You did it!
Your celebration will take place here on June 16 at 10 a.m. ET.
This updated version captures the amazing speeches of our two Social Sciences valedictorians.
Share your well-wishes
Convocation is a time of celebration for your families, friends, instructors and supporters. We encourage all graduands, loved ones and members of the McMaster community to share a congratulatory video or message to the Class of 2021.
A message from your dean
Honorary Degree Recipients
Baltej Singh Dillon
Inspector Baltej Singh Dhillon is an accomplished major crime investigator, police interrogator, polygraph examiner and intelligence officer who oversaw developing the Provincial Intelligence Centre of British Columbia which was the first of its kind in Canada. He also led BC’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime Intelligence Group as the non-commissioned officer-in-charge, and retired from the RCMP in 2019 after serving as the Officer in Charge of Operational Readiness and Response in BC. He has made significant contributions to a number of high-profile cases including the Air India bombing and Pickton serial killer investigations.
After serving as a volunteer interpreter for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a teen, Insp. Dhillon applied to the RCMP in 1988, thus sparking a national controversy over his commitment to wear the turban of his Sikh faith when in uniform. Tens of thousands of Canadians signed a petition against allowing the turban as part of the Mountie uniform and opponents even pursued the case through litigation. In 1990, the Government of Canada announced changes to the RCMP dress code, removing the key obstacle to Inspector Dhillon’s service. He subsequently graduated to active duty in 1991 and began wearing his turban while serving and protecting his fellow Canadians. The vocal and legal challenges to his right to wear his turban continued, however, until the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the government’s decision in 1996.
Inspector Dhillon has volunteered at youth camps as a counsellor and lecturer for more than 20 years, volunteered with Big Brothers in Quesnel, BC, and was a vice president and secretary at the Cariboo Sikh Gurdwara. He was also co–chair of the South Asian Advisory Committee and Consortiums in the Lower Mainland for United Way and past chair of the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Alumni Association. He also volunteered as a yoga teacher for the Welcome Home Society which supports people struggling with drug addiction.
Inspector Dhillon is a busy motivational speaker who is a member of the guild of speakers with Passages Canada. He is a Director with WorkSafeBC, Dan’s Legacy, National RCMP Veterans Association and Chair of the Canada India Education Society, and he was personally invited by the State Government of Punjab to represent the RCMP at the inauguration of several Sikh religious sites. He received both the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, as well as the Distinguished Alumni Award and an honorary degree from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Inspector Dhillon also earned a Commanding Officer’s Commendation for Excellence in Policing for his work on the Pickton investigation.
Baltej Singh Dhillon is an influential volunteer, one of Canada’s most distinguished police officers and a champion for equity and inclusion. It is a privilege to recognize his accomplishments by conferring upon him the degree Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Ima Johnson Tehahkhwa
The late Ima Tekáhkhwa Johnson was Mohawk Nation, Turtle clan from Six Nations of the Grand River. She was head Faithkeeper at the Lower Cayuga Longhouse and a Mohawk language teacher and curriculum developer. She was also a founding teacher with Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo, the First Language Academy at Six Nations and a founder and language facilitator for Six Nations Polytechnic where she was a long-serving member of the board of directors and a cultural advisor. At McMaster, she was elder-in-residence from 2009 until her death in 2019.
Fluent in Mohawk and Cayuga as well as knowledgeable in the other three Iroquoian languages that were spoken at Six Nations of the Grand River, Ms. Johnson was the last native-born speaker of the Six Nations dialect of Mohawk. Her commitment to recording, documenting and sharing the language was a keystone contribution to preserving an endangered part of Mohawk and, indeed, Canadian culture.
Ms. Johnson played an instrumental role in the Grand River Mohawk at McMaster Project which earned the 2019 President’s Award for Community-Engaged Scholarship. Through the project, she created nearly 200 hours of spoken Mohawk recordings, launched the “Mohawk Word of the Day” social media campaign and worked with a student partner to develop a toolkit for other universities in Ontario to teach the Mohawk language. Ms. Johnson also used the project as the platform for developing a Mohawk dictionary and the Mohawk Children’s Picture Dictionary which won the Clark Advocacy Prize in 2017.
