First day of BU Convocation 2023 celebrates exceptional educators alongside graduates

A row of graduates sit
Graduates from the Faculty of Education sit after receiving their degrees.

Brandon University’s Convocation 2023 kicked off today with two ceremonies that featured grads in the Faculty of Science, School of Music, and Faculty of Education.

Speakers like BU Chancellor Mary Jane McCallum, BU President David Docherty, Knowledge-Keeper Susie McPherson-Derendy, and BU Alumni Association Vice-President Rhoni Mohanraj paid tribute to the graduates, congratulating them on their success, celebrating all they had overcome, and encouraging them towards their bright futures the future.

Alongside BU’s newest alumni, some exceptional educators were also recognized.

The BU Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching award was presented to Dr. Shelley Kokorudz, an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology & Student Services in the Faculty of Education at BU.

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Dr. Shelley Kokorudz

Dr. Kokorudz, who has been an educator since graduating with her Bachelor of Education degree in 1985, has since earned a master’s degree from BU and has also taught every grade from Grade 2 to Grade 12, as well as serving as a principal.

For the past 10 years she has been at BU, and is very involved with BU’s PENT program, focusing on the education of Indigenous pre-service teachers.

Dr. Kokorudz, a strong advocate for inclusion of all learners, has a passion that reflects her desire to see all students be excited about learning by focusing on the abilities and interests of all learners. This excitement begins with compassionate, confident teachers who believe in children and work to inspire them through their commitment to excellence. She remains faithful to the development of ‘teacher heroes’ who teach ‘outside’ ordinary boxes because there is no such thing as an ‘ordinary’ child.

An accomplished Western Style horse trainer and rider who competes professionally, she has welcomed students to her acreage for horseback riding and conversation. She has also developed a new elective PENT course that is focused on nature-based learning. It will create space for “land-based education” and is designed to help both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in connecting with and learning from Mother Earth.

Three other distinguished teachers were also recognized at Convocation today. The Faculty of Education annually recognizes up to three deserving K–12 teachers from across Manitoba who are nominated by their schools. This year, all three happen to also be BU graduates themselves.

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Jeff McPherson

Jeff McPherson graduated from Brandon University in 2010 with a B.Mus/B.Ed concurrent degree and is now the full-time music teacher at of Wayoata Elementary School in Winnipeg.

Working with a small team of other music teachers, curricular consultants, and assistant superintendents over the past six years, McPherson has help implement a technology integration program across his school division and he is currently the teacher leader for technology integration in elementary music.

He has been a ukulele clinician at conferences like TEMPO, DECAPO at Brandon University, and, most recently, nationally at Intersections 2022. But education conferences are not the only way McPherson shares his love of teaching music with others. He also runs a YouTube channel called Messy Desk Concerts with hundreds of lessons, song arrangements and fun activities for music teachers to use in their classrooms.

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Justin Rowe

Justin Rowe was born and raised in Brandon and earned Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degrees here at Brandon University. Since graduating in 2016, he has taught at Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School in Brandon.

Rowe is passionate about the power of creating relationships and connection with each of his students, both as a social studies teacher and track and field coach. He believes that schools are a place where we should emphasize more than just facts and knowledge but also be a place where students learn and practice the fundamental underlying skills of what it means to be a good person. Within the classroom, Rowe tries to build students’ capacity for empathy, kindness, gratitude, connection, and the adoption of responsibility. He encourages his students to consistently reflect, to think critically, and to be a force for good in the world.

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Maria O’Greysik

Maria O’Greysik first graduated from BU with a Bachelor of Education in 2000, began teaching in the Brandon School Division, and quickly decided to settle in Brandon with her husband.

At the beginning of her career, O’Greysik was a classroom teacher primarily in grades 4 through 8. After having children of her own, she began exploring teaching positions outside the classroom and has since been both a teacher librarian and a “High Ability Learner Enrichment Programming” teacher. 

After returning to BU and earning her Special Education Certificate as well as two master’s degrees in education — one in Inclusive Education and a second with a focus on leadership —O’Greysik obtained a position as a resource teacher and is currently in this role at Linden Lanes School in Brandon.

O’Greysik is passionate about inclusive education and loves working with the students and families in her school community. She believes all students deserve equitable access to quality education and she enjoys working with her colleagues to help all students reach their potential.

Today’s ceremonies also featured the presentation of the Senate Award for Excellence in Teaching to Dr. Nicholas Watier, and the Senate Award for Excellence in Research to Megumi Masaki.

Convocation concludes tomorrow. A 10 a.m. ceremony will celebrate grads in the Faculty of Health Studies, and a 2 p.m. ceremony will wrap up Convocation 2023 with grads in the Faculty of Arts.

All Convocation ceremonies are held at the BU Healthy Living Centre, on Louise Avenue at the corner of 20th Street. A total of 559 graduates are convocating this year, and all are welcome to come and cheer them on. Convocation is also live-streamed via WCGtv, at


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