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You did it Class of 2021!

Jun 15, 2021

There may have been some setbacks, but there were also silver linings. For Ivey’s HBA, MSc, MBA, and Executive MBA (EMBA) graduates, completing their programs during a pandemic brought some valuable lessons about resilience, progress, equity, and the power of friendship and human connections.

Right after she finished her program, Raissa Espiritu, EMBA ’21, wrote a blog entitled Putting up my Hand. It described her struggles with identity at the intersection of race, culture, gender, and perception as well as her experiences with racism and microaggression throughout her career. She also described how the EMBA program transformed her because her classmates valued her leadership. In her speech as valedictorian at the EMBA program’s Awards Ceremony, Espiritu thanked her classmates for empowering her.

“I don’t know if you understand how important it is to have 53 wonderful friends who have got your back … You have helped to unleash me and helped me grow my confidence. I feel I can accomplish anything I set my mind to,” she said. “I no longer feel limited, I am empowered. I am not afraid, I am strong. And I have all of you to thank, for believing in me.”

Embracing EDI

Espiritu encouraged her colleagues to continue to embrace Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) and she shared her hope for the future.

“What if … every racialized person felt supported, validated, valued?,” she said. “If we truly embraced cultural differences, equity, and diversity in our communities and at work, more of us would have the opportunity to use our skills and experiences to the fullest, to be unleashed, to be ourselves, to be truly outspoken and heard, to feel worthy, to be recognized, to put up our hand.”

Making a pledge

It was a fitting moment given that just prior to the individual program awards ceremonies, all graduates came together for the virtual Ivey Pledge Ceremony. Here they committed to principles of ethics and corporate social responsibility and to act in a manner that is inclusive of all individuals. During the ceremony, they received words of encouragement from Dean Sharon Hodgson and Scott Vanderwel, HBA '98, Chair of the Ivey Alumni Network, as they were officially welcomed into the network of more than 30,000 alumni in more than 100 countries around the world.

The graduates then moved into the programs ceremonies where their class valedictorians delivered further inspiring messages.

Creating a diverse business world

Kailey Howell-Spooner, valedictorian for the MBA Class of 2021, said this year tragically continues to show us what can happen when people are not included or are actively oppressed by the written and unwritten rules of the system. She shared her hope for a more equitable and diverse business world and urged her fellow graduates to use their newfound skills and knowledge to this end.

“Hire people who don’t look like you, include people who don’t act or sound like you, and lift the voices of those around you who don’t have the same privilege and power that you have,” she said. “No matter where you go, what firms you work at, or the titles you hold – remember what we learned this year about collaborating and learning how to be a better person than the day before.”

Lessons in resiliency

Talissa Watson, MSc ’21, valedictorian for the MSc program, said the pandemic revealed the students’ resiliency. She encouraged her graduating classmates to use that resiliency to make the world a better place.

“Graduates, I encourage us all to dream of a better future, a better normal, with improved realities for ourselves and those around us. For the world needs us to continue to demonstrate our resiliency while leveraging our inventive capacities fostered here at Ivey, in non-conventional ways,” she said. “To help set new standards, make an impact, and then set the pace for progressive change. I look forward to seeing the manifestation of these dreams and hearing about our collective contributions to this promise of a better tomorrow.” 

Staying connected

Lena Robinson, valedictorian for the HBA Class of 2021, urged her classmates to maintain the connections they formed during the program as well as to deepen their connections with their local communities, society, and themselves.

“These levels of human connection are vital because, as future business leaders, no matter if we plan on immersing ourselves in valuation models, consulting on efficiency-finding projects, marketing the next best product, or starting our own companies from scratch, business is about people,” she said. “It’s about being connected to and understanding those around us and ourselves. And as the class of 2021, we are incredibly fortunate to share this connection with 575 other graduates, who have all dedicated tremendous effort to get where we are today."

To celebrate the Class of 2021, we asked them to send us highlights from their time at Ivey. Watch the video above (some photos are taken before COVID-19).

Awards and accolades

Congratulations to all of the award winners:

HBA Program

  • HBA Gold Medal: Lena Robinson; 
  • HBA Combined Degree Gold Medal: Erica Yarmol-Matusiak;
  • Adam Wiseman Memorial Award: Mark Fortino;
  • Michael & Stefanie Block Award: Jesse Zender;
  • Fred Jones Prize in Finance: Brad Perez;
  • Bob Britney HBA Prize: Erica Yarmol-Matusiak; and,
  • A.R. Wood HBA Award: Maral Mohagheghi Samarin.

MSc Program

International Business

  • Gold Medallist: Ryan McCuaig;
  • Dean’s Honour List: Daniel Choi, Crystal Hwang, Alan Joseph, and Ryan Lalkaka; and,
  • Ivey Scholar recipients: Erin Ball, Abhishek Chaudhary, Ryan McCuaig, and Devon Neudorf.

Business Analytics

  • Gold Medallist: Maddie Aaron;
  • Dean’s Honour List: Yash Bhatt, Han Sheng Chiang, Chenghao Jin, Sneha Kayyuru, JP Mann, Vu Nguyen; and,
  • Ivey Scholar recipients: Madelyn Aaron, Tyler Allan, Jake Anderson, Timothy Marc Doucette, Xueting Wang, Talissa Watson, and Samantha Zheng.

MBA Program

  • 2021 MBA Robert Johnson Gold Medal: Phillip Jong;
  • MBA Direct Gold Medal: Olivia George-Parker; and,
  • Dean’s Honour List: Garvit Bansal, Eric Bogodist, Jonathan Boileau, Kyle Boynton, Graham Calvin, Mike Clark, Mike Delplavignano, Saurabh Dhir, Tuan Doan, Charles Ehidiamhen, Colin Etienne, Olivia George-Parker, Shaun Goffenberg, Ameya Gupte, Carl Hageraats, Marjan Hatai, Julie Hind, Kailey Howell-Spooner, Tony Hu, Ahmed Husain, Lauren Iuliani, Arun Iyer, Zen Jain, Liam Johnson, Phillip Jong, Yatharth Kotecha, Alanna La Rose, Aly Ladha, Terry Lee, Cindy Li, Francesca Maduri, Michael Major, Alexandra McCalden, Martha McIvor, Olumide Olawale, Evangeline Philos, Alina Salemohamed, Edzel Tabing, Janey Thwaites, Emily Valentini, Kristina Weatherbee, Kyle Wilson, Rob Wise, and Natalie Yeung.

EMBA Program

  • Gold Medallist: Michael Messenger; and,
  • Ivey Scholars: Tijo Devassy, Chris Inniss, Jamie Kruspel, Michael Messenger, and Birinder Singh.

Teaching Excellence Award Recipients 


  • David G. Burgoyne Teaching Award: Eric Janssen, HBA ’09, MBA ’20, Entrepreneurship Lecturer.


 (As voted on by the students and being awarded for the first time)

  • The Ivey Essentials teaching excellence: Matt Thomson (Ivey Essentials Marketing);
  • The Business Analytics core course teaching excellence award: John Wilson (Business Statistics);
  • The Business Analytics elective course teaching excellence award: Vanessa Hasse, PhD ’16, (Frontier Markets);
  • The International Business core course teaching excellence award: Paul Beamish, HBA ’76, PhD ’84, (International Joint Ventures); and,
  • The IB elective course teaching excellence award: Rod Duclos (Global Marketing). 


  • Carol Stephenson Excellence in EMBA Teaching Award: Tony Frost.