Meet this morning’s Social Sciences valedictorian


"Being able to come together and bond over being a McMaster student has given me the opportunity to meet so many new people, old and young (past alumni and future alumni) that I may have never met..."

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What would you say to your first year you? Meet Atia Bashizadah, valedictorian at the June 14 Convocation for the Faculty of Social Sciences. 

1. Name: 

Atia Bashizadah

2. Hometown:

In terms of hometown, Hamilton/Ancaster area is where I hail from. In terms of background I am an immigrant from Afghanistan.

3. Degree/Major:

I embarked on the Freudian journey of pursuing a degree in Social Psychology, with my minors in Political Science.

4. What made you choose McMaster for you higher education career? 

McMaster was close to home and that held a lot of appeal for me. With so many changes to consider embarking on a university education, having such an amazing school in your backyard made it an easy decision to decide to do my undergrad here. It helped for a smoother transition and I definitely feel it was a contributing factor to integrating well, especially in first year.

5. What will you be doing after graduation or see yourself doing? 

My long term goal is law school, however at the moment I am interning with the Global Wholesale Wealth and Risk Technology (GWWRT) department of Scotiabank in Toronto, under their Project Management team as a Project Control Officer. I’ll see what’s in store for me after that!

6. What would you say or advice to your first year self? 

A bad grade is not the end of the world! I remember in first year thinking that I was not about to let that whole “you’ll drop 10%” phenomenon apply to me, because academics meant a lot to me. However, over the years I’ve learned sometime the quantifying grade isn’t the best representation of how much you’ve learned or grown. First year me took a bad grade really hard, I thought it was the end all and be all of my undergraduate career.

7. How has McMaster shaped the person you are today? 

My undergraduate career at McMaster was one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life. In terms of shaping who I am today, it played a huge role in my ability to be adaptive. Juggling school, work, and whatever else was going on in my life meant that there were many moments of surprise – and often times being tossed into a situation where I had to think on my feet. McMaster also shaped how to be adaptable in dealing with people, as I found myself constantly changing my work output based on what my different professors expected of me. I think this ability has stemmed off many different aspects of myself, which have shaped into who I am today.

8. What events did you enjoy the most at McMaster/Hamilton city?

Anything related to food and diversity. McMaster as a community, and Hamilton as a city is so culturally rich and diverse. We have people from all walks of life, but for a majority of us I think the appreciation and love for food are a common feature that can tie us together. Being able to experience different cultural foods, falling in love with them or bonding over them, speaks volumes. McMaster and Hamilton are amazing in having so many opportunities to experience that – through their students and their citizens. If I am not mistaken, McMaster was involved in, or had covered, an initiative with Syrian refugee women, helping cultivate their amazing cooking skills into an entrepreneurial endeavour to help them. That made me really happy, as not only did they get to exercise agency in how they contribute to their community and sustain themselves, but they get to spread cultural awareness and in turn social awareness of who they are as people and the experiences they’ve had.

9. If you could change anything in the past or in your time at McMaster, what would it be? 

That is a difficult question to answer, mainly because I believe things happen for a reason. It doesn’t mean everything that happens has to be monumental but things have shaped the way they are because of what has happened in the past and my time at McMaster. In terms of change, the only thing I can think of was maybe not working as much during my undergraduate career and getting out a bit more with my fellow undergraduates and community.

10. Who was your support for succeeding in higher education? 

It’s difficult to pinpoint one person exactly as being my support in my success. Everyone in my life has played some role or another to where I am. Someone who stands out especially though is Dr. Sarah Clancy. As a professor, and an educator, she revived my passion for learning at a point in my undergraduate career where I was a little lost and despondent. She reminded me of why I loved learning, and that made a huge difference for me at that point in my life. In addition my parents have played a monumental role. Without their support, from things ranging from bus stop pickups to constantly questioning what I was learning at a broader scope, I don’t think I could be where I am today. Both mom and dad have uniquely contributed to my success, both in supporting me and challenging me.

11. How have you changed over the course of your University life? 

I’ve learned to take things into stride and make changes to my life’s journey accordingly. The unexpectancies that I experienced in my university life have taught me that no matter how much I can plan and think ahead, sometimes I will be required to change based on things in or out of my control. Learning to not stress has been the biggest change, and it is one I welcome.

12. How have you grown as a person throughout your time at McMaster?

Like I mentioned, the ability to adapt and the understanding that things need to be taken into stride were my biggest growing pains throughout my time at McMaster. Not only that, but as a Social Psychology student, I became more open to the way people think and experience things – and I would like to believe that has made me more empathetic. Having a wider world view means accounting for so many different facets of people’s lives that make them who they are. To me that is something  I value as my biggest growth and achievement.

13. What do you envision yourself doing five years from now? 

Hopefully, being financially stable enough in my career to travel regularly. I have wanderlust – I enjoy the different sites and sounds of countries, cities and towns because that means I am constantly learning. Meeting new people and just taking a moment in our hectic lives to share something about ourselves and learn from one another is humbling and empowering.

14. What is your definition of success? 

My definition of success comes from the ability to fail. Not only to fail, but more so how to move on from failure. Failing something is so stigmatized that we often forget that some of our most important lessons comes from initially failing at something. Learning to fall forward, and persevering and continuing to move on equips you with so many characteristics needed to be successful. I think a person hasn’t truly succeeded until they’ve first failed and then moved on from that.

15. How would your life be different if you didn’t go to McMaster? 

If I didn’t go to McMaster I wouldn’t have the bonds with some people that I have now. Being able to come together and bond over being a McMaster student has given me the opportunity to meet so many new people, old and young (past alumni and future alumni) that I may have never met – simply because we wouldn’t have shared the same love and appreciation for the school. More so, the friends I have now, having met them in first year and journeyed with them through undergrad, are people I know will be around for life. I cannot see myself having met them or befriended them if not for McMaster – specifically first year psychology with the infamous Dr. Joe Kim.

Learn more about Spring 2017 convocations here:

Related Stories