By Renée Hartleib |
Every year, the Maroon & White Magazine features a few members of the graduating class. This year, we’re shining a spotlight on four women who served on the Graduating Class Committee and were responsible for organizing the massive Maroon & White Ball and all the convocation week activities. As you’ll read, these newest members of our alumni family not only helped to pull off these important graduate events, but they have each been enormously successful, all in their own unique ways, during their time at Saint Mary’s.
Ariel Boulos-Callias was hanging out with SMU alumni long before she ever stepped foot on the campus of Saint Mary’s. Her mother Joann attended the University back in the late seventies and returned to Antigua and Barbuda to become an educator and a Saint Mary’s recruiter in her home country.
“When I was growing up, all the alumni gatherings were at our house,” Ariel laughs. “So, even before coming to Canada, I already felt a part of the SMU community.”
This familiarity made her post-secondary choice clear. Add to that the fact that Saint Mary’s offered a forensics program, something Ariel had long been interested in. “Growing up on an island with only 90,000 people, we don’t have a lot of resources.” She adds that this is definitely the case with forensics. “When crimes happen, people from other countries have to be flown in to help us. I want to be part of making Antigua more self sufficient.”
In addition to forensics and biology courses, Ariel’s four years at SMU were chockfull. From serving as Public Relations Officer of the Caribbean Society, to working as an RA, to being part of SMU’s dance team and competing at the Cheer Expo World Championships, the 22-year-old graduate made a point of becoming very involved in campus life.
“The opportunity to explore and have other experiences really sculpted me into the person I’m becoming.” Ariel adds that the family feeling at Saint Mary’s has been incredibly beneficial. “The ‘open door’ policy at this University is truly special. It’s helped me so much to know that people like the president of the University or the head of Student Services are willing to sit and talk with me.”
As she graduates this Spring with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Psychology, Ariel is beyond excited to become a SMU alumni. She also looks forward to the day when she is able to establish a scholarship for other Caribbean students like herself. “I really want to give back to students like me who need to leave our home countries for a tertiary education,” she says.
“I’ve had an amazing experience at Saint Mary’s and would love to help others have this same opportunity.”
Education is very important to Hilary Murphy. As the only member of her family to attend university, graduating this spring is a pretty big deal. And she’s not stopping there. Inspired by a couple of her feminist professors, Hilary has already applied to the Saint Mary’s Masters program in Women and Gender Studies.
It’s been a bit of a winding road for the 25-year-old. With a military parent and a blended family, she lived in various places from coast to coast as she was growing up. She attended high school in Lower Sackville, where she still lives, and suffered the loss of her mother in her early twenties. This contributed to a late start at university, and a double major in criminology and sociology that quickly veered into other territory.
It was a women and gender studies class with Dr. Michelle Byers that sparked her interest and caused the detour. “Dr. Byers is the one who really encouraged me through my education and pushed me to do graduate studies,” says Hilary. “She really motivated me.”
Her involvement with Enactus, with OPtions Nova, reinforced how much Hilary wants to be part of societal change. As the Project Manager for a mentorship program with the Nova Institute for Women in Truro, Hilary worked directly with the incarcerated women at the Truro Penitentiary, pairing them with mentors who would act as their supports upon release.
Eventually, Hilary would like to do research within the Halifax Queer community. As a queer individual, she believes that researching people of her own community is important. “There’s a real lack of mental health resources here, which leads to even more mental illness.” Hilary adds that she feels passionately that people who have chosen to have gender-affirming surgery should have access to that medical treatment here in Nova Scotia, rather than having to travel to Montreal.
“There’s still a lot of discrimination and lack of understanding about people who are transgender or non-binary. It’s a demographic that’s very much stepped over and not really paid attention to and I’d love to contribute research in this area.” As someone who doesn’t enjoy the limelight, Hilary looks forward to meeting one-on-one with undergraduate students when she becomes an alumna. “My journey so far has been an eventful one, and I’m hopeful that my story might motivate someone to push out of their comfort zone and try new things. You never know where it will lead you.”
