We welcomed 2,800 graduates into our community of Dawson College Alumni on June 18 at Convocation 2019 at Place des Arts. This 50th anniversary year class is one of the largest ever.
“We are so very proud of each of our graduates,” said Richard Filion, Director General of Dawson College. “The number of Dawson graduates is now more than 88,000! Whatever your path may be, continuing your education at university or joining the workforce, we know the world can have confidence in you, when we say: ‘Here is a Dawson graduate.’ ”
The last person to graduate was Faye Lepage, who began her service to Dawson College in 1969 when she set up the Records Office. Faye received the first-ever honourary diploma from Dawson.
Over the years, Faye has served various roles in the Registrar’s Office. Today, Faye individually verifies all candidates for graduation to ensure they have met the criteria for graduation, helps with registration, and is involved in managing the comprehensive examinations.
In the 1970s, a manager wrote that Faye’s work had made such an impression on the College that senior administration spoke of staff working like Faye Lepage “to denote employees who are competent, hard-working and loyal.”
“We have checked the records,” said Dean of Academic Systems Carmela Gumelli before presenting Faye’s diploma, “and verified that after five decades of devoted service, you are eligible to receive a special DEC from Dawson College.”
Earlier in the evening, the Director General spoke about the new challenges this class of 2019 will face:
“You will be entering the world stage at a very critical moment. On the one hand, the urgency that arises from climate change calls for a radical shift in the way we have inhabited this planet. The belief that we can enjoy unlimited growth without significant impact on our earthly environment is no longer a valid one. We have to, both locally and globally, undertake a revision of our life habits. This is a powerful call to reinvent ourselves and to start reinstating our relation to Mother Earth. The philosopher Nietzsche was already speaking about rediscovering ‘the meaning of the Earth’ in the 19th century. Every single action counts. As goes the motto of the 1970s: ‘Think globally, act locally.’
“On the other hand, the increasing rapidity of technological development – the Digital Revolution; Artificial Intelligence; Big Data computing and the rise in power of deep learning machines and robotics – has already started to profoundly reshape our ways of living, of driving, of communicating, of relating to each other. And it certainly has the potential to redefine our relation to ourselves as human beings. The task that lies ahead is nothing less than daunting: how will we manage and tame this technological upheaval in order to safeguard our humanity – i.e. the human in us — in front of the unprecedented empowerment of both information technologies and biotechnologies?
“We certainly hope that the skills, the values and the knowledge you have acquired during your years at Dawson will have prepared you to take on any of these challenges that you may face.”
The keynote speaker at Convocation was Sydney Swaine-Simon, a founding member of District 3, one of Quebec’s largest innovation centres, and a member of the Dawson AI (Artifical Intelligence) Advisory Board. Sydney delivered a call to graduates to be lifelong learners in light of the rapid changes:
“Thirteen years ago, when I was finishing cegep, I had no idea what I wanted to do. At the time, I remember feeling hopeless that I didn’t have any good employment prospects and there was a good chance that I would be stuck in a dead end job. In fact, it took another seven years before my life started to go in a positive direction.
“The only thing I was sure of at the time was that I was passionate about having a positive impact on society. What I eventually discovered is that technology is a great way to make that impact. When I got started, I did not really know what Artificial Intelligence or Neuro Technology was and the concepts seemed like science fiction. I was afraid that I was not smart enough to get involved. However, I was relieved to learn that anybody can participate in these fields as long as you have the time and determination.
…“Many believe that AI will only replace the work that no one wants to do, leaving jobs that are primarily creative, analytical and focused on soft skills such as empathy.
“Will AI lead to a great intellectual and creative boom or will most of us be unemployed relying on a universal basic income to survive? It’s impossible to say. Whatever future you want to believe in, the most important thing for you to do now is to prepare yourself to become someone who can adapt to it.
… “Many believe that the best way to prepare for the future is to learn how to become life-long learners. For example, I’ve known many people who, once they got a full time job, they stopped developing new skills and put themselves at risk of not being employable in the future.
“Your journey in learning will most likely never end and it will be important for you to develop new skills and knowledge regularly.
… “So Graduating Class of Dawson, do not fear the future, but plan for it. Get excited by the opportunities technology can provide and use it as a way to expand the impact you can have on this planet.”
Academic Dean Diane Gauvin expressed her hope in the class of 2019 in her closing remarks: “You have been well-prepared at Dawson to face the challenges life will present in the next few years, and throughout your life.
“You have been encouraged to be good learners, to explore new ideas, to adapt to new situations and to be creative. Equally important, you have been encouraged to be good people — people who are aware of real world problems, who are equipped to act ethically towards others and responsibly towards the environment.”