While Walter Alvarez-Bardales was studying as an undergraduate, he already had a feeling that further education lay ahead. He was working in the field of fiscal policy and had previously worked for an investment company that manages pensions for the New York Stock Exchange. Despite all of that excitement, something was missing. “Although it seemed life had a path for me, there was a philosophical emptiness,” says Walter. “I felt in my heart that life should not only be about the pursuit of profit or status.” As he completed the last test of his undergraduate degree, Walter came across a poster for Cape Breton University’s Master of Business Administration program. “At that moment, I felt something surreal as if the sign was speaking directly to me. The rest is history,” he says.
Now, just a week away from graduating, Walter is reflecting on his time at CBU and those who supported him along the way. He says his father Roderico has been a source of inspiration and strength throughout his educational journey. Originally born in Guatemala, Walter and his family fled the country when he was young to escape the civil war. His father bravely and peacefully confronted dictatorial regimes, risking his life to protect others. Walter lost his father shortly before his last semester at CBU. “I remember a conversation I had with him the day before he passed,” Walter shares. “When I expressed my fears and insecurities about finishing my degree despite my learning disability and other challenges, he gave me simple advice that resonates in my heart every day of my life: just keep going son, don’t stop.”
To Terry Gibbs, CBU Professor of Political Science, and Garry Leech, Journalist and Professor, Walter extends his sincerest thanks. “It was almost as if they knew that at my core I was still that scared little child surrounded by war and poverty,” he explains of the faculty. “They managed to bring me out of my shell and encouraged my ideas, thoughts and theories. I do not say this lightly, they changed my life.”
What Walter will miss most about CBU is the inspiration gained from his fellow students. He says his interactions with his peers made him realize they all wanted to make the world a better place. In 2019, Walter represented CBU at the Model UN in Washington, presenting speeches on the suffering of Palestinian children. “It’s an experience I’ll never forget,” he explains. “This diverse group of CBU students showed me the joy of struggling together, facing adversity and fear together, and ultimately succeeding together. In unity, we became unstoppable.”
Graduating during a global pandemic is bittersweet, says the upcoming graduate. “It’s impossible not to be affected by the loss of life, however, I see hope and know that adversity can bring about the best of humanity,” Walter says. “I believe there is a new sense of unity across the nation and the world, and CBU graduates are ready to make a difference in the world.”
Next, Walter will be headed to Victoria, British Columbia to join the Doctor of Social Sciences program at Royal Roads University. He says CBU has awoken the confidence necessary to overcome academic and professional fears and that he’s ready to take on this new adventure with humility and gratitude. “I want to thank CBU for giving me an education of the highest quality, and the country of Canada for giving me a seat at the table,” says Walter. “To children in the developing world, please do not ever stop believing in your dreams, as I once wore holes in my shoes too and felt the oppression of poverty trying to push me down; I know it is not always easy, but continue believing in yourself.”
Congratulations to Walter and the Fall 2020 Graduating Class!