NAIT Convocation Traditions & History

NAIT’s first convocation ceremony was held in 1965 for 326 graduates. It has since evolved into an event attended by thousands of students to celebrate their academic success.

These are the elements that have come to help make that celebration a meaningful tribute to the effort and determination required for students in the schools of Health and Life Sciences, Skilled Trades, Applied Sciences and Technology, and the JR Shaw School of Business successfully complete their programs.

Ceremonial mace

The ceremonial mace was built by NAIT staff members and adopted in 2007 to represent the institute’s authority to grant certificates, diplomas and degrees.

The head of the mace includes an acrylic sphere based on NAIT’s original logo, the Technology Globe. The chevron symbolizes NAIT leading the way, and bisects the globe at the province of Alberta. Its leading edge is made with wood and metal from an original NAIT building, dating to the early 1960s.

The tapered shaft, made from Alberta birch burl wood, leads to a metal end piece that includes brass rings inscribed with the names of past NAIT leaders. This piece terminates in a triangle, the strongest structural shape known and representative of the institute’s origins. It displays the Province of Alberta’s coat of arms, Canada’s maple leaf and the NAIT logo used from 1974 to 2007.

The mace display case is made of Canadian maple and features NAIT’s coat of arms, carved using computer-aided machining technology. The corners of the case are joined with hand-cut dovetails. The detailed wood is also Alberta birch burl.

Convocation chairs

Ornamented chairs are used during Convocation by the chair of NAIT’s Board of Governors and the president and CEO.

Built in 2008 by the same staff members who created the mace, these two chairs feature the polytechnic’s coat of arms, embroidered using a combination of computer-aided and hand stitching.

The wood in the backs and turnings is Alberta birch burl. Leather upholstery and solid brass globes and cuffs complete the chairs.

NAIT coat of arms

Introduced in May 2007, NAIT’s coat of arms appears as a verification of authenticity on the certificates, diplomas and degrees earned by graduates.

Each component of the design is symbolic:

  • At centre is a traditional heraldic crest bearing a portion of a sphere emblazoned with rays. The sphere and rays represent NAIT’s global presence.
  • Above that, an open book symbolizes the polytechnic’s commitment to learning. 

  • Within the book are a hammer and key. The hammer is a well-known symbol of the skilled trades, which remain an essential part of the institute despite its growth as an educator in a wide variety of programming. The key symbolizes success, opening the doors of opportunity for our graduates. 

  • NAIT’s official motto appears at the base of the coat of arms. “Discere, Efficere, Praestare” translates from Latin as “To Learn, To Do, To Succeed.” 

  • Canada is represented by the maple leaf above the book, and Alberta by the wild roses flanking the crest.

Academic dress

Different colours on the sleeves and hoods of robes worn by graduates and officials at Convocation signify the academic background of the wearer, identifying the credentials they earned and discipline they studied. 

The credentials and disciplines of platform party members can be identified as follows: 

  • The gowns of the members of the Board of Governors are navy with brocade trim; the board chair’s gown is trimmed in gold. 

  • The president and CEO wears a long-sleeved gown featuring NAIT colours, blue and silver.

  • Platform party members who have earned a diploma or journeyperson certification wear black gowns with blue velvet trim.

  • Doctorate degree holders wear gowns with coloured velvet on the sleeves and a hood coloured to indicate their academic discipline.

  • Master’s degree holders have hoods lined in that faculty’s colour.

  • The gowns of those who have earned a bachelor’s degree have hoods trimmed with a wide border in a colour indicating the faculty from which they graduated.

The credentials and disciplines of graduates are determined by the following:

  • Graduates of the Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Technology, and Bachelor of Technology in Construction Management programs wear a blue hood trimmed with gold velvet.
  • Graduates of diploma and applied degree programs wear a blue hood trimmed with gold cording (one cord for diploma, two cords for applied degree). 

  • Graduates completing their apprenticeship training wear a blue apprentice hood with gold stripes. 

  • Graduates earning certificates have a liripipe draped over the left shoulder.

  • The lining colour of the hood signifies the academic discipline of the graduate: white, health sciences; green, hospitality and culinary arts; pale blue, business; gold, technologies. 

The mace bearer wears a navy-blue robe with blue trim.

The music

Bagpipes signal the arrival of the platform party and the students. They are played by Cam Wallace, a member of the Edmonton and District Pipe Band and a piper with the Wajjo African Drummers. After the ceremony, the piper leads the graduates and platform party out of the auditorium.

Honour song

2022 marked the first year that an Indigenous honour song was performed at an in-person Convocation.

Knowledge keeper Lonny Potts was joined by singers and drummers Dalton Potts, Muskosis Morin and Asiniy Morin to perform a traditional honour song for all graduates, the staff who helped them, and NAIT as an environment and place that supported their efforts.

The song is spiritual and “stems from the Creator,” said Potts. “You recognize people who accomplished something in their life that took commitment and struggle. You recognize their achievement.”

Additionally, the song serves as a call for strength and guidance as the new graduates embark upon the next phases of their lives. 

“You take the effort and energy that they’ve exerted from their own spirit and use that to put forth good intentions for the future – to clear their path to whatever goal they are looking for,” said Potts.

Honorary degree awards

The NAIT honorary degree award recipients receive a unique NAIT-made gift created by staff in 3 different programs – Glazier, Cabinetmaker and Machinist. The gift is a laser engraved glass trophy on a wooden base with a brass retainer for business cards.

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