Bell Scholar and Commerce and economics student Isaac Gazendam of Kingston, ON has been selected by his peers as the 2017 valedictorian and is a winner of the Governor General's Silver Medal. He will address Convocation on behalf of his classmates on May 15, 2017.
1- What did it mean to you to be chosen valedictorian by the Class of 2017?
I was thrilled and so grateful. I was running against these incredible people from my class who all would have done an amazing job, so to be chosen felt fantastic. It provided a special opportunity to both reflect upon and to appreciate our time at Mount Allison.
2- What was the biggest challenge for you in writing the valedictory address?
Keeping it short! Well, sort of. It’s hard to condense four very full years into one short speech. It was difficult to try to write a speech that wasn’t so general that it made everyone fall asleep, but also not so personal that it isolated the audience. Every graduate had a unique path through Mount Allison and I wanted to do my best to reflect the diversity of opinions and experiences of the graduates.
3- How did you come to choose Mount Allison?
My family visited the East Coast on vacation multiple times when I was younger. Then, when Grade 11 rolled around and I started to seriously look at universities, I remembered my summers down east. So I visited a few schools in the Maritimes and when I set foot on Mount A’s campus, I just knew it was the right place. The setting was gorgeous and the people were so kind and welcoming, it just felt like home. That’s also why I wanted to become a campus ambassador: to be that person for prospective students and their families and to share my love of Mount A.
4- What will you miss most about Mount Allison?
There are countless specific things I’ll miss about this place, of course, first and foremost, my friends. But also come professors, Bridge Street Café oat cakes, Sackville Film Society, the Waterfowl Park, and the list goes on. Performing in the Garnet & Gold musical every year provided camaraderie, a creative outlet, and hefty doses of exhilaration and exhaustion to my time here. I will miss that dearly as well. But overall, what I’ll miss the most is the sense of community. We are so close knit here; you know you’re never alone.
Getting to know inspiring professors as mentors and friends has been life-changing. I’ve had evaluation meetings in Bridge Street Café, end of semester celebrations at professors’ homes, and have just met to chat. It adds such a personal, human element to my education, which is something that is so unique about Mount Allison. Touring large universities and cities for potential programs next year made me realize just how special Mount Allison and Sackville are and how lucky I have been to study here.
5- Why did you choose Commerce and economics?
I started at Mount A with a Bachelor of Arts, undeclared major, and it took me a long time and a lot of changes to actually come up with my degree. I was changing things up until the end of my third year, to be honest. I chose Commerce initially because I love so many different subjects that I didn’t know what to focus on. I figured that doing Commerce with possibly a couple of minors would allow me to work in the business side of something I’m passionate about.
Some economics courses are a requirement for the Commerce degree, and after completing these introductory courses I was inspired to learn more because I loved the content. Economics has taught me so much about why the world works the way it does, and the influences driving current affairs.
What’s interesting is that my minor in environmental studies has been deeply meaningful for me and has profoundly influenced both my life and my career trajectory. Because of the avenues of inquiry my minor has opened up, I know that I am going to work, in some shape or form, towards promoting and facilitating sustainable development. It’s become a real passion.