Thompson Rivers University

Spring 2024 graduates share their insights

June 6, 2024

2024 TRU Indigenous graduates (Photo credit: Destiny VanOirschot, Morning Breeze Photography Kamloops)

There’s an energy on campus that’s palpable. After months, or years, of dedicated work, Thompson Rivers University (TRU) graduating students are pumped, eager to showcase their signature style, cross the stage and celebrate with their peers, friends and family.

Student success

Traditional knowledge and clothing are on full display at the Indigenous Graduation ceremony at the Brown Family House of Learning on Tuesday, June 4. Thirty-two smiling graduates enter HL 190, proud to celebrate their perseverance, achievements and culture.

Valedictorian Brian Burciaga

For valedictorian Brian Burciaga of the West Moberly First Nation, Treaty 8, the evening is significant. Not only is Burciaga the first Indigenous student to graduate from the Software Engineering program, but he never imagined making it to the finish line.

“I struggled a lot my first year and almost flunked out,” he says. “I had trouble navigating the program. But I really like technology and decided to try again. I wanted to be an engineer no matter the hardships.”

Burciaga credits his success to those at TRU who provided much-needed support during the most challenging times, including Assistant Professor Geoff Fink.

“He cares about people’s education and is open to learning more about Indigenous culture. He’s a very good person, and I’m thankful for his guidance.”

While trying to find his way, Burciaga discovered more about himself by helping and listening to others at Cplul’kw’ten (House 5).

“I applied to be a mentor because I struggled with help, either because the engineering program could feel lonely, or people couldn’t relate to my hardships. So I wanted to help engineering students and other community members with technical skills, math, or even be someone they could chat with.

“I grew up not knowing much about my culture, so the Elders, students and staff helped me understand the importance of culture and community, and be able to get closer to my own. Being around people who are very passionate about their Indigenous heritage challenges you to grow. I think that’s probably one of the most important things to do is challenge yourself.”

Left to right: Valedictorian Tara-Lynn Wilson and her sister Shoshana Wilson

Looking ahead, Burciaga hopes to pursue a career in software development and work in the field of environmental technology. He is also dedicated to learning more about his heritage as an Indigenous person and educating others about their history.

Valedictorian Tara-Lynn Wilson, Juris Doctor (law) and her sister Shoshana Wilson — who are Secwépemc, from St̓uxwtéws (Bonaparte), on their mother’s side, and Xen’ak’siala, from Kitlope, on their father’s side — are proud to graduate together.

“It means so much to me to be able to celebrate with my sister,” says Tara-Lynn. “We both have worked so hard with our degrees, and I am glad we were able to reach the finish line together. I am so proud of her and the work she has done. She is so amazing with her work that she even made the dean’s list multiple times.

“I am glad we can hold ceremonies like these because they can help inspire the next generation to take their education further. When the younger generation see someone like them advance, it could push them to take their studies seriously and ultimately end up in the same position as us. With the Indigenous grad, they can witness Indigenous students being celebrated on their own and their accomplishments being highlighted.”

Shoshana, who graduates from the Faculty of Arts, agrees with her sister Tara-Lynn. “This celebration is very special,” she says. “I feel so proud listening to everyone’s journey. I am especially proud of my sister as she gives her valedictorian speech. She is my inspiration. I wouldn’t be here if not for her.”

When considering what advice she’d give newly arriving Indigenous students at TRU, Tara-Lynn remembers her own experience.

“Reach out. TRU has supports for Indigenous students. If you need financial assistance, or academic support, there is always someone to help. Cplul’kw’ten (House 5) is a wonderful place to get help finding these supports. University is a completely different social culture than we are used to. I was so confused when I first started at TRU, but after going to Cplul’kw’ten I was able to register for classes and find my way around the campus.

“Keep in touch with your culture. Our hearts and spirits are tied to our culture and when we nurture them, our minds are also nurtured. Our culture keeps us grounded.”

Computing science graduate Shubham Vaghele

Graduate reflections

Over the course of three days, June 4 to 6, many students reflected on their time at TRU, considering their journey to graduation.

“I’m feeling proud, happy and excited,” says computing science graduate Shubham Vaghele. “It’s a totally different and amazing feeling.”

He hopes new students enjoy the beauty on campus, connect with faculty and gain confidence along the way.

Bachelor of Science graduate Ruchita Adajania

“TRU is a beautiful university,” says Vaghele. “I love the professors and the support, and everyone here is so helpful and accessible. You can easily get help from anyone. It’s really great to start your education journey here.”

Bachelor of Science graduate Ruchita Adajania beams while considering what she’s achieved. “I’m feeling great, awesome,” she says. “It’s the end of a long five years.”

Like Vaghele, Adajania understands the benefits of connecting with faculty. “I hope new students talk to professors more. No need to be shy.”

Linting Zhang, Juris Doctor (law) graduate

Linting Zhang, Juris Doctor (law) graduate, couldn’t imagine having gone through his program without support from other students.

“My favourite memory is hanging out with my classmates,” says Zhang. “We worked late nights and helped each other.”

Zhang hopes new students explore campus while also taking advantage of what’s outside TRU’s gates.

“Explore Kamloops. It’s more culturally rich than you might think. There are a lot of great restaurants in the city.”

By the numbers

Here’s what Spring Convocation 2024 looked like by the numbers:

  • 2,757 – Credentials awarded across the Williams Lake campus (60), Kamloops campus (2,279) and Open Learning (418).
    • 2,314 – Undergraduate credentials awarded
    • 391 – Graduate credentials awarded
  • 198 – Credentials awarded across all campuses to students who have self-declared Indigenous ancestry
  • 60 – Countries represented
  • 114 – Programs
  • 90 – Staff/assistants behind the scenes
  • 30 – Medals awarded to 28 students (two are multi-medal winners)
  • 8 – Valedictorians
  • 5 – Honorary doctorate recipients
  • 1 – Chancellor emeritus
  • 532 – Largest number of students, biggest ceremony (TRU Gaglardi)
  • 1,453 – Student gowns/robes

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