Concordia University



Convocation preview: 5 great grads, in numbers

Concordia's valedictorians and Governor General Medal winners offer pearls of wisdom for the class of 2015
October 20, 2015
By Tom Peacock



For an entire class of Concordians, the big day is almost here. At this month’s convocation ceremonies, 1,747 students will receive degrees, diplomas and certificates from the university.

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 fall convocation ceremonies take place on October 27 at the Théâtre Maisonneuve in Place des Arts. 

Three new honorands — Nancy Neamtan, France Chrétien Desmarais and Barbara Steinman  — will address the graduating class.

Two winners of the Governor General’s Academic Medals and three valedictorians will join them on stage.

We asked these five stand-out students for the secrets to their success.



Stephanie Brunet

PhD, Biology
Faculty of Arts and Science

Passionate about science education, Brunet began a master’s degree in the lab of Michael Sacher, an associate professor in the Department of Biology, before fast tracking to a PhD.

Her research focused on studying how proteins move between different intracellular compartments using baker’s yeast as a model organism.

Three keys to a good education

  • “Ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to be wrong.”
  • “Do not limit yourself by saying you are an ‘art person’ or a ‘math person.’ This puts up a mental block in your mind and stands in the way of learning. We all learn in different ways and that’s what makes education so exciting.”
  • “Take time to enjoy and appreciate the knowledge that is so readily available to us, and use as many resources as you possibly can.”

Two lessons learned at Concordia

  • “Your colleagues and friends are among your greatest assets.”
  • “When faced with a problem, get input from as many sources as possible to solve it, because there is always more than one way to look at a problem.”

One piece of advice for graduates

  • “Don’t look at challenges as an all-or-nothing outcome. Tackle them one small piece at a time, and reflect on your progress as you go. Take pleasure in every step forward and don’t get too caught up in every step backward. Enjoy the process and learn as much as you can from it.”


John Vongas

PhD, Administration
John Molson School of Business

During his PhD, Vongas published his research in top-tier management and psychology journals, and presented at international conferences. He taught more than 1,500 students in Concordia’s Centre for Continuing Education, and at the undergraduate, MBA and Executive MBA levels.

“I am interested in the decisions people make, the emotions they feel, the hormonal fluctuations they exhibit and the behaviours they enact following a change in their social status,” he says.

Three keys to a good education

  • “Be aware of what you do not know.”
  • “Be open to and accepting of ideas that contradict your own.”
  • “Study art, science and the humanities; an education isn't job training.”

Two lessons learned at Concordia

  • “Successful collaborations endure over time only when people respect each other and are willing to make sacrifices for each other's welfare.”
  • “Love from family and friends, a passion for my craft, a drive for perfection and the will to overcome odds — in that order — resulted in my best work.”

 One piece of advice for graduates

  • “Expect reality to not always cooperate. In that case, stick to your resolve and remember that what matters most isn't the size of the dog in the fight, but rather the size of the fight in the dog.”


Dustin Garnet

PhD, Art Education
Faculty of Fine Arts

In his research, Garnet investigates how the oral stories of teachers and students reveal overlooked socio-cultural dimensions within the pedagogical structures of the Art Department at Central Technical School in Toronto.

“Using my emergent conceptualization of a polyptych methodological structure, I render learning relationships visually as well as textually, creating a new way of investigating the history of schools in Canada.”

Three keys to a good education

  • “Organization”
  • “Time management.”
  • “Self advocacy.”

Two lessons learned at Concordia

  • “There are always supportive professors. Work with the ones who show the most interest in your projects.”
  • “Live with generosity.”

One piece of advice for graduates

  • “Humility is a virtue and will serve you well with professors and fellow students.”


Stefan Wapnick

BEng, Electrical Engineering
Member of the Industrial Experience Program, Institute for Co-operative Education
Governor General’s Silver Medal winner
Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science

Through his studies in electrical engineering, Wapnick developed a strong interest in the fields of embedded systems, software and telecommunications. His capstone project focused on developing a biped motion-controlled robot.

Currently, Wapnick is working in software at District 3, Concordia’s innovation and entrepreneurial centre. He hopes to continue working in an environment where he feels challenged daily. “I enjoy being in an atmosphere of continuous learning.”

Three keys to a good education

  • “Pursue what you most enjoy and be determined in what you do.”
  • “Know your strengths and weaknesses and be open to criticism. Understanding these will give you perspective and motivate you to improve.”
  • “It’s important to try new things and challenge yourself while learning. Experimenting and finding out what works for you will help you come out stronger than before.”

Two lessons learned at Concordia

  • “Working in team environments is crucial. Your teammates can offer a fresh set of ideas in a project and can also provide you with valuable feedback to enhance your own skills.”
  • “Grades aren’t everything. It’s important to be a well-rounded person both inside and outside the classroom.”

One piece of advice for future grads

  • “Be determined in what you do and pursue what you love most. Accept that there will be times when you will struggle to reach your goals, but realize that with enough willpower you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to.”


Hamid Mahboubi

PhD, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Governor General’s Gold Medal winner
Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science

Mahboubi was selected for the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FQRNT) post-doctoral fellowship.

Currently, Mahboubi is researching the control of mobile sensor networks as a post-doctoral research fellow at McGill.

In 1999, Mahboubi was the gold medal winner in Iran’s National Mathematical Olympiad. He is a member of the editorial board for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Signal Processing Society’s SigView (an online video tutorial library), and he has served as chair of the Control Systems Society Chapter of the IEEE Montreal Section since 2012.

Three keys to a good education

  • “Find your passion and do research on what you love.”
  • “Find a supportive and knowledgeable supervisor (especially for PhD students).”
  • “Be disciplined.”

Two lessons learned at Concordia

  • “Over the years I learned a great deal from my supervisor Amir Aghdam. It’s necessary to be autonomous in your research, yet also open to support.”
  • “Collaboration is a key element for successful research.”

One piece of advice for future grads

  • “Don’t give up, you must fail to succeed.” 


Learn more about the 2015 fall convocation ceremonies at Concordia, taking place on October 27.


Back to top Back to top

© Concordia University