to put my mind to something and make it happen. 

Although many people have inspired me, my father has always been part of my success. He pushed my brother and me to do well in whatever we showed an interest in or dedication to, especially when it came to academic pursuits. He’s the best man I’ll know until I die.

I’m going to take a break and work for a while before entering a graduate program, but I would eventually like to study demography or population studies, maybe even somewhere abroad. I’m a wandering soul in both spirit and mind, so perhaps my future education can put that to good use.

Kahlo stands in front of a wall of photos

KAHLO VINCENT GOODHOPE
Bachelor of Science, Physical Sciences

I’ve always been a math and science-oriented student. There’s nothing like the feeling of successfully solving problems and understanding the formulas and concepts behind them. I had an excellent high school physics teacher whose passion and excitement for physics lit a fire in my belly that kept burning through my time at MacEwan. 

I value understanding the planet we will live on; the more earth sciences courses I took, the more I wanted to learn about it. At the beginning of every term, I looked through each course’s syllabus to see what kind of project or paper I would be tasked with. They always seemed intimidating at first, and I wondered where I would start, but when those projects and papers were finally done, I felt such a sense of satisfaction. The relief of finally submitting it made all the stress and worry worthwhile. And I’ve grown and learned a lot during my time at MacEwan, especially when it comes to giving presentations. I find myself having fun presenting and explaining things to people now. 

I’m planning to spend my ninth summer outdoors working outdoors at a golf course as part of the ground staff. After that, I’ll search for a job in my field – hopefully with an environmental sciences company.

Daniel Hebert bumps a volleyball during a Griffins game

DANIEL DAVID HEBERT
Bachelor of Science, Biological Sciences

Being a Grffin as part of the MacEwan Athletics family and surrounding myself with like-minded people has been awesome. I spent three years as a starter on the men’s volleyball team and was captain this past year. But we had a tough season with a lot of injuries and sickness. It wasn’t what I had hoped, and at times, it felt like our season was in shambles, but during our last weekend of play, we got a win. It was the last time I’d wear my Griffins jersey, and finishing our senior night that way felt good. 

Volunteering as a coach both here in Edmonton and back in my hometown of St. Paul has helped me grow my love of the game. Now that my own volleyball career is ending, I hope to continue coaching. It feels good to share my knowledge and be there for others because so many people have supported me during my time at MacEwan.

During my first year, I lived with my sister, who shared her post-secondary experiences in athletics and academics with me. That was huge. So was being able to rely on those around me, like my coaches, family and teammates who made sure I was taking care of my studies and athletics. 

I spent my time at MacEwan studying biological sciences – I’m particularly interested in cellular biology. Next year, I’ll attend the University of Alberta’s Doctor of Medicine program and hope to become a physician eventually.

Eva Hollas stands at the Famous Five tribute in Ottawa

EVA HOLLAS
Bachelor of Arts, Political Science Honours
President’s Medal for Academic Excellence and Student Leadership – Degree

“My journey to MacEwan started like most – I was 17 and had recently graduated from high school – but the academic success I’ve had as a student at MacEwan University was never a given. My grades from high school were so poor that I couldn’t apply directly to a program, so I enrolled in Open Studies, hoping to figure out what I wanted to study. I took an English and a Business Management course, but neither sparked my interest.

One afternoon in 2015, I sat in the bleachers in Building 8, watching Question Period in the House of Commons on the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC) while perusing MacEwan’s course catalogue. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that studying politics was an option. At the time, the 2015 refugee crisis had taken the world by storm, and I knew that studying political science would provide me with an opportunity to comprehend the state of the world better. 

That epiphany prompted me to enrol in POLS 101 with Dr. Chaldeans Mensah, whose passion and excitement moved me to apply to the Bachelor of Arts program.

The following year, I suddenly and very tragically lost my father. I tried my best to maintain my grades, but when they started to suffer, I decided to take some time away from my studies. When I returned to MacEwan in 2021, my friends had all graduated and I felt like I was starting over again from square one. I was nervous and lacked confidence in my academic abilities, but I knew I owed it to myself to make the most of the situation. I’m so incredibly grateful that I did. 

As I pushed through the fear of returning to school, I started to network, applied for all kinds of opportunities on campus – from Model United Nations to volunteering with the Office of Human Rights – and made sure to be an active participant in class by engaging with my fellow students and professors. When I reached out to Dr. Andrea Wagner with my story, she supported and encouraged me in a way that made the impossible feel not only possible but plausible. She suggested that I work hard to maintain a 4.0 GPA for one academic calendar year and then enrol in the Political Science Honours program, and that’s what I did.

Under Dr. Wagner’s supervision, I wrote an A+ honours thesis on the effect of female representation in right-wing populist party leadership on the electorate in Italy and France that we recently transformed into a co-authored working paper. 

I will be attending the University of Victoria in the fall, and my goal is to become a professor so I can follow in the footsteps of my mentors and inspire future generations to fall in love with learning and achieve academic success.”

