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Lady Justice: This is where it ends and begins

Graduation ceremonies represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

In the cycle of seasons, graduation season is upon us. I inadvertently missed my high school graduation ceremony. They never thought to notify me, nor did I think to ask. I achieved my required credits early and started working full-time for the government to self-fund university. 

Since governments compel our tax money, so do not have to prove themselves cost-effective as do private businesses, they were one of the best payors in Cowtown (Calgary). So was the oilpatch, many of my friends earning their riches in this industry were leaving High School early, thus no graduation ceremony.

I did not graduate from my university undergraduate program so again did not attend a ceremony. Law school beckoned and it accepted me early. Being self-funded, why pay for an extra year to warrant a degree and ceremony? I was one of the youngest completing law school but finally attended my first graduation ceremony.

People may be surprised to learn that I am often early, in an existential sense. I am racing against the life clock but not to get to MY inevitable finish line (what would be the point), but to get to the ends from which society would benefit, including me if still kicking around. Society is late for many things (think women’s right to vote or own property, and not be property). If you snooze, you lose. The same applies to civilization.

I don’t know how university self-funders get through now given the current non-academic hoops to jump through in order to be accomplished enough to be accepted into graduate programs, let alone afford the sky-rocketing costs. Examples include trying to show how worthy you are for medical school by perhaps starting a charity and volunteering for a year helping feed the hungry in an under-developed country. Or maybe your parents started your qualifications early by paying for hockey and you almost (or even) played pro. These students would have the right work ethic (and pocketbook) for graduate school. But adding to the costs and the barriers to entry mean there is a shortage of e.g. doctors.

Luckily, it used to be easier. Otherwise, people like me might have had to defer to others with parental financial superiority. I have yet to hear of a question on the MCAT, LSAT or GMAT, that asks how rich you are, but it is “silently” in the education equation.

Like my TV show idol Seinfeld, who spoke at the Duke University Commencement Ceremony recently, I was recently the Keynote Speaker in Edmonton at the Graduation Ceremony and Pitch Competition for the HER-conomy program at Canadian Imperial Advantage (CIA).

As Alberta diversifies its people and industries to remain globally competitive, CIA is a not for profit which provides initiatives that are open to entrepreneurs. It aims to provide support across a wide range of sectors to foster economic growth and empowerment within BIPOC communities. This includes access to capital. While less than 2 per cent of venture capital funding goes to women, the percentage to BIPOC women (and men) is much smaller. 

I have pitched and seen pitches globally and these female entrepreneurs are definitely our future. They were inspiring, courageous and brilliant. From perfect lashes to mobility services for the disabled, their scope of products and services was creative, innovative and the go to market strategies were sound. Access to capital is vital.

The more we invest in each other, the more competitive Alberta will be and the sooner it will achieve its global potential as Canada is falling behind in innovation. We are not our natural assets but our people assets.

By the time you read this, I will have attended my older daughter’s graduation from Harvard Law School in Cambridge. She is one of the youngest too. Graduation ceremonies not only symbolize an end but also the beginning. It is now time to give back to society for what it has invested in you graduates, go boldly, Alberta and the world needs you.

Donna Purcell, K.C., (aka Lady Justice) is a Central Alberta lawyer and Chief Innovation Officer with Donna Purcell QC Law. If you have legal questions, contact