This post was written by Sheena Vert.
Good afternoon everyone, I am honored to have been asked to come up here and say a few words to you today. I feel a bit bittersweet as I realize that this is my first summer in the last three and half years that I will not be attending the summer intensive, which means my time here at Ryerson is done. I look back and remember at the start of my journey thinking that perhaps I wasn’t cut out for university and that I would not be successful, I wondered if the program would be the right fit for me. A Sign Language Interpreter that was also teaching in the interpreter-training program had told me about the program and I thought that it seemed to be something that would complement my training. Interpreting is a small field and often is very solitary and I wondered if I would have much to talk about in the program. However I realized once I started that I would have an opportunity to learn so many new things and at the same time be able to offer some insights into the wonderful community that I work in, the Deaf community.
I had started in the winter term so I had to take electives before I could take the first core course and I was feeling unsure of my decision. One of my first courses at Ryerson was “Mad People’s History” and after I started this course I was hooked and knew I had found the perfect fit for me. David was superb and the course was so engaging and thought provoking. I had taken university courses before and nothing was like this one. I felt David’s passion on the subject and knew that he wanted all of his students to be connected with the material. I had some experiences working with Deaf individuals that were also experiencing mental health issues so I felt that I had gain some insights into struggles that they were experiencing and being doubly oppressed. After taking this course I was on a mission to recommend it to every student in the program! I feel sad that new students will not have the opportunity to have you as an instructor David.
At my first summer intensive I had the opportunity to sit down and meet with Paris. I am certain that no other department can say that they have a person as committed as Paris. She sat down with nearly every student that came that year and walked us through what we needed and the path we should take in order to get our degree, no small task as each of us comes to the program with different academic histories and each of us had set our own goal as to what and when we wanted to achieve it. Throughout my time here she has been a wonderful resource and sounding board for all of my questions.
Summer intensives although are difficult for some to include because of work and family obligations allowed all of us students to come together and meet face to face. Black board is a wonderful tool and permits us to continue with our studies and at the same time continue with our other jobs but nothing can truly compare to sitting down and talking and debating on the material. Coming from my background, which is fairly narrow in scope I had not really had the exposure to the work that all of my fellow students are doing in the community. I feel so lucky and honored to have travel these last three years with these people. Some are still finishing up some have graduated before me but all of them I can count as friends. Each person in this program comes from a different setting and each has taught me something new. All of these students are a wealth of knowledge and strong advocates for the people that they work with. We are fortunate to have such excellent professors in this program but we are also fortunate to have the learning that we gained from each other. We share our stories and learn things from different perspectives only making us more well rounded in the end. The intensives are a great opportunity to do this face to face. I read our Facebook page just the other day and past students are all agreeing on the importance of it as well as saying how they will miss not going this year.
Some of the past graduates comments were – “summer intensives, my favourite, summer intensives are some of my favorite memories from the program, “It’s always one of the best times I have!” These are from past graduates. Obviously the program has made its mark!
Finally I must say something about the professors that I have been fortunate to have. All from this department are exceptional and we are so very blessed to have such a high degree of passion and commitment from them. Esther and Kathryn have had a strong impact on me through the last three years. Esther you started me off in this program in 501 and you laid the strong foundations of what we strive to bring back to our work places and emulate in the social model theory. I also was lucky to have you again and always enjoyed your courses as they were so organized and well planned out as well as you gave us a lot of opportunities to debate and discuss the issues.
Kathryn you have given me the tools to take my learning and my story and to share it with others. I think every student dreads DST 99 but you made it a great experience. I loved when we had our on sites and sitting and just talking with everyone, hashing out the process and realizing that we all could do it differently and that it was okay to do that. You always had an encouraging word for each and every one of us even when we were ready to throw in the towel. Those presentation days were fantastic as you could see how everyone’s work had come together; mind you we all looked like we had gone through the wringer. I could have never imagined being able to produce a body of work that I did on completing this course without your guidance and support. I was so proud of being able to say that I had done it and so proud for my fellow students.
For all of you students that are just embarking on your time here at Ryerson know that you made the right choice and that this place will become your second home. Know that you will grow through your learning and your interactions with everyone here and that you will change in wonderful ways. We all leave here and go out to our new futures with everything we need to make positive changes in our larger communities. I will continue on now in another learning institution and I am afraid I have been spoilt here and nothing will quite compare or measure up to what I have learned here in the Disability Studies program. For that I thank everyone. Continued good luck to everyone and know that I will be coming back to visit and I will be sure to send more people your way.