Convocation Day 3: Health and community take centre stage

When guest speaker Derek McNally gazed across the podium and into the crowd at Niagara College’s Spring Convocation ceremony, he didn’t only see hundreds of new graduates donned in their caps and gowns.

“Look at all those potential recruits!” he said.

On the afternoon of June 22, the executive vice-president of clinical services, and chief nursing executive at Niagara Health addressed new graduates from NC’s School of Allied Health Studies, and School of Nursing and Personal Support Worker Studies. He noted the differences in the industry since he entered the industry 40 years ago and offered advice to those entering the industry today.

“While some people pine for ‘the good old days,’ we need to appreciate the scientific and technological advances that allow clinicians to deliver sophisticated care in a contemporary fast-paced environment,” he said. “At the same time, we must preserve the time-honoured skills of listening, therapeutic conversation, and personal touch in caring for patients and families.”

McNally spoke about the increasing importance of patient-centred care and how, as health care providers become increasingly specialized and, consequently, increasingly reliant on technology, it can become more challenging to retain their humanity, sense of compassion, and follow their instincts.

“Patients do not put their trust in machines or devices. They put their trust in you,” he said.

McNally shared life lessons with the new graduates: to maintain their integrity, be a leader, be practical, keep a good sense of humour, treat co-workers well, to remember their mission – to take care of people – and to be present.

“The most powerful aspects of being a leader is seeing the world through the eyes of those we serve every day,” he said. “That lens is a critical filter for decision-making and thinking about the examples we set as leaders for care and service to one another.”

McNally received an Honorary Diploma in Health Studies.

Sean Conway (left) receives an Honorary Bachelor of Applied Studies from NC president Dan Patterson on June 22.

At the morning ceremony, guest speaker Sean Conway addressed new graduates from the College’s School of Community Services. The visiting professor at Ryerson University and public policy advisor for Gowling WLG Canada LLP, noted two areas of opportunity that will be key for the Class of 2017: demographics and the technological revolution.

“The baby boomers are finally about to exit stage left, and there will be a gaping hole of both numbers and talents that will be your job to fill – and it is a big hole,” he said, noting the  annual growth of the Canadian population was reported at just 1% in the 2016 Canadian Census  – the lowest birth rate in the history of Canada – and the growth of the working age group, between 16 and 64, was almost zero.

“So if the population is aging, and the group that comes in to refresh the workforce is growing at the lowest, slowest rate in the history of the country, that – my friends – is opportunity.”

Conway said Niagara College graduates are well prepared to enter a workforce that is being revolutionized by technology – noting, for example, that the College was cited by local media as having the best 3D printer in Canada, and the educational infrastructure at NC has been key to companies such as General Electric, deciding to locate in and invest in the community.

He also spoke of how demographics create opportunities in healthcare, housing, recreation, education; and how a rapidly growing middle class also creates opportunities in the food and beverage sector, such as the Niagara wine industry.

Conway highlighted the importance of lifelong learning, and how education goes well beyond personal fulfillment; there is a direct link between education and economic opportunity. For the educational-economic partnership to take root and succeed and create a level of wealth expected in areas such as the Golden Horseshoe, Conway said that community, business and labour leaders must be prepared to get involved, get engaged, invest, and make meaningful ongoing contributions in education.

“I say to the community, what goes on here doesn’t happen by accident,” he said.

Conway received an Honorary Bachelor of Applied Studies during the ceremony.

More than 1,200 students graduated June 22, day three of the College’s Spring Convocation.


2017 Spring Convocation Ceremonies

This year’s convocation ceremonies have a special significance as the College celebrates its 50th anniversary. More than 4,600 students will graduate from the College, during four days of ceremonies from June 20 to June 23 held at the Welland Campus.

For the final ceremony, to be held at 10 a.m. June 23, the College welcomes award-winning journalist Murray Brewster, senior parliamentary defence and foreign policy writer at CBC News as the guest speaker and recipient of a Distinguished Alumni Award. Brewster, who is originally from Welland, graduated from NC in 1985.

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Niagara College’s convocation ceremonies are streamed live at:

Currently celebrating its 50th year as a College of Applied Arts and Technology, NC is a leader in applied education and a key contributor to the economies of Niagara and Ontario. A regional college with global reach, NC offers more than 100 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs.



Note: Convocation takes place at the Welland Campus and free parking is available Lots A and C.



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