Sydney skates across the ice in her Griffins hockey uniform

SYDNEY DAWN HUGHSON
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology

It wasn’t until senior night at the Downtown Community Arena that it really sunk in how much the past five years have meant to me and how far I’ve come. My entire family was there, and the stands were full of people honouring our team. It was pretty special.

Hockey has taught me how much power the mind has over our performance and daily living. For many years, I struggled with my mind holding me back. The more I was able to learn and explore how our brains impact our behaviour, the more I improved my own quality of life. My former coach, Lindsay McAlpine, was always making sure I didn’t give up on myself. She pushed me to excel on and off the ice, and when she became the associate director of athletics, she supported me as a mentor and even encouraged me to speak as part of a mental health panel on campus. Representing MacEwan Athletics in that way allowed me to share my experience and my passion for mental health. 

My time at MacEwan has been transformative. I’ve learned so much about community, perseverance and the importance of embracing opportunities. So next year, I’ll spend a few months travelling to Africa and volunteering before applying to grad school. My dream is to become a registered psychologist and work within a school district helping children and youth.

Nevin Janzen with his family

NEVIN JANZEN
Bachelor of Arts, Political Science
Dean’s Medal for Academic Excellence

As a born-and-raised Albertan, I used to work as an architectural sheet metal worker in commercial construction. I liked working with my hands, but when the pandemic hit, the work dried up. So I decided now was the time to attend university, which was my plan for years. I am intensely interested in exploring what it means to be human (which is why I chose a double minor in philosophy and classics) and how beliefs about who we are inform how we live in community with others (which is why I majored in political science).

I’m proud of my 4.0 GPA and that my grades in 26 of 40 courses were not only A’s but A+’s. I’m even more satisfied that I did so despite some extreme challenges.

My son Theodore was born prematurely in July 2021 in the middle of the pandemic. He spent a month in the NICU battling lung problems, and at the same time, an immune system attack took away my ability to walk. I spent my days at the hospital caring for my son and my wife Victoria (who underwent a C-section) while still maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Last October, we celebrated the birth of my daughter Eliza, but in December, our son stopped breathing and had to have emergency open-heart surgery. Thankfully, he is healthy now, but his long hospital stay almost prevented me from graduating this spring. 

During those difficult times, I knew I had to keep going. I loved learning and was rewarded for it. With much encouragement and support from faculty, my studies were my reprieve and anchor.

I currently teach philosophy and religion studies at the high school level, which I absolutely love. Sorting through life’s big questions and issues alongside growing minds is a wonderful calling while I determine what’s next for me.

A black and white photo of Nhi Phan smiling

NHI PHAN
Bachelor of Science, Computer Science

Time is a slippery thing, and four years at MacEwan passed by in a blink. As Anthony Doerr said: “The most important light is the light you cannot see.” Becoming a computer scientist is one of the lights I did not see. I was headed to nursing school in 2020 when a fateful conversation swayed me away from the scrubs and put me in front of a computer. 

My first two years of university were spent in quarantine. It was a lonely time that taught me that we, as humans, thrive on connecting. When school opened again, I ran for SAMU students’ council. It was a good decision, as I formed life-long friendships and helped found the Chess Fellowship of MacEwan. 

I will never forget the night of Winter Fest two years ago. I was lazily wandering around the halls with my half-finished bag of chips when I saw my friends heading out to the field in front of the residence building. We gathered around the bonfire and enjoyed hotdogs, hot chocolate and talked about life. The sounds of fire popping over the wood, the number of stars in the expansive winter night, and the laughter of us almost overwhelmed me. I was genuinely content. 

I am lucky to have many figures that influence who I am today and make me a better version of myself, but my mother was my greatest source of motivation during my years studying in Canada as an international student. She is my best friend, my greatest comfort and my biggest supporter. She taught me working hard for this degree meant that I was confident enough to follow what I wanted and skilled enough to get it.

Lorena Rafal poses, smiling, against a green background

LORENA MALLARI LAVETORIA RAFAL
Bachelor of Arts, Sociology

When I came to Canada, I believed that studying at university would help me better integrate into Canadian society. I was right, but it wasn’t without challenges. I think I’m most proud of the fact that I was able to obtain my degree while also working full time. It took some sacrifices (and a whole lot of time), but I finally did it!

I started by testing the waters as an Open Studies student and was actually all set to study psychology when I realized that sociology was a better fit for me. While I generally look at the big picture and society as a whole, I also strive to understand what each part is composed of and how it functions. One of my more memorable classes (and one of my last at MacEwan) was a social inequities course with Dr. Stephen Speake. He tells it like it is and often says, “Sorry, there is no good news in this class.” He encouraged us to have a realistic view of the world and taught us to recognize our ability to affect change. 

For more than seven years, my whole life revolved around school and work, but during my final year, I studied in South Korea for a month over the summer. I learned about and experienced the country’s history and colourful culture. There were a lot of firsts for me during this trip, but I felt very supported throughout the whole process, especially by MacEwan’s International Office. I’ve already visited South Korea again for a short holiday last winter and I have plans to return, this time for an autumn trip. 

