June 7, 2022

More than 300 former Vantage College students graduated in May/June 2022 on the UBC Vancouver or Okanagan campus. Vantage offers a way in to UBC for students from around the globe who are standouts academically, but don't yet meet the English language admission requirements. Vantage fills that gap. Most students live in residence on the Vancouver campus for their first year, taking academic and language coursework taught by award-winning faculty members. In addition, they get individual mentoring and guidance. Then in year 2, after successful completion of their Vantage One program, Vantage students continue on to pursue their undergraduate degree at UBC.

Vantage Principal Dr. Joanne Fox sent in photos from this year's (in person!) graduation reception. Graduate Damir Korniiashik shared his address to fellow students. He started his journey in the Vantage One Arts program in 2018, and has been actively engaged in the community as a student leader since then. Korniiashik earned his Bachelor of Arts with a major in Political Science and minor in Economics.

Principal Joanne Fox poses with graduating Vantage alumna and her family (photo: Kirc Cohen)

Vantage College Principal Dr. Joanne Fox with a graduating Vantage alumna and her family (photo: Kirc Cohen)

Professor Won Kim engages in conversation with other faculty members at the graduation ceremony (photo: Kirc Cohen)

Professor Won Kim talks with AEP Lecturer Amber Shaw and Advising Manager Atul Gadhia (photo: Kirc Cohen)

Vantage One Science Professors, Jodie Martin and Georg Rieger, taking a selfie with graduating Vantage alumni (photo: Kirc Cohen)

Vantage One Science Professors Jodie Martin and Georg Rieger taking a selfie with graduating Vantage alumni (photo: Kirc Cohen)

Principal Joanne Fox poses with Vantage College graduate Damir Korniiashik (photo: Damir Korniiashik)

Dr. Fox with Vantage College graduate Damir Korniiashik (photo: Damir Korniiashik)

Graduate student representative, Damir Korniiashik, gives a speech at the ceremony (photo: Kirc Cohen)

Graduate student representative Damir Korniiashik addresses his fellow students at the reception (photo: Kirc Cohen)

Vantage College graduate Damir Korniiashik's graduation day speech:

Thank you very much Dr. Fox. It is amazing to realize that you have given us words of wisdom since Day One, and now we are here, at the culmination of this long journey, enjoying your words for the last time. Hello, everybody, I’m excited to see so many familiar people gathered here to celebrate the completion of our degrees. If we haven’t met before, my name is Damir Korniiashik, I was in the Vantage One program in 2018 pursuing a Bachelors of Arts. Now, I am graduating with a major in political science and a minor in economics. It was a wonderful experience throughout the four years and I want to say thank you to all of you for being a part of this journey. You are the ones who make this university great, so thank you. Also, on behalf of our class, I would like to thank the faculty of Vantage College for patiently and carefully getting us ready to face the challenges of university. Truly, if not for the help of Vantage professors, advisors and faculty, I would not find my passion for urban planning, nor would I find the same friends with whom I am very close to this day.

The past four years have definitely been strange. Our university experience was cut short in March 2020, and considering how international Vantage College is, many of us had to fly back home and continue our education online. It was tough, facing such unseen circumstances, but we powered through. The following year was not much better, we had to transition and adapt to a new way of life, both socially and academically, studying online. Many of us had to get used to adjusting our sleeping schedule to accommodate for the 2,3,4,5 am classes and meetings. But again, we powered through. Finally, in our last year, things started to look brighter, with on-campus classes, sun, new buildings and the new Browns by The Nest. Life seemed to start filling up with joy, smiles and laughs again.

And just like that winter came, and the winter term brought more surprises. Switching back and forth between online and in-person classes was a learning curve. It made all of us stronger, more agile and more flexible. Let me take a moment to highlight each one of you for powering through these unexpected and tough times. I sure hope everyone is able to compare themselves now to how they were four years ago and say, “Wow, this is what I made."

I believe we are a part of a unique generation. Even before fully starting with professional lives, we had to deal with remote work, self-discipline and isolation, and adapt to rapidly shifting technological advancements, economic factors and social norms. Isn’t that something?

One piece of advice I will never forget was given to us as a concept called “the growth mindset” during orientation. I am sure many of you are familiar with it, but to refresh: it is a mindset that allows for the possibility of change within oneself to achieve higher goals. The experience we endured and the idea of a growth mindset will make all the difference. Sure, some things were lost, forgotten or missed, but a lot has been gained, learned and achieved. Take what you need from this experience and create the best version of yourself possible using the growth mindset. I think some of us here, in fewer than four to six hours, will be officially graduated from UBC. Wow — mixed-feelings type of day. But regardless, even if you are not graduating today, or have graduated already, we represent Vantage College, hence, we can all relate.

So that’s it, just like that, four years have passed and now another chapter of our lives starts. It is definitely both nerve-wracking and exciting to think about what the future holds. It is a similar feeling to when I first came to UBC. I was young and couldn’t point a finger as to what my purpose was at university, besides education and improvement. Now, however, through trial and error, I have figured out the area I would like to focus on for the next decade. You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if it changes in a couple of months, but these things happen and it’s okay. That event is unlikely because my curiosity has been aimed at a specific goal. I want to be able to build communities that would be able to easily adapt to the environmental challenges coming to certain regions. What is your goal?

Today, while thinking about your graduation, let’s think about what contribution we can and will bring to people around us. It’s a cliché almost, and many of you have probably done it already, but think of yourself as a new entrant to this complex structure of adulthood, and then think, based on what you like most, how you can contribute in a grandiose way. Don’t underestimate your abilities. We are previous Vantage students, taught by some of the greatest professors in one of the best universities in Canada and the world. But even more importantly, we are here today, still pushing each other forward. We are all feeling overwhelmed, and we all have no idea what will happen in the future. So all we can do is try – and try in a way that is meaningful and joyful.

There was this one time, after a political science course in my first year, when it clicked for me. We had a tutorial and it was so amazing to discuss with my Vantage peers and the Teaching Assistant some political event that was relevant at the time. I couldn’t get enough of it. I think I might have been monopolizing the floor a little bit, but I hope nobody was mad at me for that. At the time, I was so lost in what I wanted to study further: economics, psychology, sociology, business? Nothing seemed to particularly stand out. After the tutorial, the TA came up to me and said, “Hey Damir, looks like you really enjoy the discourse of political science. Have you ever thought of studying it, because I think you might be good at it?” That’s when it clicked, it made sense to study politics because I like it. That was all I needed. Now, I am happy to say that the academic route I have chosen was the right one for me, even despite some common misconceptions about political science. I really need to thank the TA and Vantage for such an impact on my academic journey.

But the point is, be open to possibilities, do what makes you happy, do what you’re good at and do it with passion. Things will definitely come along your way.

One last thing, I want to ask you is to stay connected. Use this chance to connect to some of the classmates, get their info and stay in touch. It is the one best way to enhance each other's abilities, by building and maintaining the community that has been passed down to us by the Vantage One program. Thank you all, I wish you all the best. Stay strong, think of your impact on the world and communities, and stay connected. Hope you enjoy this day! You are awesome!

Find out more about Vantage College.


  • Students as Global Citizens