University of Toronto Mississauga's Marwa Waleed inside Convocation Plaza (photo by John Guatto, U of T News)

Celebrating Fall Convocation

Fall Convocation is a time for more than 4,000 soon-to-be graduates to look to the future and reflect on the past – as family, friends and members of the University of Toronto community join in celebrating their extraordinary accomplishments.

“My experience at U of T was eye-opening and really helped me realize what I wanted to do with my life,” said Sadeq Khan, graduating from University of Toronto Mississauga with a degree in history and women and gender studies.

Khan had long been involved in community development programs, including Postive Productionz, a non-profit he founded to help direct youth into outlets such as basketball and boxing to teach discipline. But he says his professors Karen Ruffle and Shafique Virani, in turn, helped him hone his own interests and focus.

“I realized my passion was to help women in my community and raise more awareness about sexual abuse and rape in the South Asian community,” he said, adding that the support of Virani “encouraged me when I was not doing well and really changed my perspective to think critically without being biased.”

Ceremonies for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science and from the University of Toronto Scarborough began on Monday, November 11, with ceremonies for the School of Graduate Studies, UTM and OISE continuing through Friday, November 15.

This season’s honorary graduates are Jack Petch, widely recognized as one of the leading lawyers in Canada, as well as Jane McAuliffe, a leading scholar of the Qur’an and Muslim-Christian relations who served as president of Bryn Mawr College from 2008 – 2013 and as dean of Arts and Sciences at Georgetown University from 1999 – 2008.

Also speaking at the graduation ceremonies are a diverse range of community leaders ranging from contemporary artist Charles Pachter to the Honourable Jean Augustine, the first African-Canadian woman elected to the House of Commons and sponsor of the bill that officially recognized Black History Month.

New this year at fall ceremonies is “Convocation Plaza” on the front campus lawn: a covered – and heated – marquee for students, family and friends of the graduands.

“The Plaza really adds to the sense of occasion and celebration. It’s meant to enhance students’ experience of their convocation and serve as a focal point where students and their guests can connect and gather,” said Bryn MacPherson, executive director of the Office of the President.

During ceremonies, family and friends can gather inside the Plaza to watch a live stream of the proceedings broadcast from inside Convocation Hall. Following the ceremonies, new graduates can join their guests at the Plaza to take photos against special U of T Convocation-themed backdrops with the “Memory Maker,” celebrate with refreshments, and learn more about the benefits of having now joined a more than 500,000-strong alumni community. 

While Convocation Plaza has appeared at spring Convocation for the past several years, this year sees the tent piloted for the fall season so that students like Khan can enjoy the celebration with other graduates and their families once they have their degrees in hand.

“It is quite an emotional experience for me as my mother is a cancer survivor and for a long period in my university career I was afraid she would not make it for my graduation,” said Khan. “This Convocation will really make my mother’s dream come true and I am just embracing the moment as I am completing not only my dream but my family’s as well.”

Brianna Goldberg is a writer with University Relations at the University of Toronto.

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