2023 Social Science grads reflect on their time at McMaster

To celebrate Convocation, we asked a few of our Social Sciences graduates to reflect on their experiences at McMaster University and to offer some advice to their younger selves.

We also asked them what their future plans are, as well as their favourite memories and places on campus.


Elizabeth Wong, Labour Studies and Political Science

Elizabeth Wong at Convocation


What are your proudest achievements from your time at McMaster?

I definitely have a range of proudest achievements from my time at Mac. I think one achievement that will stick with me is my first semester of getting all 12’s. I actually did very poorly academically in my first year so it was one of those moments where I was so proud of myself for working hard and sticking to following my passions. I am proud of the advocacy work I did as VP Education of the MSU as well. I not only got to advocate for students on campus but got to contribute to lobbying efforts on the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government. Overall, I’m honestly just proud that I was able to make it through!


What does having graduated mean to you and your family?

Graduating has been quite bittersweet as it’s a sign of completion and new beginnings. It was surreal to finally get that piece of paper! I went through some pretty difficult times during my time at Mac so to get to this point after all those sleepless nights and struggles. To me it was a confirmation that I made the right choice to choose passion. To my family, it was an “about time” moment but a proud moment nonetheless. I switched programs, took an internship, and took off time to work full-time so they were honestly just happy that I finally finished my undergrad! But overall, I think they are happy, proud, and hopeful for what comes next!


What advice would you give to your first-year self?

Some advice I would give to my first-year self would be that you don’t have to have your future figured out right away. As a first year, you will constantly be asked what your plans are for your future. There is so much pressure to have your career figured out and it doesn’t feel the greatest if your fellow students seem to have it all planned out when you’re still figuring it all out. Slow down and don’t worry, things will work out even if your journey is rocky. Get out there and meet new people and experience new things to expand your perspectives in life. You may find you’re on the right path or you may find a new path along the way. Just remember that your journey is yours and yours alone!


What is your favourite memory from being a student at McMaster University?

Thinking about my favourite memories from being a student at Mac is so tough, because I’ve been lucky to have been surrounded by so many amazing people who I’ve created many memories with over the years (sorry I can’t just pick one!). One memory that really sticks out is from when my friend Shania and I would go to different food places on campus and would critic menu items that neither of us had tried before. Another favourite time would also be when I was with my friends Arhum and Aaron in Thode and we would always order Lavas late at night while we were studying. In my last year, my friend Salsa and I would go and “study” at Williams every week after our Labour studies class for hours on end. My friends made all my time at Mac a precious memory!


What’s next for you after graduation?

So, I’m currently working in Ottawa on Parliament Hill as a Intern for the Ministry of Fisheries, Oceans, and Canadian Coast Guard. I have absolutely loved this experience so far but it ends at the end of summer! I have plans to travel in the fall and then afterwards I’m not really sure what I want to do! I think I have a Masters in mind for next year but I’m really not putting much pressure on a set plan at the moment. I know what type of career plan I want for the future but I’m trying to go with the flow and just see what path comes naturally because everytime I do make a plan, something always seems to come and change it!


Where’s your favourite spot on campus?

My favourite spot on campus would be the couches at MUSC. I know, what a controversial pick but I have a lot of good memories from hanging out on those couches. My friends and I would have conflicting schedules so we sometimes only had 30 minutes to see each other to hang out the MUSC couches were the best meeting spot. I also got to get to know one of the cleaning ladies from Mac because I would often wait on the couches after night classes before I went home. Definitely an honourable mention to the benches outside of MUSC as well because they have great cover from the sun but still allow you to enjoy some fresh air!


Salsa Sarhan, Honours Political Science & Labour Studies with a minor in Public Leadership 

Salsa Sarhan at Convocation


What are your proudest achievements from your time at McMaster?

Overall proudest achievement is the long lasting impact I have left on many communities while holding various roles within welcome week teams, faculty society (president, student representative, undergraduate representative), school clubs (Bridging Borders Hamilton, Black Students Association) & student government (Student Representative Assembly).

Within all these spaces I strived to ensure the space was better than I entered it and for that work to be continued by other students and flourish new minds.  It makes you feel like a proud parent when a project/idea you’ve spearheaded has now turned into a norm or routine for these students and are able to access and enjoy it.


Last but not least giving the valedictorian address and seeing the faces of my friends & family light up was a beautiful way to end off & commemorate my time here at McMaster.


What does having graduated mean to you and your family?

