Convocation ‘23: Cassidy Harke, BSc General Program, with distinction

Donna McKinnon - 8 June 2023


When Cassidy started university she chose the general program in the Faculty of Science to diversify her degree and keep her options open. She had always been passionate about science and was fascinated by the complex inner workings of the human body. As an athlete (she was a competitive figure skater and cheerleader in high school), she was excited to learn as much as possible.     

Prior to starting university, Cassidy received the Edmonton Oilers Alumni 2019 Al Hamilton Scholarship, awarded annually to students who excel in academics, athletics and community service. Recipients receive $2,000 per school year.

“Getting that award made me feel like all the hard work I’d put in over the years had been recognized and it absolutely changed my life throughout university,” she says. “I can’t even begin to describe how immensely grateful I am to Al Hamilton and the Oilers foundation for the award.”

Throughout her program, Cassidy was equally committed to academics and volunteering, including initiatives outside of the U of A, such as patient services at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital and private tutoring. 

On the Dean’s Honor Roll for each of her four years, Cassidy graduates this June with distinction and plans to begin an education degree in the fall. 

Congratulations Cassidy!


What led you to choose your current area of study, and why the U of A for your studies?

I’ve always loved science because it allows me to learn about unimaginably complex processes that I’m amazed are even possible. The coolest thing in the world to me is thinking about all the activities constantly occurring in each of our tiny cells which then make up the many intricate pieces of our bodies, making complex movement, thought and emotions possible. Science has always fascinated me so choosing to study it at one of the top schools in Canada felt like a no brainer to me.

What is one of your favourite memories from your time at the U of A?

One of my favourite memories is becoming friends with my Zoology 407 lab TA Emily Swerdfager. I had never been a big fan of labs in the past but she completely changed my perspective on it. She constantly showed how much she cared about all of her students, doing weekly check-ins with us and starting each lab with one of her favourite poems. She made the entire lab so much fun and reminded me why I love school. 

After the semester was over and our grades were released I reached out and she became a new friend! It’s a special memory to me because it reminds me that university didn’t just give me lots of new knowledge, it also allowed me to develop some awesome relationships along the way!

Tell us about your favourite professor and/or class.

My favourite class was ASL 111 (Beginners’ American Sign Language I) with Rouzbeh Ghahreman. The class was extremely interactive and by the end of it I could discuss many basic conversational topics using ASL. Not only did I gain experience with signing, I also learned so much about Deaf culture that truly opened my eyes to the ongoing discrimination in our society and the subsequent need for change. Rouzbeh was the kindest professor I’ve ever had and was absolutely phenomenal at sharing his language with new learners. I would recommend this course to anyone who has the opportunity to take it.

Did you take on any leadership roles while you were a student? 

I prioritized both my academic success and my participation in volunteer initiatives outside of the U of A, such as patient services at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital and private tutoring.

Did you face any significant obstacles or challenges during your program?

A big challenge that I faced during my program was learning how to better manage my time in order to achieve academic success while also participating in extracurricular activities. I had to let go of some of my perfectionist tendencies and remind myself that I shouldn’t work on a project worth 5% of my grade for the same amount of time that I would spend on one worth 20%. Once I began to allocate my efforts in accordance with how different assignments were weighted I was able to free up a lot of extra time to spend with my friends and family.

What advice do you have for current and future students?

My advice would be to remember that life isn’t a race. If you aren’t sure what you want to do yet or if you feel too overwhelmed to take a full course load that’s completely okay. Choose the course load that lets you truly enjoy your experience at university rather than one that only brings you stress as you rush to finish your degree. We have the rest of our lives to work, but we have right now to go to school. I truly believe it’s important to slow down and enjoy it while we can.

How do you plan on celebrating convocation?

I plan on having a small get together with my family and friends.

What's next after graduation?

I’m returning to the U of A this fall to get a second undergraduate degree, this time with the Faculty of Education.