Jane Raeburn began working when she was 12 years old. Throughout her teens, she spent her summers in Chester, Nova Scotia gardening and nannying and was always able to make more than minimum wage.
“I’ve always been ambitious about working,” says the 25-year-old graduate. This combination of ambition and interest led her to start a college degree as an efficient means to “just start working.” However, while at college, she realized she needed more of a challenge and applied to do a Bachelor of Science at Saint Mary’s.
It was during her second year that Jane chose to become involved in more than just academics, knowing that a feeling of engagement would be essential to her university experience. She became a Pack Leader, responsible for organizing events for new students during Welcome Week. This experience really grew her confidence and her network. “Being involved with the Pack Leaders was life-changing. I instantly gained 50-60 new friends, and that’s when doors really started opening.”
In addition to being a Pack Leader, Jane gave her time to multiple organizations on campus, including the Healthy Minds Team, Enactus, and Here for Peers. She has also served as Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors, and was a member of the Board of Governors and the Advancement Committee.
These involvements have enabled Jane to realize the value of being brave and having courage. She believes that a little bit of bravery can go a long way. "You can never regret a situation if you acted with courage,” she says, adding that this is a philosophy she now lives by.
Putting this life motto into action has allowed her to have opportunities that she believes she wouldn’t have had otherwise. Last summer, she was employed in communications and business development at the Halifax Port Authority. “I learned so much about the business world, had an amazing experience, and feel very grateful.” She also gained a valuable mentor, in addition to other connections with port cities around the world.
After graduation, Jane plans to continue shaking up her life by relocating to Germany to learn the language and acquire further business experience. “I feel like having a broad perspective is essential in the business world, and I’d also like to grow more as a person,” she says. “I always intend to keep on learning, working hard, and rolling with the opportunities that life presents me.
“Get involved as soon as you can, even if you’re scared.” That’s Sarah Cameron’s advice to other young people entering university. She knows what she’s talking about.
During her five years at Saint Mary’s, the 23-year-old worked her way up through the Commerce Society from general member to President. But her involvement wasn’t limited to the Sobey School of Business. She also joined numerous clubs and societies, and despite a massive academic workload, became part of the SMUSA Street Team, worked in the SMU Human Resources department, and was the President of the Grad Class Committee this year.
The short story? She’s one of those faces you instantly recognize on campus.
This has come as a bit of a surprise, even to her. Growing up in Sydney, Cape Breton, Sarah was reserved and quiet, and especially apprehensive about public speaking. “It was definitely not something I looked forward to,” she laughs. But through her many volunteer roles, Sarah has discovered that speaking in front of people is not as nerve wracking as it once was. In fact, last year, she was a member of the Enactus presentation teams that scored first place at the regional competition.
“There are a lot of things we think we can’t do, but that’s only because we’ve never done them. Actually facing our fears and doing something about them is so rewarding and empowering.”
Graduating with a major in global business management, a minor in French and a certificate in Human Resources, Sarah hopes to find work in a federal government agency. She was inspired by a work term within the Human Resources division at the Department of Oceans and Fisheries last summer and got her feet wet in the areas of job evaluations, creating job descriptions, and finding the right people to fit specific jobs. It helped her realize that her biggest passion is people and helping others succeed.
“Having these kinds of real life experiences is what makes the Sobey School of Business program, and the resources offered, so unique,” says Sarah. “I feel prepared for the world of work.” She’d love for her first job—post-university—to be in Halifax, so she could continue enjoying the small-town vibe of our capital city.
She’d also like to stay connected to Saint Mary’s in a very close and tangible way. “I’ve gained so much from my time here and have really made it my home,” she says. “Going out into the world now, I look forward to telling whoever I meet, wherever I go about the close-knit, family feeling that is Saint Mary’s.”