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Graduating Gee-Gees Reflect on their University Careers

Thursday June 22, 2017
Belalrdini, Lemire and Forand with their diploma.

Kellie Forand, Domenic Bellardini and Vickie Lemire are all four-year athletes at uOttawa. Convocation for the 2017 graduates took place June 17, 19, 20 at the Shaw Centre where they walked across the stage to cap off their undergraduate careers.   

All three athletes took the time to reflect on their experiences playing for the Gee-Gees.

Kellie Forand

The Shawinigan native played four years for the basketball program racking up 65 regular season games played, 1109 minutes, 210 points, and 136 rebounds. During those four years, she was a star on the court, but she also excelled off the court as well. She received the University of Ottawa President’s Award to recognize her commitment to athletics, academics, and community service. She was also a four-time U SPORTS Academic All-Canadian and had the highest GPA (10.0) among uOttawa student-athletes during the 2013-2014 season.

While juggling athletics and academics, Forand achieved a four-year cumulative GPA of 9.7. For her efforts, she was named the Faculty of Arts valedictorian and will also receive the faculty plaque in communications, which is given to the student with the highest standing in the honours bachelor program in the department of communication.

Forand spoke about one of her fondest memories as a Gee-Gee.

“One of my best moments was is in my third year when we played Ryerson at Maple Leaf Gardens. We were both undefeated so it was a very important game. I was guarding Keneca Pingue-Giles, who was chosen as the CIS Player that year that season. The game was tight all along and it took two overtimes for us to finally win the game by three points. It’s a fond memory of mine because we all came together that day. We were all exhausted, nobody was cheering for us and all we had was each other. But that was enough. That moment and many others grew my sense of belonging to the Gee-Gees family and made me very proud to represent the University of Ottawa.”

She attributes being a student-athlete to shaping much of who she is today. “Being a student-athlete shaped me in many ways. We always hear about how it teaches time management, discipline and work ethic, but it goes much beyond that.”

“Team sport teaches you about pursuing common goals with other people and being able to work together towards them. That means putting aside your personal character or ego to focus on something greater. It also means adapting to fill in the roles that your team needs. As a student-athlete, you also learn to prioritize many things in life. When your time is limited, you need to make some choices and it’s very useful to be confronted with those situations earlier rather than later in life. I would definitely say being a student-athlete helped me grow as a person and has shaped my personality and character for the best!”

As for Forand’s future after graduation, she will be coming back to complete her master’s degree and will play a fifth year for the basketball team. “My thesis will be about the communication in bilingual groups and how leaders or managers can enhance the performance of such groups.” She is very excited to be coming back for her last year of U SPORTS eligibility. “It means a lot to me to play one more year with my team as I never thought I was going to play my whole five years. After that, we’ll see what’s next. My long-term goal is to start my own business. So I’m looking for ways to gather experience in marketing, communications and public relations in the upcoming years and to keep growing my network.”

Being a Gee-Gee means a lot to Forand and she will always cherish her time with the program. “Being a Gee-Gee means to be someone who works hard, is dedicated and who proudly represents the University of Ottawa. I’m very proud to be part of the Gee-Gees family because everyone is more than a good player, they are great people. The character of all Gee-Gees is what defines us.”

Kellie Forand was a star at her graduation as performed a speech at the Faculty of Arts convocation as the faculty valedictorian before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took the stage to address the Faculty of Arts grads.

Domenic Bellardini

Out of Mount Hope, Ontario, Bellardini played four years for the football team as the starting punter. He played a total of 28 regular season games as a Gee-Gee accumulating 204 punts for a total of 7334 yards. He had the special ability of playing university level football while completing a very demanding civil engineering degree, which is no easy feat.   

Bellardini’s best memory involves the opening of the Gee-Gees’ home field. “When Gee-Gees Field opened in 2013 for its first football season as our home field, I did the opening kickoff against Toronto. This was not only the first play of that game, but also the first play on Gee-Gees Field. To me, it is a historic memory for the Gee-Gees family opening up the brand new field on campus and it was something that I was able to be a part of.”

