Elizabeth Weir, a respected parliamentarian and international development expert, received an honorary degree from St. Thomas University. She spoke to the 115 graduates in applied arts, arts, social work, and education.
Education makes change. Courage makes even more change.

This was Elizabeth Weir’s message for the graduating class of 2018 at STU’s Summer Convocation.

Weir, a respected parliamentarian and international development expert, received an honorary degree from St. Thomas University. She spoke to the 115 graduates in applied arts, arts, social work, and education.

She spoke about the courageous group of students from Parkland, Florida who, in response to a shooting in their school, are determined to change the laws that have made access to guns too easy.

“Still in their teens, these survivors of gun violence have launched one of the most impressive campaigns for change. They are courageous, creative and unyielding,” she said. 

Within days of the shooting that killed so many of their classmates, these students had organized national marches and protests. They debated against members of the National Rifle Association on network television.

“Their fight is focused and uncompromising. And they have already had successes with a number of states adopting restrictions on weapon sales,” she continued.

“I have to think that this success is in no small measure because in 2010, the State of Florida adopted a comprehensive public civics education program, including debates and mock trials. One civics teacher reported that when her school was closed because of a shooting threat some students insisted on staying to write letters to politicians asking for stricter gun control.”

Weir compared the importance of this public civics education program in Florida to STU’s new program in Law, Politics, and Society.

“STU’s new program gives students the skills to make change. The result will be a generation of engaged young citizens. And we need more of these students,” she said.

“This is what you as teachers and social workers can help to achieve in your careers. STU has given you the knowledge and tools to make change. And so, we will now look to you.”

“People Who are Going to Change this World”

Education graduate Shania Maguire, BA’17, BEd’18, from Saint John, NB, delivered the valedictory address. She reminisced on their time in the education program and expressed gratitude to the university.

“It has been a time where I have grown, as have all of you. I’ve watched you all grow into beautiful people who are going to change this world,” she said.

“It’s impossible to know what the future holds. Maybe you’ll become famous or maybe you’ll be a nationally recognized teacher, but either way, we did it. We are a grad class full of passion, charisma, and we will inspire future generations for years to come.”

University Medal Winner

The winner of the university medal was Education student Cassie MacPhail, BA’17, BEd’18, from Riverview, NB.

“I've always wanted to be a teacher because I had incredible teachers when I was in school that inspired me to follow my passion; given that my passions are literature and helping others, becoming a teacher felt very natural to me,” MacPhail said.

After graduating with her Bachelor of Arts from St. Thomas, she said doing her education degree at STU felt like a natural fit.

“The community I found in the Education program was even better than I could have imagined; the professors and my fellow students were all so supportive, I really don't think I could have gotten this far without them,” she said.

“The classes were interesting and very useful, and the two practicums I did gave me so much insight and experience. I feel fully confident, prepared, and excited going into my teaching career, and I know that if I ever need help, or just a listening ear, I can rely on the friends and professors I met in this program.”