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Interview with Fall 2010 Convocation valedictorian - Rebecca Barty

I met with Rebecca Barty, a Health, Aging & Society major, to discuss her thoughts on being selected as the valedictorian for the Fall 2010 Convocation. Convocation is scheduled to take place at 9:30am on Friday, November 19th in the Great Hall at Hamilton Place.
Interview with Fall 2010 Convocation valedictorian - Rebecca Barty

Rebecca Barty in her workplace office at McMaster University

I met with Rebecca Barty, a Health, Aging & Society major, to discuss her thoughts on being selected as the valedictorian for the Fall 2010 Convocation. Rebecca’s excitement showed as she expressed what an honour it was to be chosen. Convocation is scheduled to take place at 9:30am on Friday, November 19th in the Great Hall at Hamilton Place.

Rebecca is a unique valedictorian, as she is not only a part-time student, but also a full-time staff member. Initially, Rebecca went to college and began her career as a Medical Laboratory Technologist. She started working for McMaster 11 years ago in a contract position, and once she acquired a full-time position in 2001, she began working on her degree part-time. Rebecca began in a science program, but changed to the Faculty of Social Sciences when she realized how complimentary Health Studies courses were to her clinical research in her position at McMaster. Rebecca’s clinical research is blood related, and mainly, she conducts clinical trials related to transfusion medicine. In her position, she is part of a patient team for health research, which keeps her involved with the patients and patient care.

Rebecca describes her journey as a student at McMaster as fun, but accompanied by challenges and sacrifices. Rebecca explains how important time management is as you approach the completion of your degree. “You have to sacrifice a bit of your social life and your family time because you don’t feel like you have studied enough”, says Rebecca. She comments that despite how challenging it can be, it is very rewarding. Being a mature student, Rebecca was comfortable interacting with her professors, and as a result, they got to know her. Being from a science background, it took Rebecca some time to twist her mind into a new way of thinking, so it was great to have professors who were willing to help.

The election for a Fall 2010 valedictorian did not follow the typical process - Rebecca did not apply for the role. Rebecca sent an email to her department asking for details about convocation and they encouraged her to apply. Rebecca was reluctant to apply as she did not feel that she fit into the right demographic since she is a mature student and works full-time. Regardless, she agreed to attend an interview with Dr. Dorothy Pawluch, Associate Professor of Sociology, and Dr. Lori Campbell, Associate Professor of Sociology and Health, Aging & Society and the Associate Dean for the Faculty of Social Sciences.   

What excites Rebecca most about being valedictorian is the excitement of her mother and her friends, as she’s had to miss out on opportunities and sacrifice time with them along the way. Nancy Heddle, Rebecca’s employer, was also thrilled with the great opportunity that Rebecca was given. Rebecca feels blessed, as her employer was very flexible with work when it came to Rebecca’s education. “McMaster wants you to do well”, says Rebecca, “as an employer and as a school.”

When asked what message she would like to deliver to students in her valedictory address, Rebecca stresses the importance of lifelong learning and encourages students to embrace the challenges and twists that come with both university, and life, as unforeseen paths can still help you reach your final destination.

In the end, Rebecca’s switch from Science to Social Sciences was ideal for her. “You really need the whole picture, especially when dealing with patients in health research”, says Rebecca. The Faculty of Social Sciences provided a broader scope for Rebecca, which she sees as essential as people’s minds are shifting from purely quantitative examination to a combination of both quantitative and qualitative analysis. “The Faculty of Social Sciences does a great job at opening your mind to all of the different approaches”, comments Rebecca. “Your opportunities are endless with a Social Sciences degree. The professors are so supportive and the students embraced me, despite being a mature student.”

Rebecca wastes no time, as she has already begun her graduate studies at McMaster in September as part of the Health Research Methodology program. She hopes to complete the program within 3 years so she can continue to apply her new skill sets to her career.

- Article by Natalie Paddon, Faculty of Social Sciences / First Generation Student Media Relations Officer

 

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