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Convocation preview: 10 great grads, in numbers

Concordia's valedictorians and Governor General Medal winners offer pearls of wisdom for the class of 2015
June 3, 2015
By Elena Raznovan


For an entire class of Concordians, the big day is almost here.

At this month’s convocation ceremonies, almost 6,000 students will receive degrees, diplomas and certificates from the university. For all of them, this moment represents the end of an incredible educational journey.

Each one of these new graduates began their time at Concordia with a single goal in mind. Now, with their studies complete, they are moving on to the next phases of their careers.

The 2015 spring convocation ceremonies take place on June 8, 9 and 10 at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in Place des Arts. Six new honorands — United Nations climate change champion Christiana Figueres, violinist Angèle Dubeau, journalist and political activist Kenneth Deer, business visionary Emanuele (Lino) Saputo, distinguished professor emeritus K. G. Terry Hollands and governance strategist Anne-Marie Hubert — will address the graduating class.

Eight university valedictorians and two winners of the Governor General’s Academic Medals will join them onstage.

We asked these 10 standout students for the secrets to their success.


David Demers

BA, Community, Public Affairs and Policy Studies, Philosophy
Faculty of Arts and Science

Demers, who became legally blind six years ago due to optic neuropathy (LHON), is a passionate advocate for the needs of the blind and partially sighted. He serves as a member of the Board of Governors at CNIB Quebec.

Currently, Demers is working for eSight, a tech company that is developing electronic glasses for blind people to see. He wants to continue working to eliminate existing stigmas around the employability of people living with blindness or partial vision.

Three keys to a good education

  • "Open dialogue."
  • "Diversity of opinion."
  • "Social inclusion."

Two lessons learned at Concordia

  • “Advocating for your needs is the key to success.”
  • “Studying should be considered a full time job.”

One piece of advice for graduates

  • “Completing a Bachelor’s degree instills a sense of confidence in you; that you can see a long-term project through to its end. Do not give up. Work hard.”

To read various interviews and articles written about David Demers, visit his Facebook page


Gianna Di Censo

BSc, Biochemistry (Honours)
Faculty of Arts and Science

Di Censo’s research focuses on nucleic acid chemistry. A member of the research group directed by Chris Wilds, Canada Research Chair in Biological Chemistry, she was involved in a variety of projects, ranging from biophysical studies to organic synthesis of small molecules. She is a member of Concordia's Science College, and participated in the university's Co-op experiential learning program.

With the goal of one day becoming a professor, Di Censo plans to pursue graduate studies in medicinal chemistry at Université de Montreal. She wants to study the development of synthetic routes leading to novel anti-cancer agents.

Three keys to a good education

  • “Take initiative. Learning is not limited to the classroom. It's up to you to seek out opportunities to better yourself and the quality of your education.”
  • “Think critically. Don't be afraid to use less conventional methods to solve a problem; if you fail, at least you'll have tried something new, which is the only route to innovation and discovery.”
  • “Teach others as much as you can. Never pass on an opportunity to share knowledge with your peers.”

Two lessons learned at Concordia

  • “Collaboration is the key to innovation. Most of what I learned in university came from other people.”
  • “Balance is imperative to progress. Even if you love what you do and don't mind putting in long hours, don't let your work consume you.”

One piece of advice for graduates

  • “Focus on the present. If you still don't know what you want to be when you grow up, that's fine. The process is much more meaningful than the end result.”


Gabriel Ellison-Scowcroft

BA, Journalism
Faculty of Arts and Science

A documentary photographer and multimedia journalist, Ellison-Scowcroft is interested in the kinds of stories that depict the quotidian realities of life everywhere.

Now that he's finished his studies, Ellison-Scowcroft wants to try earning a living as a freelance photojournalist. It's a career choice he describes as "simultaneously exciting and terrifying."

3 keys to a good education

  • “Teachers that are willing to push you outside of your comfort zone. They lead you to discover things about yourself that you simply can’t get when you stick to the things you’re comfortable with.” 
  • “Being obliged to swallow my own pride and take criticism constructively has been a huge factor. Understanding the importance of never being too attached to one idea, particularly when it's your own idea, allows you to progress and learn much more deeply.” 
  • “Classroom learning only goes so far. Whether by yourself or with the help of others, taking what you’ve learned and seeing if you can practice it or apply it in a real setting brings unparalleled understanding to what you’re studying.”