There are a multitude of “what’s next” questions coming my way from friends and family. But right now I am enjoying being a graduate and reflecting on the past five years. Along with the new communities I was introduced to being valedictorian and connecting with like minded individuals. Additionally graduating at a time of warm weather and overall optimism allows for a safe space to start planning and experimenting what my next steps are with the comfort of an iced coffee on a lovely patio somewhere in downtown Hamilton.


My family and I are beyond excited to see what next adventure I will embark on!


What advice would you give your first-year self?

The best advice I would give my first year self is a notion of things that coincide with one another:  is to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities on this campus & surrounding it. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, because believe it or not we are all in the same boat: try out for that intramural team, sign up for that club that peaked your interest & speak out during your tutorials. There truly is something for everyone with the abundance of clubs (academically & socially), sports, & community events.


Additionally, make sure you embrace the positive and negative experiences you will encounter socially and academically within school because you will only grow from there and be able to nourish your character as a human being.


What is your favourite memory from being a student at McMaster University?

This is a very difficult question to answer, considering I came back for a fifth year because I absolutely adore the school so much I couldn’t leave just after 4 years. But if I had to pick one I would most definitely say fourth year as a whole was a beautiful memory. I was elected Social Sciences President & connected with a variety of staff & students, we had our first in person welcome week since the pandemic, & there was an overall feeling of optimism and hope for the school. A very transformative and awakening year to what I truly enjoy implementing my time and energy in. What I will miss most is wearing my blue overalls during welcome week and losing my voice from doing so many cheers. That is an unforgettable feeling & memory that I will deeply miss.


What’s next for you after graduation?

Inshallah (god willing)  what’s next for me is to continue my work of community engagement and outreach that I started this year with my “Youth Engager” position within the City of Hamilton Youth Division team. Anyone that has met me, knows how much I adore this city & this love will only continue with any new journey I am able to embark on. Academically I see myself pursuing a path in media marketing or communications to tighten up the skills I have curated over the years with managing various social media accounts & continue my love of content creation with @hamontsalsa on instagram.

Overall if you want to stay connected, feel free to add me on LINKEDin at “Salsa Sarhan” or follow me on instagram @salsasarhan


Bonus: Where is your favourite spot on campus?

Favourite spot on campus was my Social Sciences Office located in LR WILSON Hall room 1001, that space holds many memories and so many students have walked in there trying to connect on a professional & personal level. Holds a very special place in my heart.


Sisters Wadana and Naviatha Abbas, both Honours Political Science with a specialization in Public Law and Judicial Studies and a concurrent certificate in Leadership, Equity and Social Change

Naviatha and Wadana Abbas at Convocation


What are your proudest achievements from your time at McMaster?

We each have many achievements that we’re equally proud of, but there are a few that stand out. For both of us, having our academic achievements recognized through scholarships and awards was always a proud moment. As well, having started off our journey within the McMaster Pre-Law Society in our first year at Mac, becoming co-presidents of the society in our final year was incredibly rewarding. Thirdly, being able to transition and welcome three batches of first-year students to McMaster through our roles as Welcome Week Reps for the Faculty of Social Sciences is something we both view as a great collective achievement. And lastly, we are both incredibly proud to be among the first students graduating with a concurrent certificate in Leadership, Equity and Social Change—and to have been appointed ambassadors for the certificate as it was developing and being introduced to the McMaster student body.


What does having graduated mean to you and your family? 

Our family has long valued education because it embodies strength and progression within a people. Being 2 of 3 daughters to Pashtun immigrant parents, graduating is symbolic of the hard work and sacrifices our parents made to be able to provide us with the opportunity to pursue post-secondary—and now graduate—education. To us, it demonstrates that everything that they left behind was worth it. To the two PhD parents that raised us and supported us through this journey while overcoming countless challenges of their own, graduating means honouring you!


You shared your university journey with your twin sister. How was that? How close are you two, and did this bring you closer? 

Naviatha: My sister frequently jokes that she was not my friend until our first year of university. I would protest saying “No, we have been friends since we were born,” but four years later and I think I finally agree. Dawn and I have always been close, but our undergraduate experience at McMaster is what brought us closer. We learned about who we were as individuals and simultaneously realized our mutual and shared interests in art, social work, volunteering, leadership, and law. Our time at McMaster is what made us best friends by choice and I now look forward to the next three years as we navigate law school together.