Right now, I’m focusing on my work as an office assistant in a legal department downtown, saving up for my next trip and making the most of post-university life – relaxing, enjoying my hobbies and making plans to travel around Alberta. This fall, I’ll begin preparations to apply for grad school in two years, where I hope to study counselling or gender studies.

Marium Sheikh

MARIUM SHEIKH
Bachelor of Arts, Anthropology

I took my first anthropology class as an elective and enjoyed the critical discussions that were taking place so much that I ended up declaring anthropology as my major. I’m intrigued by how historical events have greatly affected so many societies and cultures around the world and how that has, in turn, altered the way we live life now. I am most intrigued by medical and cultural anthropology.

I have always had a vested interest in sustainability and a drive to explore more sustainable solutions to everyday problems, but it wasn’t until one of Dr. Cynthia Zutter’s senior classes that I learned how to connect sustainability with the anthropological side to truly understand the complexities of climate change. It changed the way I approached my work and extracurricular activities.

One of my defining moments at MacEwan was visiting the United Nations with the Model United Nations Club. Fellow MUN Club members and I spent months preparing our speeches, researching our topics and developing our public speaking skills. All of that hard work paid off. Now, I understand what my interests are and what I want to do after finishing my bachelor’s degree. 

I am currently working in consulting, relaxing and travelling before I lock in and begin studying for my next degree.

Zach smiles,  holding a laptop, at a ModelUN simulation

ZACHARY SWENSRUDE
Bachelor of Science, Computer Science

I’m passionate about computer science because of the creativity it offers. If you can think of something digital, you can create it. I have learned a broad array of skills at MacEwan – from robotics (my childhood self would have thought the robot I built in one of my classes was the coolest thing ever) to 3D modelling, and even basic graphic design. I specialize in websites and games, and the freedom and creativity that come with that work is something you do not get in many other fields.

For our Winter 2024 capstone project, my group created a web application with Dr. Mohammed Elmorsy for Model United Nations conferences. Most school projects are submitted for marks and then lost in a folder somewhere, but working with MacEwan’s Model UN Club meant our project was actually used at the Alberta Intercollegiate Model United Nations (AIMUN) conference. It was super cool to see something we made being used by real people at a real event.

In a second capstone project, my group worked with Dr. Sam Qorbani to create a 2D rogue-like role-playing game (RPG) called Lich’s Lair. He pushed us to do more and helped us understand not only the development side of the field but also the professional and research side. We tested the game out with students in his Introduction to Game Development class, and when the semester ended, Dr. Qorbani even invited us to his research group to work on a paper with him. I appreciate that he pushes everyone he works with to go above and beyond.

What’s next for me? Professional web development. Maybe I will have worked on a part of the next website that you use.

Mila gets ready to take a shot at a Griffins hockey game

MILA ROO VERBIKCY
Bachelor of Science, Psychology

There isn’t a perfect way to describe how special it is to play your final hockey game with your teammates, who are also your best friends. I always wanted to play hockey at the collegiate level, so that moment was bittersweet, but also one of the most fun, thrilling and passionately competitive games I’ve ever played. 

I’m passionate about mental health, especially in sport, so a Bachelor of Science in Psychology made perfect sense. It also connects to my bigger goal – studying physiotherapy. Injuries aren’t just physical – they can also do a lot of damage mentally as well. 

The hockey team’s athletic trainer, Paul Trevor, made a huge difference during my time at MacEwan. He’s always been there for me and every other player or student who sees him – from helping prop up my dislocated shoulder while we waited for an ambulance to daily chats and preparations for physiotherapy school. His compassionate personality and the quality of his work inspire me to want not just to become a physiotherapist but to be a great one.

Next up for me is applying to physiotherapy school, working to afford it and travelling as much as possible.

Shannon Walters smiles against a dark background

SHANNON ALEXANDRA WALTERS
Bachelor of Arts, Honours Psychology

My three years as a MacEwan Anti-Violence Education Network (MAVEN) volunteer and peer educator with the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention, Education and Response (OSVPER) were a big part of my university experience and helped shape who I am today. 

Alongside some of the most compassionate, empathetic and inspiring people I have ever met, I explored many systemic issues and types of violence through a variety of lenses and perspectives that folks were generous enough to share with me. They expanded how I think about things, and I will always carry that with me. 

Standing here at the finish line, I feel successful in a way that goes far beyond the degree I hold. This chapter of my life is more than the gruelling hours perfecting a paper, flashcards (so many flashcards), or finding a parking spot just in time to make it to class. It was also about a global pandemic hitting in my first year, moving into a house only to be robbed a day later and crying because I got a needle (and not because it hurt – because it meant protection and freedom). It was getting engaged (and then leaving two weeks later because it was abusive). It was video calls with my parents on the other side of the world and losing my Granda – one of my favourite human beings. It was getting assaulted and having to take a break that extended my program. And it was meeting the most incredible partner, and eating so much ice cream and chicken nuggets together. 

These things are inextricably intertwined, and this degree is more than a piece of paper to me. It’s a gift to my younger self. I think that ambitious girl from Newfoundland walking through the “big” clocktower doors for the first time would be pretty pleased. Those doors feel just a little bit smaller now.

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