Being a student-athlete has had a great impact on his life. “There have been so many life skills and lessons I have learned and applied (and still apply) throughout my University experience which has made me who I am today. Being a part of a team has taught me to be dedicated and committed even when times get tough. It allowed me to understand how to work with others in a constructive way to achieve a goal greater than any personal goal. This was all transferable into the classroom as well when it came to showing up for class on time, respecting deadlines for assignments, working on group projects, etc.

“As a whole, being a student-athlete showed me how to have balance in my life. I learned how to plan and time manage to ensure there was full commitment to my athletics and studies, as well as having time for social activities. All of these lessons have helped me become who I am today, as it is all transferable into my personal life with my relationships with family and friends, and into the working world.”

Life after university football is looking bright for Bellardini. He says, “I have recently been hired by an engineering firm, where I have received my first engineering position. So I will be staying here in the Ottawa area. I am super excited and have been enjoying it so far. It feels great to actually apply everything I studied during school into the real world, especially after working countless random part-time summer jobs throughout University that did not pertain to my field of study.”

He also plans on obtaining his professional engineering license and plans on sticking around football. “I hope one day to get into coaching and give back to my community (wherever that may be). I admire the coaches I had, both at University and prior when I was growing up, as they taught me what they knew and helped my reach my dream.” Lastly, he would love to travel the world and explore different cultures ways of living.

Bellardini says being a Gee-Gee is a privilege. “There is a long history here of outstanding and successful people, and with that comes traditions and legacy. So being a Gee-Gee means you understand that you are now a part of a new family that is greater than you; that how you conduct and portray yourself reflects on the whole Gee-Gees family. There is a responsibility that you hold to be the best person that you can be. I think with all the history, tradition, and bright future, comes a great deal of pride of being a Gee-Gee and to always have your head held high when someone asks.”

Vickie Lemire

The women’s hockey team captain will wrap up her undergraduate studies in Human Kinetics as an asset to her team and all student-athletes at uOttawa. She is the president of uOttawa’s Student-Athlete Council and volunteers at the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity. She was also a two-time Academic All-Canadian. All of her contributions to athletics and the community culminated in her award for leadership and community engagement which she received in 2016.

Along with her leadership and community engagement, Lemire also excelled on the ice. She was the RSEQ rookie of the year for the 2013-14 season and was also named to the RSEQ and CIS all-rookie teams. Her stellar play also enabled her to attend a U18 Hockey Canada National Team Development Camp after playing for Team Quebec at the U18 National Championships. She accumulated 80 regular season games played with 13 goals and 27 assists in her four years as a Gee-Gee.

Lemire had a tough time choosing only one memory to talk about. “To be honest, it is very hard to choose. I would have to say that my fondest memory is actually all of whom I've met through my four years at the University of Ottawa. This includes my teammates, my coaching staff, the Sports Services staff and the other athletes. Despite many memorable victories, it always comes down to the people and the quality time I've spent with them.”

“Being a student-athlete shaped me into the person I am today in many positive ways,” says Lemire. “Being a student-athlete requires balancing school, sport, work, training and your personal life. In my last year of university, I was working over 25 hours a week on top of hockey, training and school so I've become a time-management specialist! Sport has helped me learn many transferable life skills such as living an active and healthy lifestyle, leadership, respect, trust, confidence and self-discipline. I am very grateful to the sport for having made me the person I am today.”

Like Bellardini, Lemire has found a job in her field of study. “I was fortunate enough to get a job in the domain I've studied in university even before I graduated. I now work full time at the Coaching Association of Canada, a not-for-profit multisport organization. I will also be an assistant coach for a local girl’s hockey team in order to share my passion and knowledge of the sport. So even though I am not a student-athlete anymore I am not leaving the sport world any time soon.”

Lemire also spoke about what it means to be a uOttawa Gee-Gee. “For me being a Gee-Gee is about leaving a legacy, it’s about giving back to the community while exceeding in school and your sport, it’s about respect and determination to succeed in the different aspects of your life. For me, being a Gee-Gee is also being part of a big family.”