Special Guests in attendance:
- Gregory S. Burton, Consul General at the U.S. Consulate in Belfast
- Professor Sir Desmond Rea, Chair of the Governing Body of Stranmillis University College
- Doreen Bell, Vice Chair of the Governing Body of Stranmillis University College
On December 19th Stranmillis University College, Belfast hosted a celebratory Christmas Lunch and graduation ceremony for the departing IFSA-Butler students from the fall 2013 semester. Sixteen students on the special student teaching programme and seven students on the semester programme were honoured at the event. In her speech at this unique graduation ceremony Stranmillis Principal, Dr. Ann Heaslett, noted that the IFSA programme at Stranmillis has been described as “a gold standard available nowhere else in the United Kingdom.”
Students, families, staff and special guests convened with mixed emotions; sadness about leaving Belfast; joy having spent an amazing time in Northern Ireland; anticipation about what the future holds and excitement about having made great friends and alumni.
Gold was a theme that was woven through the whole event. Each student was presented with a Stranmillis University College golden stole. Dr. Heaslett told the graduating students “I hope this stole serves to remind you of your time with us…this is a symbol of what binds us together, the partnership between IFSA, Stranmillis and all our visiting students who come through the IFSA programmes.” Fittingly, Dr. Heaslett finished by referring to the writings of the Irish author and philosopher Charles Handy – “To plant a golden seed is the most important gift you can give. To plant a golden seed is to identify a talent in someone, something they are good at, and to point it out to them. If they trust you it can give them the confidence to go and achieve something with it. We hope that we have planted golden seeds in your life and hope that you go forward to plant golden seeds in your careers.”
After receiving their stoles the proceedings were handed over to the students. Both groups presented a heart-warming and insightful look at what they had done over the previous weeks and months. The special programme students put across things they had learned from living and teaching in Belfast – one student even pointing out that there is no such thing as too much butter in Belfast!! It was fantastic to see how this experience has been so impactful on the students. The semester students gave a very special and fine rendition of “My Stran” (to the melody of My Girl) – if you have not seen this yet it is a must. Well done on reaching (or not reaching as the case may be) those high notes!!
Congratulations to all IFSA-Butler Fall 2013 Stranmillis students. We look forward to keeping in contact and wish you every success in the future.