On being valedictorian
The dissertation is complete and you've successfully defended. Now it's time to look to the future and you're ready ... oh boy, are you ready! But something odd is happening because you're still thinking about the past, the people you've met, the impact they've made. You have new insight into who you are and why you made all of those choices over the past several years. You have stories to tell, a message to share.
You sound a bit like a valedictorian.
To many of us, giving the final address to a graduating class sounds a bit daunting, even for a driven scholar who recalls Titanic as the last film seen in a movie theatre.
But what a finale to your graduate student life!
An experience to remember
Last November, it was anthropology PhD Bernice Downey's turn to step to the podium. She had spent five years at McMaster, under the supervision of associate professor Dawn Martin-Hill. The culmination of thousands of hours of research, moments of self-doubt, the isolation of writing ... it all fell away as she took those few steps to the front of the stage.
For Downey, this was one of those times, a moment when she could share her love of academia with those whom she loved the most – her family. And it made her address to the graduating class that much more important.
As an Indigenous scholar, Downey saw the valedictory address as a way to share her reflections.
"To be valedictorian provided a good opportunity to give voice to the Indigenous graduate student experience," she says. "It also afforded me the chance to advocate for systemic change within the academy."
Although the nomination process takes some time and coordination, Downey encourages students to get involved, whether nominating a peer or accepting a nomination.
"The valedictorian experience is a great learning opportunity, so go for it!"
To watch Downey's Valedictory Address, go to 1:57:00.
Who is a valedictorian?
First, you are one of those individuals classified as "all that" when it comes to academic achievements. Second, you have leadership skills and you know how to use them – personally, professionally or in the community. Finally, you are a good communicator.
Also, all nominees must be full- or part-time graduate or undergraduate students who are in good standing.
Deadline to nominate one of your fellow graduating students is fast approaching – all nomination packages must be delivered to the School of Graduate Studies no later than 4 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2016.