Meet the Engineering valedictorians

by Haleigh Longo
June 14, 2017

Convocation ceremonies for McMaster Engineering graduands will take place Friday June 16 at the Hamilton Convention Centre.

Meet the Faculty’s two inspiring valedictorians.

Ryan Rogers

The former president

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Degree and subject area: Mechanical Engineering & Management

Convocation Q&A with valedictorian Ryan Rogers

Where are you headed after convocation?
I am in line to go to graduate school to pursue a Master’s in Applied Science at McMaster. It will be focusing on sustainable energy systems. The hope is that I’ll be doing the research component inside the new Hatch Centre.

What's your best memory at McMaster?
The best memories were of my student house. I lived with five people. We really bonded together and we've become best friends. The memories that we've made throughout my undergrad have really shaped me. My McMaster Engineering Society (MES) memories and my extracurriculars have been great, but the people I met through that and the accomplishments I’ve had through that were grounded and possible because of my housemates.

What have you been involved in?
One of the best pieces of advice I got during first year was to get involved with everything. So in my first year, I got involved with the Mac Eng Musical, Eng 1 Outreach, and the McMaster Engineering Society. I decided to get the most I could out of MES. I became a First Year Rep, Associate VP Clubs & Sponsors, VP External, and President. I'm also involved in the Hatch Steering Committee and I’ve been a Welcome Week Rep for the entirety of my undergrad. I have so much to be thankful for. Getting involved was a great experience and there were a lot of moments where the team I was a part of was doing really good things for the community.

What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
My supervisor, Dr. James Cotton, once told me that you have to treat everything as a learning opportunity. I think that's very key in how I currently look at life and how I look at my experiences with the MES, my undergrad and with my current situation. There are times in life where you have to do really tough things or times we do things that we really don't want to do. That could be physical. You're doing something gross, like climbing through garbage to fish out cardboard for signs when you’re Welcome Week Rep. But if you look at it as “everything's a learning experience,” it changes the optics and makes everything a bit more palatable and enjoyable. So that’s a good lesson I learned.

What is your biggest accomplishment so far?
I would say my work with the MES, but if I was to specifically nail things down, I was most proud of what our executive team was able to accomplish during my term as president. The five of us were able to do a lot of really cool things and they were super supportive. We did a funding project, and we helped the Welcome Week planners get Welcome Week back in student hands. All of those endeavors throughout the year would be some of my greatest accomplishments. But they weren't just mine: they were done as a collective. I’m really happy to have been a part of that team, and really happy to have done those things with those people.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
I've always prepared for this question for interviews. It’s always been a shapeshifter. If you're a shapeshifter, you can shapeshift into anyone. So you can shapeshift into someone who could fly, or you can control time to go backwards and forwards and you just basically can do anything. You want to walk to Paris? You can just start walking and stop time and you’ll get there instantly. It’s magical. You could shapeshift into someone who could do any other superpowers. So really you have all superpowers!

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far?
When I finished first year and I was trying to decide what I wanted to get involved with, one of the upper year reps told me “you’ve got to do something you’re passionate about.” And I think this is the best lesson I've learned; passion drives success. You should apply yourself to things that you're really passionate about because those are the things that you're going to prioritize and really do well in. So I think it was super valuable for determining what I want to do after undergrad but also determining what I wanted to get involved with. If you do things you’re passionate about, it doesn’t feel like work.

What do you think the future holds for higher education?
I would say specifically in engineering, there’s big shift to more hands-on learning. I think that’s super valuable and I think it's going to continue because we're starting realize that students are getting higher learning outcomes when there's applications involved, where you're actually doing stuff. Unfortunately, that means the resources are a lot more intensive. So you might see a decrease in class size, but you also might see higher specialization. I know a lot of my friends, at least 25 people in my graduating class, are going to grad school to get more specializations.

While at Mac, did you receive donor funded financial assistance? For example, a scholarship, award or bursary?
Yes I did. I received a bursary in second year and I received an entrance scholarship.

Any thoughts on the importance of giving back to your alma mater to support future generations?
This year the Kipling class has given back in a lot of ways to McMaster. I will definitely give back in the future, but first, I have to pay off my student debt.

Emily Farquharson

The medal winner

Hometown: Oakville, Ontario

Degree and subject area: Civil Engineering

Convocation Q&A with valedictorian Emily Farquharson

Where are you headed after convocation?
I have a bunch of friends who went to Thailand and Europe so right after convocation I want to catch up with them. Also, I started a job at a structural engineering consulting firm in Markham. So I’m just going to keep working there.

What is your best memory of McMaster?
In second year, our surveying labs were pretty great and hanging out with my classmates in the design studio. Our Capstone Project was pretty memorable; we designed an airport.

What is the best advice that anyone ever gave you?
When there’s no such thing as a wrong answer, you’re just wasting time not making a decision. The advice came from my mom when I was going through my whole university application process.

What made you decide on McMaster?
After visiting May@Mac and listening to all the upper years talk about how enthusiastic they were about their programs, and how happy they were to have all these new people coming in. That was definitely what sold me on Mac.

What is your biggest accomplishment so far?
Graduating with what I know is a good education. After having started this job, I know I’m going to apply so much of what I learned at McMaster. I also had a great work experience at Mac and great friends who I know I'm going to be friends with for the rest of my life.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
I’m not sure if this comes across as creepy, but the superpower I’ve always wanted is mind reading. I just want to know what people are thinking about.

What's the most important lesson you've learned so far?
Through engineering, I learned how to work well on a team. In high school I had nothing but bad team experiences. Coming here, you learn how to figure out where everyone fits best on the team and what they can take on that’s going to make you all work well together. Since figuring that out it’s been way better to work on a team. And that goes for studying for tests and working on projects too. I would rather work on a team now.

You won the Governor General Medal -  congratulations! Can you talk about what led you to that award and how you how you feel about it?
The award was for my academic achievements. I enjoyed what I was learning about. I don't think I would have been able to do very well if I had been studying something else. I was very lucky that I had chosen something right off the bat that I like so much.

What do you think the future holds for higher education?
I would have loved to learn more about software during my undergrad. I found I was playing around with all the free software I could get on my own. I think incorporating more software into a university education would be a good step to take.

While at Mac did you receive donor funded financial assistance?
Yes. I received several scholarships at Mac.

Any thoughts on the importance of giving back to your alma mater major to support future generations?
I definitely think it’s important. If I am ever in a position where I can create jobs, I would give really cool co-op positions to Mac students. I did a 16-month internship and that was huge for changing the way I did work, changing the way I thought about things and preparing me for the job I have now. And I think that if more Mac students could get internships like that, it would reflect amazingly well on the university.

Can you tell me more about your co-op?
Through OSCARplus, I worked for Dufferin Construction, and I worked on the Highway 427 expansion bid and the Finch West LRT bid. It was a totally new area for me. I was thrown into it and it was an opportunity to learn a lot about myself, take on a lot of responsibilities that you never would have expected and to rise to the occasion and just figure it out.

Any other thoughts on your McMaster experience?
Just to say I absolutely loved it at Mac. I don’t know what it would be like at another university, but I can’t imagine it could have ever been better than Mac. The people here, the quality of the education, and the extracurriculars I got to participate in, I couldn’t have that anywhere else.

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