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A home away from home – Barley Party 2024

Posted by Stephanie Rogers on April 12, 2024 in Alumni & Friends, News
Barley Party 2024
Barley Party 2024

From family connections to lifelong friendships, the Faculty of Agriculture’s Barley Ring feels like home for many students and alumni, the latest group of whom were honoured April 5th at the 2024 Barley Party.

Established in 2010, the Barley Party is the annual celebration for students who have purchased a Barley Ring – the Faculty of Agriculture’s widely recognized graduation ring. Seventy-six rings were presented to class of 2024 graduates, who were joined by faculty, staff, alumni and past honorary ring recipients to celebrate their hard work and accomplishments.

Students enjoyed a meal and were called one-by-one to the front of the room to have their rings presented by Dr. Gefu Wang-Pruski, acting dean and campus principal. Chair of the Faculty of Agriculture’s Alumni Association, Dr. Robyn McCallum (Class of ’13 and ’17), served as emcee for the evening.

“Barley Party is one of the most special events of the year on our campus,” said Colette Wyllie, alumni engagement manager for the Faculty of Agriculture. “It’s a culmination of years of hard work, and an unofficial kickoff to graduation activities.”

Scheduled to take place near the final day of classes of the winter semester, the timing allows for even more reasons to celebrate. Although final exams, reports and presentations still loom, graduating students are in the home stretch.

“Every Barley Party is unique, as is every graduating class,” said Colette. “The event has evolved tremendously over 14 years, and that’s been driven by the students. It’s wonderful to see new traditions established naturally over time.”

One of those traditions is the presentation of rings to multi-generational families. For years now, AC alumni with family members graduating have opted to order their own Barley Rings and attend Barley Party to have them presented alongside their loved ones. At the 2024 event, three family presentations were made.

Dwayne and Jordan Barteaux, a father-son duo, help to manage Barteaux Farms along with family patriarch Bob in the beautiful Annapolis Valley. Barteaux Farms produces core fruit, stone fruit, berries, pumpkin, and squash. Jordan will graduate in May with an agricultural business degree and plans to return to the family farm to help his father and grandfather.

“To have the opportunity to receive my ring, together with my son, was a very special experience for me,” said Dwayne, a farm technology grad of ’89. “A cherished memory I'm sure will stay with me forever.”

Outgoing Dalhousie Agricultural Students’ Association president Tessa MacIsaac received her ring alongside her mom, Angela MacIsaac (Class of ’98) and great aunt Bonnie MacInnis (Class of ’78). Read more about their story.

And Sinead Riordon was determined to receive her Barley Ring even after being accepted to Atlantic Veterinary College at UPEI after her third year of study. Her father John (Class of ‘82) surprised his daughter by attending as well.

“It was important for me to graduate from AC and receive my Barley Ring due to the profound impact and fond memories the school has provided me,” explained Sinead.  “Obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture majoring in Animal Science has provided me with a solid foundation which continues to be useful academically as I continue my journey at AVC. Being able to gain an education through labs on a live and operational farm with sheep, cattle, poultry, aquaculture and more gave me hands-on experience that has helped me become more confident in my abilities,” she added.

After the finishing vet school, Sinead hopes to provide veterinary services specifically for livestock.

“I have always appreciated where my food comes from and I am driven by the opportunity to make a positive impact by supporting farmers, ensuring the health of livestock, and ultimately contributing to global food security. The agricultural sector holds deep meaning for me, and I am dedicated to this necessary industry; I cannot see myself pursuing a career in any other field.”

Her father John, decided to surprise Sinead by attending and receiving his own Barley Ring. 

"The father-daughter presentation turned out to be a treasured memory and I will certainly wear the ring with pride and always have a heartwarming feeling," he said. 

The Barley Party surprises continued, with the presentation of an Honorary Barley Ring to a very deserving individual at the end of the night.

Honorary rings are awarded to those who don’t meet the criteria to be eligible for a Faculty of Agriculture ring but who are extremely deserving of the honour. These individuals are ambassadors and supporters of the institution and have made outstanding contributions to the Faculty of Agriculture community. An unsuspecting Dr. Gefu Wang-Pruski was presented with the Honorary Barley Ring for 2024.

“It was a complete shock to learn I was receiving an honorary ring,” said Dr. Wang-Pruski. “I feel so honoured to have been selected by our students and alumni. I have always wanted to be a part of the AC community, and now I feel like a true member.”

A staple on campus since she first joined as an NSAC faculty member in 1999, Dr. Wang-Pruski's devotion to advancing the institution, research, student well-being and the agriculture industry over the past 25 years is seemingly tireless. Along with her position as professor and researcher, Dr. Gefu Wang-Pruski has filled the role of Plant, Food & Environmental Sciences department chair, dean of the FAFU Overseas Education College, and most recently, acting dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and campus principal.

A well-known potato scientist within North America, Dr. Wang-Pruski leads the Potato Molecular Biology and Genomics research lab and the Potato Consumer Research Initiative on campus. She is well-respected in the industry, particularly in the Maritime provinces, where potatoes are a vital part of the economy.

Dr. Wang-Pruski has also been an indispensable resource for the Faculty of Agriculture’s international relations. She has hosted many visiting scholars and sits on the coordinating committee for the faculty’s articulation agreement with the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry university, of which she has been a vital component since its inception. Most notably, Dr. Wang-Pruski served as dean of FAFU’s Overseas Education College from 2013 to 2016. She remains a student advisor for the International College.

Support for students is where she shines. Dr. Wang-Pruski wants nothing more than for every student at the AC to succeed, academically and otherwise, and will do anything in her power to enable that success. She makes herself available to all her students and is incredibly approachable. She is kind, welcoming and doesn’t take herself too seriously. An active listener, she will make time for any questions or concerns, and forges true friendships with those around her. She regularly opens her home to her students, providing an especially welcoming environment to those whose homes are very far away.

On October 30, 2023, Dr. Wang-Pruski took on a one-year term as acting dean and principal for the Faculty of Agriculture. In this role she has proven herself tireless. On top of the day-to-day responsibilities of the position, she has made a regular habit of attending as many student events as possible and meeting with the DASA every month over lunch. She truly listens to the concerns and comments raised, and always makes sure to act or report back. Even in this new role, Dr. Wang-Pruski puts students at ease, and they feel comfortable talking to her. She has been an invaluable partner to DASA and the entire student body.

“This has touched my heart profoundly,” she said. “I can’t think of a better reward after working here for 25 years, and now I feel inspired to work even harder for the students and our campus community!”

Dr. Wang-Pruski's undeniable dedication to the well-being of the Faculty of Agriculture sets her apart and leaves no doubt she deserves to wear a Barley Ring on her finger. She joins an impressive group of past honorary recipients, many of whom were in attendance to celebrate the 2024 ring recipients.

Congratulations to all!

Barley Party 2024 Facebook album