President congratulates Spring Convocation’s Class of 2024


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The following is a message from York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton to the Class of 2024:

To the exceptional Class of 2024, my warmest congratulations! It is a privilege and a pleasure to join you in commemorating this major milestone in your life.

With all that is going on in the world, this group of graduating students has demonstrated not only perseverance but resilience.

We are living at a time of great change and transformation – brought on by a convergence of factors which include the pandemic, the rise of artificial intelligence and automation, the organization of work, the labour market and sociodemographic changes.

All of these forces are working together, contributing in some cases to geopolitical conflicts and war, raising important ethical questions in society and a whole host of other wicked problems such as the sustainability of the planet we call home.

Higher education, as a result, is being profoundly impacted by the urgent need for talent, research and innovation, collaboration and co-operation.

The knowledge and skills you have acquired are just the beginning. The true measure of your education will be evident in how you use it to bridge divides, cultivate empathy and understanding, and contribute to a better world.

Now, more than ever, we need changemakers who recognize the humanity in others, skilled at finding creative compromises and deeply committed to the well-being of all people and the planet.

Changemakers are all around us – for example, in the honorary degree recipients and the award winners we were pleased to recognize.

Each of our Faculties are also exemplary models. For example, in the Faculty of Science, Professor Sapna Sharma, who is celebrated as one of Canada’s top 10 water scientists, is leading the UNITAR Global Water Academy. The aim of the academy is to tackle global water sustainability – a pressing issue that affects the population worldwide.

In the Faculty of Education, the Jean Augustine Chair held by Carl James continues to attract donations, due in no small part to individuals like doctors Augustine and James, who have dedicated their lives to access, equity, and inclusivity through community engagement and collaborative action, supporting initiatives that ensure the success of current and future Black scholars and students.

With interdisciplinary collaboration as our forte, many of our Faculties are also contributing to the $318-million Connected Minds research initiative, the largest York-led research project. Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society, in partnership with Queen’s University and others, aims to understand and mitigate the risks of emerging technologies, particularly for vulnerable populations.

And earlier this month, York was named in the world’s top 35 among 2,000+ participating universities for its impact on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by the prestigious Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. These examples are powerful reminders of the impact that we can make as individuals as well as collectively.

You join a network of more than 375,000 York alumni, making a meaningful difference across diverse spheres of life. I know that some of you are continuing on at York in graduate programs, but whatever your future plans, I hope you stay in touch with us, and with the friends and acquaintances you have made along the way.

Let us take a moment to acknowledge the many individuals who have supported you throughout your higher education journey. This includes your professors, teaching assistants, administrative staff, classmates, family, partners, and friends who have encouraged and assisted you in reaching this significant milestone.

Thank you for choosing York. Congratulations! We look forward to seeing what you will do next!

Bonne chance! Miigwetch!