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June 6, 2002 Over 3,500 students at five convocation ceremonies



by Barbara Black

Five ceremonies in two days, run with the precision of a military operation, the dignity of an ancient rite of passage and the warmth of a family reunion. That’s the challenge facing the organizers of Concordia’s five convocation ceremonies June 11 and 12 at the cavernous Molson Centre in downtown Montreal, and they always deliver.

Added to their workload this year is a new format for the 3,543 diplomas that will be handed out to proud graduates. Formerly, the diploma listed the degree and the recipient’s name. A gold seal was affixed for the Faculty distinctions i.e. “with great distinction” (a grade point average of 4.00-4.30) or “with distinction” (a grade point average of 3.40-3.99).

This year, at the request of the academic departments, the new diplomas will specify the program. This makes it easier for another university, for example, to see what course of study the graduate took.

However, the diploma had to be designed in such a way that it could include any of the many configurations of programs available at the university — majors, minors, double majors, specializations, honours, and more, such as membership in one of Concordia’s colleges. Since graduates are already offered their diplomas in French or in English, that adds up to a lot of possibilities. Thanks for designing the new, program-specific diplomas should go to Patrice Ah-Kam, office technology analyst in IITS, who has been working on this project for several months and continues to do so.

More women in the arts

While the overall breakdown for the graduating class of spring 2002 looks fairly standard — 1,888 female graduates and 1,655 male — the breakdown by discipline tells a different story. In the Faculty of Arts and Science, the male/female ratio is 485 men to 914 women undergraduates, and 68 male to 113 female graduate degrees, for a total of 555 men and 1,028 women. That’s nearly twice as many women as men. If you factor out the pure sciences, it’s even higher. Fine Arts also graduates more women than men, 209 to 129.

In the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science, the ratio stands at 489 men and 140 women graduating this spring.

Business studies show the greatest relative gains by women in recent years, and the numbers for the John Molson School of Business reflect that. Even more women than men, 511 to 482, will graduate this June.

Nina Howe, who teaches early childhood and elementary education at Concordia, is well aware of the continued preponderance of women in the so-called soft disciplines, saying that elementary education is still “gender-segregated.”

Professor Howe explained that many teachers encourage girls’ superior linguistic skills and steer them, perhaps unconsciously, away from science and math. As a parent of school-age children, though, she says that math is being taught better than ever since the recent Quebec curriculum reform. There are other factors at play, she said, including the fact that more women than ever are attending university.

However, the ratio of women and men tends to drop dramatically in some disciplines at the PhD level, when many women scholars are faced with the demands of their childbearing years.

In February 1992, at the instigation of a group of faculty and students who felt that “bachelor” and “master” held overwhelmingly masculine connotations, Concordia adopted alternatives: baccalaureate and magisteriate. The choice was first offered in June 1994. However, the gender-neutral degree nomenclature has had only modest success. At the convocation ceremonies this time in Spring 2001, 168 undergraduates out of a total of 1,467 chose baccalaureate (11.45 per cent), and only one out of 36 graduate students chose magisteriate. Broken down by Faculty, the largest proportion of undergraduates who chose the alternative nomenclature was in Arts and Science (26.5 per cent). Slightly more than 11 per cent in Fine Arts made that choice, 20 out of 688 graduates in the John Molson School of Business chose it, and none in Engineering and Computer Science.

The choice of nomenclature is offered to each potential graduate, each degree is verbally introduced with both names at convocation, and an explanatory note is included in each convocation program.