Augustana grads challenged to think independently
Dr. Nettie Wiebe is commemorated with an honourary degree during the University of Alberta-Augustana convocation ceremonies in Camrose on Sunday. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian
University of Alberta-Augustana graduates were encouraged to think independently and to use the lessons they learned through their education as they shape the future of our society.
U of A president Dr. David Turpin urged the 162 graduates at the convocation ceremony in Camrose on Sunday afternoon to use evidence to support their thoughts and not to be afraid to admit when they're wrong when their opinions are not supported.
For Turpin a university education is about creating metaphorical bridges in the pursuit of knowledge and generation of new ideas in an effort to build community.
"How can you best serve your community? Paradoxically by driving and perfecting your ability to think for yourself and protecting the rights of other groups of individuals," he said in his address to the graduates. "How can you best serve society? By driving and protecting our economy so we can continue to give people like you the same sense of support you received to think independent without fear of external controls overwhelming. To do otherwise would put a constraint on imagination to look forward ... you as students and graduates will learn that conformity rather than creativity and innovation will control learning and industry.
"We need you to be independent thinkers, we need you to question conventional wisdom, challenge the status quo and propose alternative solutions … Alberta, Canada, and the world need your leadership, we need your generation to take us out of our complacency and sense of what is right. We need a new objectivity to be formed."
This message was exemplified in this year's honourary degree recipient, Dr. Nettie Wiebe, who received an honourary doctorate in Law, the highest honour the university can hand out.
Wiebe is an organic farmer and professor emerita of Ethics at St. Andrew's College, University of Saskatchewan. Throughout her life she has challenged common thought to better the world as an activist and politics. She is the first woman to lead the National Farmers Union of Canada, and has taken part in major international gatherings like the World Food Summit and the United Nations Committee on Food Security. She continues to be a voice for farmers and agricultural centres.
"She reaches across political and cultural divides to remind us of the powerful impacts of economic forces on our rural communities," said Augustana dean Allen Berger.
In Wiebe's address she talked about how the advancements and increasing reliance on technology and social media platforms have in fact disconnected us from the our natural environment and the systems on which we live — "The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat."
This has helped lead to increasing strains and stresses on our environment and underlines the importance of finding a solution that is not of the status quo.
"Finding a complex balance between ourselves and our environment — social, political, and ecological — is one of the biggest and most important challenges we are all confronted with in our lifetime," she said.