Wadana: Sharing my university journey with Navi wasn’t necessarily anything new. We had been in the same classes from pre-school to high school (even with randomized schedules), so I didn’t anticipate another four years together to change anything. However, I quickly learned that McMaster had something a little different stored for us. While we discovered mutual interests, we also branched out into different hobbies altogether due to the opportunities we were given. I think it was in this difference that we grew closer—now that we were different, experiencing uniquely, and coming home with different stories of our day, we were able to become friends. Ultimately, I wouldn’t change anything about my undergraduate journey, and that includes sharing it with her.


What advice would you give your first year self?

Naviatha: I would advise my first year self to get more involved in the McMaster community. McMaster has so many opportunities to offer people of varying interests, so it’s really important to put yourself out there, meet new people, and explore different environments.

Wadana: I would tell her to take it easy and reach out to others in times of uncertainty. University is the culmination of 4 (and sometimes 5 or 6 or 7) years, a single course or semester is not what defines you or your undergraduate experience. If you’re unsure, seek advice or support from the many resources available to you as an undergraduate student at Mac!


Question 5: What is your favourite memory from being a student at McMaster university? 

Naviatha: Being elected as VP Programming for the McMaster Social Sciences Society and getting to work with many amazing teams to plan and host events throughout the year!

Wadana: Welcome Week, always. The three years I spent as a Welcome Week Rep were by far points in my undergraduate career that were most exciting and memorable!


Question 6: What is next for you after graduation?

Getting to pursue our passions at Osgoode Hall Law School in the fall.


Bonus: Where is your favourite spot on campus?

Naviatha: My favourite spot on campus would have to be anywhere in LR Wilson—preferably right next to the hot chocolate vending machine.

Wadana: My favourite spot would be BSB field (but strictly in the summer time).


Alex Boué, Honours BA, Major in Political Science, Minor in Environment & Society

Alex Boué

What are your proudest achievements from your time at McMaster?

My proudest achievement was being able to represent McMaster Soccer throughout my time at the school, and represent the university for team Canada at the 2022 Maccabiah Games.


What does having graduated mean to you and your family?

Graduating is probably one of my biggest achievements in my life so far! I hope however that this is just the start of future success that I can have in my career going forward.


What advice would you give your first-year self?

Having arrived at Mac coming off a gap year playing soccer abroad, I would tell my first year self that that its normal to have difficulty getting back into the rhythm of school, but that you will figure it out quickly!

I believe that finding a good balance in your schedule early on in undergrad is vital to having success. Otherwise, I’d tell myself to enjoy the moment and the Bistro food!


What is your favourite memory from being a student at McMaster University?

My fondest memories would be meeting all the amazing people, teammates, coaches, and professors! Through them, I developed lifelong friendships and created memories that will last forever.


What’s next for you after graduation?

After graduating, I plan on going to law school. I have applied to law school both in Canada and in the UK, and am currently finalizing where I will be come September!


Bonus: Where is your favourite spot on campus?

My favourite spot on campus is definitely DBAC and Ron Joyce Stadium! If I’m not there, you’ll always find me in the MDCL third-floor tutorial rooms!


Monserrat Ramirez Ruvalcaba, Honours Social Psychology

Monserrat Ramirez Ruvalcaba \


What are your proudest achievements from your time at McMaster?

USRA (Undergraduate Student Research Award) Recipient.

Selected as McMaster Social Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference coordinator.

Travelled to New York, representing McMaster and Canada in an international acapella competition.


What does having graduated mean to you and your family?

I moved to Canada on my own at the age of 17 to pursue further education. The journey that ensued over the next four years filled me with so much knowledge, experience and gratitude. Throughout this experience, I’ve felt so much love and support from my family. They have been there for me through every step of the way and for that, I could not be more grateful. This accomplishment is as much theirs as it is my own.


What advice would you give your first-year self?

As a first-year student, I stayed in my comfort zone to avoid the feeling of not knowing how to handle myself in novel situations. Now, I challenge that ideology and would encourage my first-year self to explore opportunities and environments with the goal of learning more about the world and people in it.


What is your favourite memory from being a student at McMaster University?

It seems impossible to condense four years of memorable experiences into a singular moment that stands out. I’ve shared laughs, tears and many special moments with friends. For those of you, I thank you for making my time here so special – I’ll carry those memories with me for a lifetime.


What’s next for you after graduation?

Starting in the fall of this year, I will be commencing a research-based Masters in Sociology at Carleton University in Ottawa. My love for research that I developed while at McMaster has helped solidify my goal of completing a Doctorate afterwards.


Bonus: Where is your favourite spot on campus?

The waterfall room in MDCL. My best writing has come to fruition there.