Ms. Johnson facilitated and participated in annual National Indigenous Language Day celebrations at both Six Nations Polytechnic and McMaster and was an innovative teacher who employed a variety of pedagogical approaches including total physical response and teaching language and culture within the informal context of cooking workshops. She was a frequent guest lecturer at conferences and at universities including Wilfrid Laurier, Bishops and Notre Dame. She was named a Six Nations of the Grand River Community Treasure and a Six Nations Indigenous Knowledge Guardian.
Rarely in McMaster’s history has the University conferred an honorary degree posthumously. Today, we make a well-deserved exception to our usual practice by conferring upon Ima Tekáhkhwa Johnson the degree Doctor of Laws, honoris causa for her invaluable and irreplaceable work in sustaining the Haudenosaunee culture, language and ceremonial practices.
Robert (Bob) Watts is an expert in Indigenous policy, negotiations, training and conflict resolution and the former interim executive director of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which made recommendations regarding the Residential School era and its legacy. Mr. Watts led the process of creating the policies and processes that shaped the commission and has dedicated himself to navigating a path of healing for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Previously, Mr. Watts served as CEO of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) – the organization that advocates for more than 900,000 Indigenous people across Canada – and as chief of staff to AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine. As CEO, Mr. Watts was a member of the team that negotiated the history-making Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history. Mr. Watts would later return to the AFN to serve as chief of staff to National Chief Perry Bellegarde.
As a lead negotiator and facilitator, Mr. Watts has brokered numerous resource co-management agreements including agreements related to the disputes near the Shawanaga First Nation in 2013, in Clayoquot Sound in 1993 and in the Shoal Lake Watershed in 1990.
Earlier in his career, Mr. Watts was executive director of the Union of Ontario Indians (now known as the Anishinabek Nation) and an assistant deputy minister with the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat, as it was known at the time. He was also lead strategist for several constitutional agreements including the Charlottetown and Kelowna Accords.
Mr. Watts is a graduate of the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He is also a fellow at Harvard Law School where he pursued research and lectured on the role that culture plays in conflict. He has held teaching positions at Brock University and Ryerson University while continuing to lecture in the Canada School of Public Service Leadership Series. He is an adjunct professor and fellow of the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University and a member of the boards of directors for the Gord Downie-Chanie Wenjack Fund and for Reconciliation Canada. In 2013, he received the Indspire Award for public service.
It is a privilege to recognize a distinguished career of advocacy, agreement-building, teaching, public service and community leadership by conferring upon Bob Watts the degree Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
President’s Award of Excellence in Student Leadership
The President’s Award of Excellence was established in 1993 to recognize students who have demonstrated a commitment to the University’s belief in excellence in its student body and nominations are open to all full-time undergraduate students who are in their graduating year. The Award recognizes those students who have demonstrated outstanding student leadership qualities and whose achievements have benefitted other students and contributed to the betterment of the University community. Learn more about the award.
Faculty of Social Sciences
Cassidy Bereskin (’21) is a recent graduate of the Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science program at McMaster University. Since 2015, Cassidy has been leading Model City Hall, a Canadian non-profit organization that organizes the first conference in Canada to simulate municipal politics for youth at no cost. During her undergrad, Cassidy co-founded Model City Hall’s Hamilton division and launched partnerships with the Department of Political Science, The Socrates Project, and Office of Community Engagement to bring her non-profit into the university’s orbit. She has also worked with professors to help build McMaster’s Digital Democracy Research Hub, where she became interested in topics about the relationship between social media and democracy. In Fall 2021, Cassidy is excited to pursue her MSc and doctoral studies on a full-ride scholarship at the Oxford Internet Institute of the University of Oxford.
Faculty of Social Sciences
Jet’aime Fray-Samuel is an avid contributor to her community. From her time in grade school, where she completed over 400 volunteer hours and participated in several community efforts, to her time here at McMaster. As an undergraduate, she joined several campus clubs, taking on positions such as year representative, treasurer, vice president and president; in addition to volunteering for a non-profit organization that helps new coming youth with support academically and socially. Furthermore, throughout her time as a work/study student in the Accounts Receivables office, she incorporated a student-first approach in order to best serve her peers.
