While University Canada West’s 15th Convocation looked a little bit different this year, it still had a celebratory feeling for the largest graduating class in the university’s history.

Students, staff, faculty and dignitaries took part in the online ceremony Sept. 25 celebrating 389 graduates.

“Congratulations, first and foremost to the 2020 graduates on achieving your goal of obtaining a degree from University Canada West,” said UCW President Brock Dykeman. “A lot of studying, reading, writing and likely many sleepless nights went into this great achievement.

“We also want to congratulate your families and friends who have provided support for you during your studies,” he said. “Without their support you might not be graduating today. This is also their day to celebrate your success.”

The graduates and their families, friends and loved ones from around the world tuned into the online broadcast as grads saw their dedication and perseverance pay off as they were awarded their Master of Business Administration, Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Arts in Business Communication and Associate of Arts degrees.

Chancellor Mitchell Gropper addressed the massive changes brought about this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“And yet you made it,” he said. “Throughout all this change you were able to complete your courses. Obtain your degrees and graduate from University Canada West…

“Congratulations to all of you. You will remember this time forever as a turning point in your lives. Be safe. Be proud of your achievements… and get to work so that decades from now you can take a look around you and say you left things a little bit better than you found them.”

This year’s ceremony also included a message from B.C. Premier John Horgan.

“As you leave behind your school years and look forward to a limitless possibility, a future that is yours for the taking, I want to say on behalf of the entire community, we celebrate your success. We’re doing it separately but that does not diminish our pride in your accomplishment,” he said.

The valedictorian of 2020 was MBA grad Mitra Matloubi.

“I am so delighted that we are celebrating this enormous achievement together,” she said.

“I want to thank ourselves first for not giving up on our studies despite all the difficulties in the past few years. I want to thank our families, who did not hesitate for a moment to support us. I want to thank UCW faculties, who have been always open to stay connected with the alumni. I want to thank UCW staff, who make things work but are always hidden.”

This year’s Medals for Academic Excellence went to Richard Barnes, who completed his MBA program online with a 3.98 Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA), and Rajvir Singh Dhaliwal, who finished his Associate of Arts degree program with a 4.02 CGPA.

The Distinguished Teaching Award went to Dr. Tatiana Rivero Sanz, who teaches writing at UCW. She was nominated for her innovative and experimental approaches to learning and her high level of commitment to the well-being of her students, closely tracking their progress and giving them opportunities to get to know each other through informal coffee chats.

Shahrzad Rafati, founder and CEO of BroadbandTV, received an Honorary Doctorate during this year’s ceremony.

“Thank you so much, I feel so incredibly blessed,” she said. “It is such a privilege to be among so many bright faces and brighter futures.”

Born and raised in Tehran, Rafati excelled in her studies and at the age of 17 came to Vancouver to pursue her academic dreams. When she arrived, Shahrzad spoke limited English and had never owned a computer. But she had a strong background in math and enrolled in the University of British Columbia to study computer science.

Initially, she struggled with programming but became one of the top students in her class and went on to become not only a successful entrepreneur but a leader in the digital video and technology industry.

In 2005, at the outset of the digital video revolution, Shahrzad founded BroadBandTV (BBTV). The company created software that allows copyright holders to profit from advertisements placed on pirated videos posted on the internet, rather than trying to get them removed.

BBTV has experienced phenomenal growth in the last 15 years. It is the second-largest video property in the world and generates tens of billions of video impressions a month. However, Shahrzad measures success not only on financial performance but on people, social and environmental key performance indicators. BBTV has a 0% pay gap between male and female employees, and the gender-balanced workforce has more than 40% female employees and managers.

Shahrzad told graduates: “For each of you, there is no better time than now to make a difference. There’s no better time than now to help make the world a better place. Consider this blank slate your canvas to paint the world how you envision it.

“Make an impact in your community. Change the narrative for minorities. Transform how we think about environmental sustainability. Use this opportunity to build. To create. To disrupt.”

Published on Sept. 25, 2020.