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • “The importance of the learning that happens when you're out of your comfort zone."
  • “In this age of the internet, we tend to subscribe and listen to voices that echo what we already believe. Concordia has taught me to understand that looking for different voices, even if I don’t agree with them, is of the utmost importance for understanding any topic or issue.”

1 piece of advice for graduates

  • “Realize the true potential of the agency that you have. As students at a university in North America, we have the ability to influence the course of our own lives in ways that the majority of the world does not. This is not a burden; it is an opportunity. And as graduates, it is important that we move forward together and put our agency to good use.”


Johnny Alberto Paredes Seminario

BEng, Industrial Engineering
Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science

A large part of Paredes Seminario’s time as an undergraduate was dedicated to research in mechanical engineering, which included fluid mechanics, materials science and experimental research. He also dabbled in data analysis, programming, logistics and supply chain management, and participated in Concordia's Co-op experiential learning program.

Currently employed in transportation logistics, Paredes Seminario aspires to develop his expertise in the field, and gain enough professional experience to become a reputed supply chain engineer.

Three keys to a good education

  • "Dedication."
  • "Responsibility."
  • "Perseverance."

Two lessons learned at Concordia

  • “A team is always stronger than its individual members.”
  • “Never forget who you are and where you came from.”

One piece of advice for graduates

  • “Do the best job that you can, but always be sure to find some time for yourself, because maintaining balance in life is critical.  And always be as unique as you are. There's no limit to our creativity.”


Jignesh Patel

BEng, Software Engineering
Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science

Patel’s professional interests are business, software, and investing. Further to his studies, which included Concordia's Co-op experiential learning program, he hopes to find a career as an entrepreneur that will allow him to have a positive impact on the economy and society “while still having fun.”

Three keys to a good education

  • “Be open-minded.”
  • “Be curious.”
  • “Be humble.”

Two lessons learned at Concordia

  • “There are people that want to help you achieve your goals.”
  • “Anyone can make a positive impact.”

One piece of advice for graduates

  • “Determine what you want, and then go and get it. If you need help with something, ask for it. People want to help. If you fail, try something different, until you find what you want.”


Jennifer Sewell

BComm, Marketing & Finance
John Molson School of Business

Sewell’s research interests lie in big data and operations management. She served as VP Finance of Casa Cares, the charity wing of the John Molson School of Business (JMSB). In 2015, she and her team raised $50,000 for various Montreal charities.

Sewell was a member of the John Molson Case Competition program and has represented JMSB at numerous global competitions. She hopes to find a position with a top-tier management consulting firm.

Three keys to a good education

  •  “Don’t confine your educational experience to the four walls of the classroom. Put a dent in the universe.”
  • “Engage in face-to-face relationships, be curious and connect your life experiences.”
  • “Persist through failure and chase your dreams.”

Two lessons learned at Concordia

  • “Knowledge and happiness are found in experiences.”
  • “The trophies on our shelves are not a reflection of tomorrow’s success. Remember to keep moving forward.”

One piece of advice for graduates

  • “Success is not about what you accomplish in life but what you inspire others to do. Be inspirational.”


Gloria To

BComm, Management
John Molson School of Business

Over the course of her studies and through her considerable experience participating in global case competitions, To has developed a strong interest in strategic management.

She aspires to combine this with her background in life sciences to produce a meaningful impact in the healthcare industry.

Three keys to a good education

  • “Be proactive. Take the initiative to enhance your education by being involved in workshops, conferences, internships, and competitions.”
  • “Surround yourself with encouraging, talented people who inspire you to set your sights to ever greater heights.”
  • “Accept challenges with an open-mind and take advantage of them as learning opportunities.”

Two lessons learned at Concordia

  • “Always seek to add value.”
  • “You can attain a great deal of personal, intellectual, and professional growth by working in a collaborative environment. Your peers can often be the best role models, mentors and teachers.”