Determined to make the accessibility and understanding of finances easier for students, Jet’aime played a pivotal role in developing projects that enhanced the students’ experience. These projects included: leading focus groups with students, providing a student focused understanding of various matter to several campus committees in which she partook, as well as overlooking training for new members.
This is not the end of her contribution to the community, as she hopes to continue her passion of helping others and leading the community in which she belongs following convocation.
|The Rev. Allison M. Barrett Scholarship||Youmna Taychouri|
|The CFUW-Hamilton Memorial Prize in Political Science||Katharine Reichert|
|The Frank E. Jones Prize||Nissa Doal|
|The Dr. Jean Jones Memorial Scholarship*||Bridget Marsdin|
|The Karl Kinanen Alumni Prize in Gerontology||Fiona Teague|
|The Feliks Litkowski Prize in Political Science||Valerie Nwaokoro|
|The William J. McCallion Scholarships||Hilary Prince|
|The John R. McCarthy Scholarship||Rebecca Dewilde|
|The McMaster University Retirees Association Prize||Julia McDermid Boue|
|The Audrey Evelyn Mepham Award||Julia McDermid Boue|
|The Audrey Evelyn Mepham Award||Emily Smith|
|The Harry L. Penny Prize||Bridget Marsdin|
|The Pioneer Energy LP Gerontology Prizes||Fiona Teague|
|The Political Science Prize||Henrique Fernandes|
|The Political Science Prize||Hilary Prince|
|The Richard Slobodin Prize||Charlotte Buttle|
|The Sociology Prize||Tammy Brown|
|The Sociology Prize||Derrick Miller|
|The University Scholarships||Tammy Brown|
|The Harry Waisglass Book Prize||Samridhi Anand|
|The Alvina Marie Werner Scholarship||Alyssa Tisson|
|The J. E. L. Graham Medal||Hilary Prince|
|The Hurd Medal||Oloruntimilehin Fadipe|
|The R. C. McIvor Medal||Jade Mardlin|
Faculty of Social Sciences: Cassidy Bereskin
Cassidy Bereskin (’21) is a recent graduate of the Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science program at McMaster University. She had a fantastic undergrad at Mac and would love to stay connected with the Class of 2021! Since 2015, Cassidy has been leading Model City Hall, a Canadian non-profit that is known for organizing the first conference in Canada to simulate municipal politics for youth at no cost. During her time at McMaster, she co-founded Model City Hall’s Hamilton division and launched a partnership with the Department of Political Science to bring her non-profit into the university’s orbit. During her undergrad at Mac, Cassidy has deeply enjoyed meeting and cultivating deep relationships with students across the Faculty. In addition, she has served in public service roles such as a Student Senator on McMaster’s Senate. Cassidy has also worked with professors to help build McMaster’s Digital Democracy Research Hub, where she became interested in topics about the relationship between social media and democracy. In Fall 2021, Cassidy is excited to pursue her MSc and doctoral studies on a full-ride scholarship at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.
Faculty of Social Sciences: Elias Srouji
Elias Srouji is a graduate of the Honours Social Psychology program. As an immigrant from Jordan, he strived for success from zero words of English to assisting his group capstone study to be published in the first edition of McMaster University Journal of Social Psychology. Elias continuous advocacy for Inclusion and Diversity is widely recognized on campus. As a student employee, he held various roles in the McMasters Athletics and Recreation Department such as the Marauder Nation Street Team Coordinator, Marketing and Sponsorship Assistant, and Event Staff. Being the first openly gay rugby player on many levels, his ultimate goal is to ensure that everyone feels belonged whether on the field, classroom, or workplace. The resiliency that Elias has demonstrated through his years at McMaster has captivated the idea of how hard work and determination will lead to the achievement of one’s goals in making the world brighter.
Check out what’s going on!
A new functionality syncs McMaster students’ personal class timetable to their Outlook calendar. After you have enrolled in your classes,...
Our new ambassador program is designed to help guide you as prospective and incoming students at McMaster. Over the year,...
Introducing: Student Services Express Student Services Express is now open in Gilmour Hall 108 for the limited in-person services of...
This bulletin is for international students. If you’re a domestic student, access your bulletin here. Introducing: Student Services Express. Student Services...
This bulletin is for domestic students. If you’re an international student, access your bulletin here. Introducing: Student Services Express. Student...