‘I feel relieved, but it’s all a bit bittersweet’

A black and white headshot of Connor Wood

At the end of grade eight, Connor Wood’s teachers didn’t really see him as a future university student.  

They recommended he take applied courses once he got to high school, which would have taught him practical, hands-on skills, but wouldn’t allow him to apply to university. (Since then, Ontario high schools have stopped streaming students in grade nine.)  

Fair enough, says Wood — he wasn’t a great student then. But he knew he wanted to go to university, so he knew he needed to make a change. 

Once he graduated from high school — as valedictorian of his class — he was well on his way. 

Now, after six years of balancing both full- and part-time work and school, he’ll be crossing the stage at Monday’s convocation as a graduand from the Communication Studies program, with a minor in Innovation. He’s made it onto the Dean’s Honour List with distinction. And he’ll soon be starting a position with CloudSafaris, a travel technologies company focused on increasing travel to Africa. 

Juggling work and school has been both a joy and a challenge all through Woods’ time at Mac, he says — he’s been working at The Phoenix, McMaster’s on-campus pub since first year, is a bartender at a local cocktail bar and is also a professional photographer. 

Wood says a big part of being able to keep work and school balanced was the guidance provided by Jackie Osterman, the Faculty of Humanities’ assistant dean (studies), and the Faculty’s academic advising team. 

“Jackie was the first academic counsellor I ever spoke to at McMaster,” says Wood, who grew up in Grimsby. “It was the summer of 2018 and I was 17 years old. In a 30-minute meeting, she was able to answer every single question I had about my upcoming term, offering words of encouragement and showing me that everything might just work out in this scary new place.” 

From then on, Osterman was part of Wood’s journey through McMaster, helping him juggle school with two or three jobs, working to arrange his classes so he could get a minor, and being a support throughout his time as a student. 

Despite all the excitement and anticipation of convocation, someone else will be on Woods’ mind during Monday’s ceremony: his father, William, who passed away suddenly on May 6. 

“My dad was a big champion for me, and was my biggest advocate for going to university,” says Wood. “He won’t get to see me graduate, but I still know he’ll be there.”  

Click here for stories, videos and highlights from Spring 2024 convocation ceremonies and celebration events

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