Grads urged to explore the power of their ‘millennial mindset’

Explore the power of your connectedness to give future generations the knowledge and power to develop solutions to the world’s problems, Jean Augustine, social justice advocate, educator and former politician, told graduands of the Faculty of Education during Friday’s Spring Convocation ceremonies.

Jean AugustineLeft: Jean Augustine

Augustine was at convocation ceremonies to receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. The first black woman elected to the House of Commons and the first to sit in a federal cabinet, she praised grads for their technical acumen. “You are the millennials,” she said. “You are the wired generation born at the dawn of the W-W-W. Technology has never been foreign to you, in fact, it is part of your DNA.

“The Internet, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, text messaging and many ‘others’ I’ve never even heard of – all the tools – are not about talking to someone, but speaking with each other in an almost non-stop, running dialogue,” she said. “You are the generation that has us guessing.”

Graduation is not about “finishing” studies, she said. Instead it is the beginning of a journey to find one’s place in the world. “Just saying that sounds challenging because for millennials, your world is global, your circle of friends infinite, your reaction time based on thumb text speed.”

She told grads they were off to a great start into a world where ethno-cultural diversity values inclusion, and social cohension enriches communities and strengthens Canadian identity. “Your classrooms will be global,” she said, and like every graduating class, expectations are high that they will make a meaningful contribution to society.

From left, York University Chancellor Roy McMurtry, Jean Augustine, and President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh ShoukriRight: From left, York University Chancellor Roy McMurtry, Jean Augustine, and President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri

That contribution, said Augustine, would come in the classroom, where as a wired generation who values connections, family, change and conversations, grads would make their classrooms and educational settings a place of social cohesion. “To me, the millennial mindset is powerful,” she said. “It’s finely wired, interconnected, diversity embracing and comes with a conscience.

“Yours is a generation that values the genuine, the real deal, the sincere and the original,” said Augustine. “Your understanding of the power of bundling technologies in turn creates a mindset for partnering and collaboration. There is no ‘I’ in your teams.”

She said that their’s was a generation armed with the power to become a movement. “What a great time to be and educator. You know that parents choose to send their children to our publicly funded schools,” she said. “You know you have a responsibility as an edcuator to ensure that no child is marginalized, excluded or disrespected wherever children are situated.

“Give to your students the sense of hope and belief that would enable them to reach their full potential,” she said. Her parting words: “You are the generation of teachers who will figure out how new technology will empower your students, work at removing barriers and ensure student success.”

Grenada-born Augustine was Liberal MP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore from 1993 to 2006, and served in cabinet in portfolios invovling multiculturalism and the status of women.

York’s 2011 Spring Convocation ceremonies are streamed live and then archived online. To view Augustine’s convocation address, visit the Convocation website.