More than 600 Nanaimo university students graduate

NANAIMO – Optimism was running high amongst some Vancouver Island University students Tuesday.

Christina Lade

Christina Lade

Optimism was running high amongst some Vancouver Island University students earlier this week.

More than 600 students received degrees at three separate convocation ceremonies Monday and Tuesday and an additional 189 graduates of health and human services programs received diplomas and certificates as well.

Corinne Shaw, 22, who received her bachelor of interior design Tuesday, said she doesn’t have a job lined up yet, but she plans to move to Vancouver to get her foot in the door.

“The economic climate is not that great, for design especially, but it will happen eventually,” she said. “You just have to work at it, get your name out there.”

With a graphic design degree, Lauren Douglas, 30, was feeling positive about her future job prospects, especially since she’s already been doing freelance work.

“I’m not too worried,” she said. “It’s a good industry to get into, it’s pretty steady. I think a lot of [graphic design students] are freelancing.”

Tony Knorr, 27, is already out in his chosen field.

He took the day off from his jobs working with at-risk youth in Vancouver to receive his criminology degree at the Port Theatre.

“I was lucky enough to be one of the people who got work right out of school,” said Knorr. “You have to kind of know people.”

For Knorr, the graduation ceremony was the culmination of about eight years of attending VIU on and off.

“This was not an easy route for me,” he said. “I’m the first person in my family to graduate.”

Cheymus McNulty, 23, plans to travel the world with his double major in global studies and geography and teach English in overseas countries.

“It helps having a degree to get a teaching job,” he said.

McNulty, who finished his degree in three years instead of four by taking on extra courses every semester, is not worried about finding work because he is also a certified horticulture technician, which has been providing him with steady work while he figures out how to use his degree.

With a teaching degree and degree in anthropology and First Nations Studies, Peggy Tatoosh, 58, plans to teach and do economic development or treaty negotiation work on the side.

She commuted to Nanaimo from Port Alberni to complete her schooling, power napping in her car when she was tired, and she’s proud of herself for finishing despite the commute and breaking her arm near the end.

“I now have the tools to help other people,” said Tatoosh, who is still considering her prospects, including a job offer in Bamfield.

The university also presented three honorary degrees at the ceremonies.

Astronaut Julie Payette, who completed two Space Shuttle missions in 1999 and 2009 and contributed to the Canadian Space Agency in a variety of other ways, received an honorary doctor of technology.

Roberta Louise Jamieson, a First Nations rights activist, received an honorary doctor of laws and world-renowned pharmacologist Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey received an honorary doctor of science.

Owen Stechishin, an aspiring brain surgeon, received the alumni horizon award and Don Hubbard, a longtime Nanaimo resident and community volunteer, received the distinguished alumni award.

For more information about convocation and a link to a webcast of the ceremonies, please go to