Convocation is a special time at McGill – but Fall 2021 Convocation might be a little more special than usual. For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, graduating students will actually walk across stage to receive their diplomas and certificates. This, McGill’s first in-person Convocation ceremonies since 2019, will take place at Place des Arts on November 25-26.
But while each graduating student’s destination is the same – PdA’s Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier – their journeys have all been very different.
In honour of this special day, the McGill Reporter spoke to some graduating students, asking them to look back at their time at McGill, the road they took to get here, and what their plans are for the future.
In this instalment, we speak with Mithura Sanmugalingam, who earned her second McGill degree – a Masters in Educational Leadership from the Faculty of Education.
What is your hometown?
I’ve lived in Montreal, Quebec all my life.
Tell us about your path to McGill?
My path to McGill definitely took a lot of hard work, determination and coffee. I completed my DEC in Health Science at Vanier College before I decided to pursue my Bachelors in Secondary Education Science and Technology at McGill. I continued my journey at McGill into my Masters in Educational Leadership.
What were your impressions when walking onto campus for the first time?
There was a sense of community on campus which was especially prevalent during the beginning of the year when orientation was taking place. I love the different spaces available on campus including the green space in the lower fields and Hogwarts-like buildings, it contributed to a magical campus experience.
What are some of the highlights of your time as a McGill student?
Some of my favourite moments are the friendships and networks I have created through my involvement on campus. I especially valued my time within Campus Life and Engagement (CL&E). I am also grateful for some of my achievements, including winning the SSHRC competition [Canada Graduate Scholarship] during my Masters and other scholarships throughout my years at McGill. They have helped me financially and allowed me to focus on my academics and other aspects of life.
Three favourite places on McGill/Mac campus?
- Education Building
- Redpath Café
- Schulich Library
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during your time here and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges was integrating into the University and learning to balance academics and other aspects of my life that were important to me, such jobs and social life. Being within the McGill environment motivates you to work harder as it can be competitive, but at the same time it is important to remind yourself to take it one step at a time and to prioritize things like health and social life. Try not to stress, do your best, this should be enough!
How did the pandemic impact your studies?
The pandemic has been a difficult period for me as it was for many. Apart from the lack of social connection, the pandemic had delayed things for my research. In particular, the ethics approval was a challenge to obtain on time which meant a delay in all aspects of my research. The motivation to write during this period was tough, but it is definitely something to look back and be proud of now that my thesis is complete.
Tell me about your Faculty and your classmates. How important have they been to your overall McGill experience?
The Faculty played an important role by having well-rounded opportunities to help students build themselves professionally and personally. This includes internships, volunteer and job opportunities and access to advising whether it be academic or not. I’ve built some great friendships and support systems through meeting my classmates. It is especially important to have several opportunities for students to meet their cohort and create these relationships to support one another throughout their university experience.
What advice do you have for new students to McGill?
My best advice would be to find your rhythm; everyone is different, do what works for you. Get involved on campus as much as you can and at the same time don’t feel the need to do everything. McGill has a lot to offer, but this can be overwhelming at the same time. I would recommend no more than one or two extracurricular activities to get you started in your first year. Getting involved in clubs/student groups are the best way to meet new people, socialize and network!
What are your plans for Convocation? Will you take part in the ceremony? If so, how exciting is it to be able to take that iconic walk across the stage to accept your diploma?
Yes, I plan to attend my Convocation. It will be my second time crossing the stage; however, I am just as excited as I was during my first time. Feels nice to be done!
What’s next for you, both short and long term?
Up next for me is to focus on some personal goals and projects. Currently working within Teaching and Learning Services, I plan to be sticking around McGill and seeing where my career takes me.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the world today and what needs to be done to overcome them? How confident are you that we can address these challenges and make a difference?
Among the several challenges in our world today, we need to work towards an equitable and quality education for all. Although it is one of the many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), education is a key pillar in working towards ending the cycle of poverty. We need to target specific populations in severe poverty to support them towards having the basic needs – food, water, and shelter – to focus on school and improve the quality of education by ensuring there are qualified teachers, facilities and technology that are accessible to all.
Who have been your biggest role models or mentors in your life?
I have a few role models that have impacted my life in some way, an important one being my parents. As immigrant parents who fled their country due to war, they faced several hardships in life. Through it all, they taught me perseverance and resilience which have helped me overcome my obstacles, learn, and grow from them. I am grateful for the opportunities this has brought me, including the privilege of higher education.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
To my fellow graduate students, this was a year unlike no other, but we made it through! Congrats to all!