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President Barnard’s address to the Class of 2016

'Now go on and change the world'

May 31, 2016 — 

The following is the address University of Manitoba President and Vice-Chancellor David Barnard delivered to graduands at the 137th Spring Convocation.


I know everyone here today is eager to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduands, and I have no desire to delay the unfolding of those special moments.

But I do want to ensure that all of you – most especially the family and friends of the graduands – leave with a clearer sense of what this institution where your loved ones have been spending the last three, four, or more years is all about: who we are today, in the Spring of 2016, what we do, and what we care about.

We educate people, of course, and we grant them degrees when they have completed their programs, as we’ve been doing for 139 years – in fact, next year we celebrate our 140th. But today we are a much different institution than we were at our inception, or than we were when many of you studied here yourselves.

First of all, you would have heard this morning that we began our ceremony with an Indigenous honour song and an acknowledgement that we are located on the original lands of First Nations peoples.

We do this because, as an institution expected to lead by example in this province, we feel we have a responsibility to be true to social, economic, historical and demographic realities. We take the “of” in “University of Manitoba” very seriously. We are a part of this province, we belong to this province. And so we wish to reflect it genuinely and meaningfully. A huge part of that responsibility is taking the necessary steps to create effective pathways to Indigenous achievement.

For these reasons, this past December we signed an Indigenous Education Blueprint, an agreement between the K to 12 and post-secondary systems in this province to work together to foster Indigenous achievement through lifelong education, and thereby to create a better future for us all.

You may be interested to know that the University of Manitoba has graduated more Indigenous lawyers, social workers and engineers than any other post-secondary institution in Canada.

We also enthusiastically take our place as drivers of discovery, insight and innovation. The University of Manitoba enables this province to more competitively position itself nationally and globally. I hope the graduating students here today have gone home after classroom and lab experiences to share with you the wonderful research, scholarly work and creative activities taking place on our campuses every day. Maybe they participated directly themselves. Last year, just as one of hundreds of examples, our researchers identified a causal factor in ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Their work could add 20 years to ALS patients’ lives.

We’re also committed to forging connections with our community, in myriad ways, including the construction of facilities we proudly share with all our neighbours. A year ago we opened the 100,000-square foot Active Living Centre, a recreation and fitness facility that attracts thousands of people of all ages and from all parts of the city and province interested in embracing a healthier lifestyle.

Of course, one of our greatest priorities is inspiring minds through innovative and quality teaching. Only last month we announced a $10 million gift to our Front and Centre philanthropic campaign from the Richardson Foundation for the upgrade of classrooms and labs, so students can learn in the best possible facilities. We plan to match that remarkably generous gift by raising another $10 million for the same purpose. And just two weeks ago Ernst Rady was here to announce the largest-ever single philanthropic gift to the University of Manitoba: $30 million, from the Rady Family Foundation. Those funds will support learning and research in the newly named Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and Max Rady College of Medicine. In total, Front and Centre will raise $500 million for this community.

In fact, all our efforts combined – in teaching and learning, research and engagement – spur more than $1.8 billion in economic activity annually for our province.

We try to hold ourselves to a high standard, especially in creating an outstanding learning and work environment. We’re always looking for ways to be more sustainable. We want our campus to be a living lab, where new ideas are developed and tested every day. In March we launched a design competition for bee houses. We’ve won an award for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And we’re fine-tuning plans to develop a vibrant mixed-use, green neighborhood on the Southwood Lands that will include a rapid transit terminus near Investors Group Field. This is an amazing place to learn and work and play. And you are always invited to join us, in any capacity.

That’s a brief glimpse into who we are today. Much different than we were 139 years ago, and much different than we will be in another 140 years. But always we will strive to serve the people of Manitoba and others around the world who place their confidence in our ability to help them achieve their dreams.

To all the students graduating here today: You are joining an inspiring and illustrious group of men and women. Across the globe, in 138 countries, there are 133,000 University of Manitoba alumni blazing a trail that holds special meaning for them.

I hope the University of Manitoba helped transform you. Through your questions, your expectations, interests and enthusiasms, you, each and every one of you, have certainly changed us, this institution, for the better.

Now go on and change the world.

Thank you.


To the graduating class…

May 31

Graduating: Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources, and the Faculty of Science

Barnard: “We need you to design our world, built forms and otherwise, and to make sure it works. That it fits a human scale that is being redefined by the microsecond. And to grow and supply our food in safe, sustainable and equitable ways.”

Graduating: Faculty of Arts

Barnard: “We need you to help us understand what it means to be human in this wildly changing world. Don’t let anyone convince you that’s not an immensely valuable skill, whether in politics, arts and culture, business, or everyday life. Your rigorous research, thoughtful analysis, and daring creative works will enrich our lives.”

June 1

Graduating: Faculty of Education, Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, and the Desautels Faculty of Music

Barnard: “We need you to teach our children in an age when there is little agreement on how best to do it. We need you to help keep our bodies sound in an age when their use is required less and less. And we need you to lift our hearts with the miracle of music in an age noisy with buzzes, clicks, and whooshes.”

Graduating: Faculty of Agricultural and Food Studies, Faculty of Architecture, and Faculty of Engineering

Barnard: “We need you to design our world, built forms and otherwise, and to make sure it works. That it fits a human scale that is being redefined by the microsecond. And to grow and supply our food in safe, sustainable and equitable ways.”

June 2

Graduating: School of Art, I.H. Asper School of Business, Faculty of Social Work, Extended Education: Diploma Programs

Barnard: “We need you to discover new ways to manage the development, manufacture and trade of goods and services so that our economy remains robust. We need you to build systems and programs that prevent people and populations from being bumped off their paths. And we need you to use the tools of fine art to jolt our perspectives so that we might see the world anew.”

Graduating: Faculty of Law, Rady Faculty Health Sciences: Colleges of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy Rehabilitation Sciences, and School of Dental Hygiene

Barnard: “As we forge deeper into the 21st century at breakneck speed, we need you to heal us when our health fails. We need your counsel, care and compassion. And we need you to untangle our inevitable disputes, and to guide us through the ever-expanding unfamiliar.”


For more on 2016 Spring  Convocation, head to our In Focus section.

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