A home away from home: Scenes from Dalhousie's Barley Party 2024

- April 19, 2024

Students display their Barley Rings at Dal's annual Barley Party earlier this month. (Provided photos)
Students display their Barley Rings at Dal's annual Barley Party earlier this month. (Provided photos)

A ring can symbolize many things. 

The Faculty of Agriculture's Barley Ring, given out annually at the Barley Party to graduating students who purchase one, embodies a sense of accomplishment as well as feelings of family and lifelong friendship.

The latest group of ring recipients were honoured at this year's Barley Party on April 5. 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.

“Barley Party is one of the most special events of the year on our campus,” said Colette Wyllie, alumni engagement manager for the Faculty. “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 party — first established in 2010 — 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."


Cherished family memories

One of those traditions is the presentation of rings to multi-generational families. For years now, Faculty of Agriculture alumni with family members graduating have opted to order their own Barley Rings and attend the 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 Annapolis Valley. The farm 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 and receiving his own ring 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."

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.”

John, her father, relished the moment with his daughter.

"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. 

Honouring a dedicated Aggie

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 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 community.

An unsuspecting Dr. Gefu Wang-Pruski, acting dean of the Faculty and Truro Campus principal, was presented with the honour this year.

“It was a complete shock to learn I was receiving an honorary ring,” said Dr. Wang-Pruski (below centre). “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 a 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.

In addition to her position now as acting head of the Faculty and campus principal, Dr. Gefu Wang-Pruski is a researcher and professor and has filled the role of Plant, Food & Environmental Sciences department chair and dean of the FAFU Overseas Education College. 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. 

Dr. Wang-Pruski wants nothing more than for every student to succeed, academically and otherwise, and will do anything in her power to enable that success. 

“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 joins an impressive group of past honorary recipients, many of whom were in attendance to celebrate the 2024 ring recipients.


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