One piece of advice for graduates

  • “Don’t make excuses for outcomes that you could have controlled. Instead, take ownership of the results, learn from your mistakes, and be persistent in achieving your goals.”


Sophie Glowa

BFA, Art Education
Faculty of Fine Arts

Glowa is a practicing artist and art educator. She is interested in the potential of building collaborative learning communities. Her work developing an intergenerational collaborative art project was selected as a Best Practice Lecture for the 2015 National Art Education Association (NAEA) National Convention.

Glowa's artistic practice aims to create inclusive images that reflect common experiences. Professionally, she aspires to help people discover new ways of thinking and creating while promoting arts advocacy.

Three keys to a good education

  • “Your perspective. Not every experience will turn out to be what you expected and while you can't control every outcome, you can choose how you react and what you take away from it.”
  • “The courage to be creative and to follow your passions, even through adversity.”
  • “Perseverance and hard work, for major and small tasks alike.”

Two lessons learned at Concordia

  • “That learning is an exchange between people. Being open to collaborating and subsequently learning from my peers — who have continuously inspired, challenged, and supported me — has greatly enriched my time at Concordia.”
  • “You learn the most when you push yourself beyond the basic requirements to develop your own projects and extend your learning outside of the classroom environment.

One piece of advice for future graduates

  • “Go all out. It might sound cliché but your education truly is what you make of it. Getting involved, developing projects, pursuing research that interests you and seeing each experience as a learning opportunity will enrich your education.”


Mary Elizabeth Luka

PhD, Communication Studies
Governor General’s Gold Medal winner
Faculty of Arts and Science

Luka is a published specialist in creativity, the cultural industries, broadcasting and the arts.

An award-winning media producer-director and veteran creative consultant, Luka’s doctoral research was supported by the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, the Hexagram-CIAM Internationalization Award, and several other travel and academic awards. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.

Three keys to a good education

  • “Surround yourself with people who understand and support what you're aiming to do, whether they agree with you or not.”
  • “Financial support is crucial on several levels. It’s important that universities and other educational institutions have adequate funding to do their work, which includes helping students access the funding and support they need in order to meet their goals."
  • “Spend time working on a degree, and then venture out into the workplace and see how that time for reflection, learning and exploration might impact what can be accomplished there.”

Two lessons learned at Concordia

  • “I learned more about what it means to be a scholar: as a doctoral researcher, a published academic and colleague, and a teacher in a post-secondary institution.”
  • “I gained a depth of understanding about how this kind of work connects back to the non-academic world in a way that was more nuanced and much deeper than I'd anticipated.”

One piece of advice for graduates

“Stay true to who you are and what you’re interested in. Celebrate others’ successes. Build a community of collegiality and harness the power to change the world.”


Iakovos (Jake) Chinis

BSc, Mathematics and Statistics (Honours)
Governor General’s Silver Medal winner
Faculty of Arts and Science

Chinis’ honours thesis in Pure and Applied Mathematics dealt with finding the average number of points on curves over finite fields. He is particularly interested in the average values of arithmetical functions in arithmetic progressions.

In the fall, Chinis will begin his graduate studies at Concordia. He plans on pursuing a PhD in analytic number theory, with the goal of becoming a mathematician.

Three keys to a good education

  • “Study what you love, otherwise you're pursuing an education for all the wrong reasons.”
  • “Challenge yourself as often as possible. This is the only way to unlock your true potential.”
  • “Pursue knowledge for its own sake. To paraphrase Georg Cantor, questions tend to teach us more than the answers they lead to.”

Two lessons learned at Concordia

  • “It's okay to fail, as long as we learn from our mistakes. In fact, we tend to learn more from our mistakes than from any other experience.”
  • “Being surrounded by the right people makes achieving anything a lot easier. Without the support of my family, friends, students, colleagues, supervisor, and the faculty and staff of both the Mathematics and Computer Science departments, I would be a shadow of myself.”

One piece of advice for graduates

  • “Wanting to be better than yourself is the only thing that can guarantee your own success; any other form of competition is meaningless and unproductive.”

Read about turning point in the lives of the six individuals who will receive honorary doctorates during this spring’s convocations ceremonies. Consult the complete Concordia spring 2015 convocation schedule.


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