Celebrating an anniversary

It's been 25 years since the debut of graduate studies at the University of Lethbridge and while the programming has expanded to touch all areas of campus, the basic tenets of graduate education have remained the same.

As the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) celebrates its silver anniversary with the slogan, A Sterling Past, A Golden Future, it offers the opportunity to delve into the school's beginnings and see how they are reflected in an unfolding future.

A total of 12 students were admitted into the University's first-ever grad studies program, offered in 1984 through the Faculty of Education.

Paul Hawryluk and Irwin Warkenten were the first two graduates from the SGS. They were promised a program focused on professional development, the foundations of education and research. With elective courses designed to allow students to customize their programs to suit individual goals and interests, flexibility was a major draw.

"I taught for 15 years before going back to school, and the program really validated my experiences and my own expertise," Hawryluk says. "I never intended to go on to do a PhD, but I did, directly as a result of the great experience I had at the U of L."

Warkenten looked to the SGS as an opportunity to invigorate his career.

"The grad program gave me the tools to take my career to another level," he says. "The courses energized me. They re-instilled my belief in teaching. If I hadn't taken the program, I'm not sure I would have stayed in the profession."

It is 25 years later and the SGS has stuck to its roots, striving to maintain a very interactive educational experience.

"We are a school on a personal scale: whatever program you choose, we offer close interaction between faculty and graduate students," says Dean, School of Graduate Studies, Dr. Jo-Anne Fiske. "We recruit faculty and students from around the world, enhancing learning experiences through cultural diversity and intellectual breadth."

That is what drew Mandy Espezel to the U of L. A graduate of the University of Alberta, Espezel is among the first class of students pursuing the new Master of Fine Arts degree.

"The Faculty of Fine Arts is staffed with excellent professors, there are fantastic facilities and technical support, and there is an extremely active and well supported contemporary art community here," she says. "Having these resources for my professional development is wonderful."

Acacia Doktorchik is studying in the new Master of Music program and sees the addition of grad studies in the Faculty of Fine Arts as a benefit to both students and the University as a whole.

"This is just another opportunity where people can come and study with some of the best musicians in Canada," she says. "There are many opportunities for performance here, and at the same time the academics are still very important. This is an aspect that I really like because it will give me the performance experience I need as well as the academic knowledge behind it."

The School of Graduate Studies continues to evolve but always with a keen eye to its beginnings.