Milestone Spring Convocation closes with Canada’s first Artisan Distilling grads

The first cohort of Artisan Distilling grads gather at their June 21 convocation ceremony. Niagara College photo

Guest speaker Kelly L. Brown receives special honours on final day of ceremonies

Niagara College press release – Niagara College’s 2019 Spring Convocation made history in more ways than one. At the fifth and final ceremony, a group of 16 pioneering – and spirited – graduates from the first class of NC’s  Artisan Distilling program accepted their certificates – the first of their kind in Canada.

“It fills me with great pride to watch Niagara College grads make history,” said NC president Dan Patterson. “We are delighted to celebrate the first graduates from the Artisan Distilling program. These are highly skilled individuals who are positioned to become leaders in Ontario’s emerging craft distilling industry.”

Stephen D’Orazio was one of Friday’s Artisan Distilling graduates. “To be part of the first graduating class makes it all the more exciting for us,” said D’Orazio who is from Welland and employed at Wayne Gretzky Estates in Niagara-on-the-Lake. “I feel very prepared for the industry and I’m excited to get out there in the world.”

“Each time you launch a new program, the thrill of seeing those first graduates walk across the stage is never lost on me,” said Craig Youdale, dean of NC’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute. “The distilling industry continues to develop and grow in Ontario and the CFWI prides itself on being the leader in Canada in fermentation science experiential learning.”

Kelly L. Brown addressed graduates in Niagara College’s School of Food and Wines Sciences, and the School of Business, Hospitality and Environmental Studies on Friday morning. Brown was also presented with an Honorary Graduate Certificate in Wine Business Management as part of the ceremony. Niagara College photo

At the Friday morning ceremony, guest speaker Kelly L. Brown – senior vice president, Legal and Corporate Affairs for Arterra Wines Canada – sent more than 450 graduates from the School of Food and Wines Sciences, and the School of Business, Hospitality, and Environmental Studies off with inspiring words for the road ahead. She was awarded an Honorary Graduate Certificate in Wine Business Management.

Part of Arterra’s Canadian Leadership team, Brown is responsible for the Legal, Government Relations and Communications departments. Prior to joining Arterra, Brown was the chief people, legal and corporate affairs officer for Molson Coors Canada. She holds a law degree from Dalhousie University and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from McGill University. In 2006, Brown was named one of Canada’s Top 40 Lawyers Under 40, and in 2012, she went undercover for Molson on the popular television series Undercover Boss Canada.

Brown began her address to graduates by acknowledging their accomplishments. “So often we skip over our accomplishments because we are already setting our sights on the horizon, the next big challenge,” she said. “Savour today!”

Brown’s address inspired graduates to see themselves as leaders and consider their impact on others. “The reality is, every single person in this room has the opportunity to be a leader,” she said. “To me, great personal leadership is about leading with both your head and your heart.”

Brown shared personal stories centering around three ways to be a leader, that is, to be caring, curious and courageous.

To illustrate her first point, Brown spoke about her father who grew up on a farm and was the first in his family to go to university. Her dad made his way to medical school and studied to become a surgeon. Brown recalled when her father came to the high school for a career day to speak with students about his work as a surgeon. To her surprise, he did not attribute his success to studying hard, having above-average intelligence, or tolerating stress, rather, he said that in order to be a good doctor you have to love and care for people. Brown explained to graduates that this sentiment applies to be a great leader in any field.

Recalling her experience on the television show Undercover Boss Canada, Brown learned that she was “surrounded by everyday heroes,” and inspired graduates to be curious about others, to be open to learning from them, to ask questions, and to connect with their hearts.

She told the new grads that leaders must be courageous, but not at the expense of being vulnerable.

“Being courageous is showing people how you feel. It’s not the end of the world to show how you feel at work, to let people know you don’t have all the answers, to show that you sometimes make mistakes,” she said. “People won’t lose confidence in you. Being courageous enough to show your full self at work actually makes people have more confidence in you. It makes you a real person. Authentic and flawed – but real. There is power in that.”

Other firsts for Niagara College included a milestone graduating class of over 5,100, the College’s largest yet, and 23 graduates from NC’s Commercial Cannabis Production program who crossed the stage on June 20.