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Stories | 11.05.19

Vancouver Graduate Encourages Peers to Use Their Privilege to 'Make Space' for Others

The 2019 Adler University class of Vancouver Campus students graduated on October 27, including the first cohort of the Master of Public Policy and Administration program and the School and Youth Concentration of the Counselling Psychology programs. The ceremony also recognized the first Honourary Doctorate in Vancouver, presented to Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.

During the commencement ceremony, Master of Counselling Psychology graduate Fatima Samreen spoke to her peers about learning from failure, the power of perseverance, and how they can use their privilege as a “tool for change” to help give others a voice. She shared her speech with us:

In the spirit of reconciliation, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the land we are gathered on today: it is the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqeam nations.

I would like to thank all the parents, caregivers, partners, friends, and Adler University faculty and staff who made it possible for all of us to be here. Thank you for being there for us during our once-a-month breakdowns, during our exams, during our celebrations, and finally, for being here with us today.

I would like to give a special shout out to my parents who did not know that I would be standing here today, giving this speech. I wanted to give them a surprise, just like that one time when they gave me a surprise and told me at the tender age of 7, that I would be a big sister.

Jokes aside, I think I can speak for all of us, when I say that there was something about Adler University that drew us to apply and pursue an education here. For some of us, it was that we were incredibly passionate about social justice; for some it was that we were interested in having an education that wasn’t confined to just theory; and for others, it was the experience of being rejected by the University of British Columbia five times. I’m kidding it was only once. The failures I experienced before coming here taught me this: failures are an inevitable part of life, and without them, we wouldn’t apply to and attend schools whose values matched our own.

Another thing I learned from my failures, was that it wasn’t failing at something that I was afraid of: I was afraid of the fact that people would know that I had failed. For many of us, this is true. Failure makes us feel like we’re alone. But something we have all come to experience in our time at Adler, is that failure is often the start of the experience of being surrounded by a community of people who are committed to raising us up, even when we thought we had hit rock bottom. That’s the benefit of going to a school full of people who are at the core, helpers and healers.

When I started school at Adler, it was hard to think about what the future held, and that’s the thing, it’s hard to connect the dots looking forward—but much easier to do so when you look back. What’s important though, is to have faith that the dots will connect in the future. Everything will pan out in ways that reflects our true selves and the work we want to do.

Having that belief will allow all of us to do the work necessary to make the world a better place in our unique and seemingly innocuous ways.

What kept me going, and what kept most of us going in our time at Adler, was that we loved what we did. Sometimes I would pause and think to myself “Will the copious amounts of caffeine and countless all-nighters be worth it?”—the answer to that question is, and will remain, yes. I love what I do, and my work has given me the strength to keep going, even in a world that sometimes seems bleak and devoid of hope.

But you see, the hope has to come from within. You have to believe that you are an instrument of change, but before any of that, you must love what you do.  For some of us, this is the end of the line of academics and schooling; we are now entering a workforce and are going to be dealing with “real world problems.” The one thing that will keep us all going is to do what we think is great work. Because if we believe that our work is the best we could do, then that’s where satisfaction lies, and trust me, it’s very important to be satisfied with something you do for a minimum of 40 hours a week.

To conclude my speech, I would like to take a moment and remind you, Class of 2019, and myself, of the privilege we have that allowed us to pursue higher education. Many people in this country, and around the world, are not given this opportunity. I want us to remember our privilege because it can be a tool for change. We can use our experiences to touch other’s lives, to make space for them, to help them feel heard.

We are a cohort of students graduating from a university that prides itself on social justice, social inclusion, and social advocacy. Our privilege is something that offers us a unique opportunity at making the world a better place and making an impact that is greater than any of us can ever imagine. If we use our status to identify with and influence not only each other, but also those members of society who are not here and who couldn’t ever make it here, we will be on a path to helping those who are powerless. At the end of the day, it won’t be just our families and friends celebrating us and our contributions, but also those thousands of people whose reality we helped shape for the better.

Thank you and congratulations.

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