It was only a year ago that Raphael Anammasiya Ayambire celebrated his own graduation from the University of Waterloo. He first received his PhD in Planning before accepting a post-doctoral fellowship directly afterwards. Now a professor at the University of Manitoba, he returned to the University of Waterloo as a Faculty of Environment alumni speaker to congratulate the newest cohort on their achievements and recognize their success.

Raphael Anammasiya Ayambire.

“It’s an honour to be chosen to share this moment with over 400 new graduates” said Ayambire. “They have worked hard to get to this moment, and I plan on acknowledging their dedication and sacrifice, their appreciation of diversity, and their willingness to accept the challenge to be global changemakers.”


Ayambire knows all too well that completing a degree at Waterloo is not without its trials. Originally from Ghana, he came to Waterloo to complete his PhD under the supervision of Dr. Jeremy Pittman. During this time, he studied species at risk and conservation in the grasslands of Saskatchewan but was also learning about his new home in Waterloo.

“Starting a new life in Canada can be challenging; but finding a home like the University of Waterloo makes all the difference. Professors like Jeremy Pittman and Markus Moos gave me family and made my academic and personal life in Canada fulfilling.”

Although it can be difficult to strike a balance between work and life, and the cost of pursuing your passion comes with great sacrifice, Ayambire know what it’s like to graduate from Waterloo and pursue your goals. After his graduation, he went on to become the first Caivan International Experience Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Waterloo. Here he transitioned his research focus to future cities and how they will radically change due to technological advancements and uncertainties with climate change – an area of study that he was new to but had a deep passion for.

“It was the most important opportunity for me because receiving that fellowship confirmed that this area of study that I wanted to explore was important and that I was capable of doing it. It was empowering.”

It is experiences like these that have reinforced his key message to this year’s cohort – come exactly as you are. Ayambire encouraged the new graduating class to do just that and develop a clear mindset of what they want to accomplish. “Changemakers don’t have to come with a long list of accolades or work experience. Changemakers can be people who have nothing but a vision for their community and the will to see it done.”

Ayambire gave his full address at Faculty of Environment convocation on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 13. The full ceremony was live streamed.