Ushering in a new era as we celebrate Convocation 2024

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The following message was emailed to UPEI faculty, staff, and students on May 9, 2024.

Dear Members of the University Community,

At the end of every exam period, a sense of excitement begins to percolate and builds into May as we prepare to congratulate our graduating students at Convocation. This year, however, not only does spring signal a new chapter in the academic journey of our graduates, but we are also ushering in a new era at UPEI.

In late March, the Board of Governors approved the UPEI Action Plan, which outlines the University’s efforts to build a culture of trust, safety, and inclusion. We have learned a great deal over the past year since the release of the University of Prince Edward Island Review. It has been humbling to witness the courage, compassion, and collective strength of our community as members provided the candid input needed to develop the action plan. We have set the wheels in motion for change, including the hiring of initial key positions in the areas of Human Resources, EDI and Human Rights, Sexual Violence Prevention and Response, Student Affairs, and Security Services. Now we must work to implement the plan, build out our frontline teams, monitor progress, and continue to learn from—and reconcile with—each other.

On April 5, we installed the Honourable Diane F. Griffin as the University’s tenth Chancellor. While Chancellor Griffin is no stranger to UPEI (she holds a BSc from Saint Dunstan’s University and a BEd and honorary Doctor of Laws from UPEI), she will preside at Convocation and confer degrees for the first time this year. We are grateful for her dedication to UPEI.

We have also turned the corner on many important initiatives at UPEI. From April 22–26, the University held “Good News Week”:

The good news continued this week when Dr. Libby Osgood, Associate Professor, Faculty of Sustainable Design Engineering, was named a 3M National Teaching Fellow by the Society of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. On behalf of UPEI, I congratulate Dr. Osgood on this incredible accomplishment. Libby and all of our 3M scholars—she is our ninth—are exceptional faculty members and are a big part of what makes UPEI such a fantastic institution.

This spring will also bring about even further change for the University and for me personally. It will be my honour to participate in the four Convocation ceremonies next week as they will mark my last in my role as interim president. I was extremely pleased with the selection of Dr. Wendy Rodgers as UPEI’s next President and Vice-Chancellor. Her blend of academic experience, administrative acumen, and passion for creating healthy, inclusive, and respectful environments aligns perfectly with UPEI’s ambitious vision and plan to change the campus culture. I look forward to supporting Dr. Rodgers as she begins her role.

We are excited to begin new traditions at Convocation. In 2022, the Mawi’omi Indigenous Student Centre gifted inaugural Indigenous Graduation Stoles to graduating Indigenous students. Last year, we incorporated drumming by the Lonecry First Nation Drum Group. Drums are considered sacred amongst Indigenous peoples, representing the heartbeat of people, animals, and Mother Earth herself. This year, O Canada will be sung in English, French, and Mi’kmaq, and the Eagle Feather, which was presented to the University by the Native Council of Prince Edward Island in 2023, will be carried for the first time as part of the Academic Procession. The Eagle Feather will be placed in a position of prominence on the Convocation stage alongside the ceremonial mace. The eagle is sacred in Indigenous culture because it flies closest to the Creator and symbolizes respect, honour, strength, courage, and wisdom. The eagle’s feathers also symbolize a step forward and a new chapter in the ongoing story of reconciliation.

UPEI is committed to advancing reconciliation through higher education—we now have an Indigenous Strategic Framework and Initiatives that has been endorsed by both the Board of Governors and Senate. As a community, we have started a journey of growth to realize the role we must play in promoting an understanding of Indigenous history and culture and supporting respectful relationships.

Convocation recognizes the hard work and perseverance our students have demonstrated during their time at the University of Prince Edward Island. During this time, we should also celebrate the hard work of our entire University community after a challenging year—in fact, a few challenging years. I thank all of you for supporting me over these last two-and-a-half years, and for seizing the opportunity and acknowledging our collective responsibility to positively impact those around us. Let’s continue to all work together to help shape our campus and our world for the better.

I hope to see many of you during Convocation 2024! Congratulations, graduates!




GREG KEEFE, DVM, MSc, MBA (he/him)
President and Vice-Chancellor (Interim)

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