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Convocation preview: 5 great grads, in numbers

The lowdown on Concordia’s three fall ceremonies. Plus: words of wisdom from the class of 2013
November 13, 2013
By Tom Peacock


For the 1,790 students who will receive certificates, diplomas and degrees from Concordia on November 21, graduation represents the culmination of a remarkable voyage of learning.

They began their academic careers with a goal in mind — and with this accomplishment, each one of them has proven that they can follow through.

This year, the university’s fall convocation is being held at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in Place des Arts. The three ceremonies roll out at 10 a.m. (Faculty of Arts and Science), 3 p.m. (Faculty of Fine Arts / Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science) and 7:30 p.m. (John Molson School of Business).

Two new honorands — writer and educator Clark Blaise, who founded the Creative Writing Program at Concordia, and electrical engineer and Harvard University professor Vahid Tarokh, the principal inventor of space-time codes — will address the 10 a.m. ceremony and 3 p.m. ceremony respectively. They will be joined onstage by three university valedictorians and two Governor General’s Academic Medal winners.

We asked those five standout students for the secrets to their success.

5 great Concordia grads, in numbers


Francis McManus
PhD, Chemistry
Faculty of Arts and Science

McManus’s PhD research at Concordia involved the synthesis of DNA molecules. He is currently completing a postdoctoral training program and hopes to build his career around the study of cellular responses to DNA damage.


3 keys to a good education

  • “Develop good time-management skills. Once you fall behind, it’s hard to catch up.”
  • “Be humble and accept constructive criticism. Other people’s points of view can help you see situations from another perspective, and help you solve problems.”
  • “Be passionate about your field of study. It’s a prelude to your career.”

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • “Hard work is the pillar of success.”
  • “Teach what you have learned to others. Dissemination of knowledge is a key factor in scientific progress.”

1 piece of advice for graduates

  • “Be willing to try new projects when they present themselves, and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. You may miss an opportunity to find out what you truly enjoy doing.”

Mark Clintberg
PhD, Art History
Faculty of Fine Arts

Clintberg is an art historian, artist and curator. His PhD research focused on contemporary artists who established restaurants and held banquets as a performative extension of the still-life genre. A nominee for the 2013 Sobey Art Award, Clintberg is also interested in ephemeral artworks, public art, and multi-sensory and affective approaches to art research.


3 keys to a good education

  • “Tenacity. Life intervenes and our studies often take longer, or ask much more of us, than we anticipate.”
  • “Collegiality. Learning works best in a vibrant community of supporters, tolerant antagonists and co-conspirators.”
  • “Compassion — for ourselves and for others.”

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • “The division between the educational sphere and the ‘real world’ is an artificial one that should be challenged rather than celebrated. If we do not recognize students as participants and citizens of the real world, then we overlook a force of tremendous political and intellectual clout.”
  • “I learned how to argue. If you strongly disagree with someone, then before you reply consider whether your rebuttal is simply re-entrenching a form of fundamentalism. If it is, rethink your reply and thank your opponent for teaching you something about yourself.”

1 piece of advice for graduates

  • “Do not be mastered by the educational process. Your education should serve you, and your ambitions, interests and passions, not the other way around.”

Esphire “Esther” Yakobova
BA, Engineering and Psychology
Governor General’s Academic Medal (Silver)

Yakobova is currently working towards her PhD in Clinical Psychology at McGill University, with the aim of becoming a researcher and a clinician. She explores the mechanisms through which psychological variables affect pain severity and physical disability in individuals with pain-related conditions.


3 keys to a good education

  • Passion for your field of study is one of the main ingredients for academic success. It pushes you forward.”
  • “The availability of resources on campus and support from the university.”
  • “Mentorship and guidance from professors can make a big difference. I am particularly grateful to my extraordinary research supervisors and professors, who shared their knowledge with me and inspired me to think in different and creative ways.”

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • “If you love what you do and are committed to your work, you will succeed.”
  • “While academic work comes first, it is important to find time for yourself. Whether it involves physical exercise, or spending time with friends, a healthy balance between work and leisure can protect you from burnout.”

1 piece of advice for graduates

  • “Don’t let doubts and fears stand in your way. Do what you love.”

Amir Sanati-Nezhad
PhD, Mechanical Engineering
Governor General’s Gold Medal Winner

Sanati-Nezhad completed his PhD in Concordia’s Optical-Bio Microsystem Laboratory, focusing on the design and implementation of devices for the study of cell biomechanics. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in McGill University’s Micro and Nano-Bioengineering lab, Sanati-Nezhad is working on developing micro-devices that examine the invasive properties of migratory cancer cells.


3 keys to a good education

  • “Strong faculty members.”
  • “Financial support, so students can focus on their research.”
  • “Up-to-date research goals.”

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Good communication with your colleagues will help you learn different aspects of your research more quickly.”
  • “Define your contribution through your expertise, but have enough courage to learn new things.”

1 piece of advice for graduates

  • “Try to develop application-based research, and then be consistent in that research.”

Gwyneth Edwards
PhD, Business Administation
John Molson School of Business

Edwards’ PhD research focused on the creation and transfer of strategic practices within multinational and multidivisional business firms, and how these practices influenced their direction. She is now an assistant professor in the Department of International Business at HEC Montréal.


3 keys to a good education

  • “Structural simplicity. When a program and its learning objectives are clear, it is easy to focus on the learning.”
  • “Support. Beyond the classroom, students need all kinds of support. They only succeed with the support of others.”
  • “Perseverance. Students must persevere to receive a good education, by remaining determined, focused and hard working.”

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • “Everyone comes to the classroom with a unique perspective and something to offer; it is important to not only listen, but to understand.”
  • “Know your priorities. When you know what is most important to you, it becomes easier to make the right decisions.”

1 piece of advice for graduates

  • Share. Share what you have learned with others. Education is a gift that is meant to be shared.”

Getting ready for convocation? Pick up your gown on November 18 in the Abe and Harriet Gold Atrium (Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex, 1515 Ste-Catherine St. W.). 

Find out more about Vahid Tarokh and Clark Blaise, Concordia’s two new honorary doctorate recipients. 

Clark Blaise is presenting new work at a Writers Read event on Tuesday, November 19. He will also teach a writing master class with his wife, author Bharati Mukherjee.

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