Concordia University



Convocation preview: 4 great grads, in numbers

Concordia's valedictorians and Governor General's Academic Medal winners offer pearls of wisdom for the class of fall 2016
October 25, 2016
By Ashley Fortier


Concordia’s 2016 fall convocation ceremonies are fast approaching.

On November 7, more than 1,600 students from all four faculties and the School of Graduate Studies take to the stage in Théâtre Maisonneuve at Montreal’s Place des Arts to receive their diplomas.

Four new honorands — foreign correspondent Nahlah Ayed, aviation expert Calin Rovinescu, musician and philanthropist Régine A. Chassagne and computer scientist Maria Klawe — will address the graduating class.

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

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

Derek Kyle O’Flaherty

Derek Kyle O’Flaherty

PhD, Chemistry
Faculty of Arts and Science
Valedictorian and Governor General’s Academic Medal (Gold)

O’Flaherty’s academic training focuses on chemical biology with an emphasis on nucleic acid chemistry.

During his graduate studies, he prepared a variety of DNA sequences containing biologically relevant DNA damage to investigate two cellular mechanisms responsible for coping/repairing such DNA adducts. 

While at Concordia, he was on the executive of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Graduate Student Association and carried out two research visits to Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

O’Flaherty’s postdoctoral work involves research pertaining to the origins of life. 

3 keys to a good education

  • Think critically beyond what is described in the classroom or lab.
  • Organize your workday with concise and realistic goals.
  • Be willing to try something outside of your comfort zone.

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Trust in your own decision-making instead of always seeking other people's opinions. 
  • Develop the self-confidence to tackle issues without letting the fear of failing keep you from trying at all.

1 piece of advice for graduates

  • Don't focus on what you already know — pursue a career that keeps you learning and challenged.

Next great goal

  • To conduct a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School - Massachusetts General Hospital.


Sara Ayoubi

PhD, Information and Systems Engineering
Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science

Before pursuing doctoral studies at Concordia, Ayoubi received her MSc in 2012 from the Lebanese American University. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science at Waterloo University.

Ayoubi is a co-founding member of the Montreal Operations Research Student Chapter. Her research interests are in the fields of operations, cloud computing, data centre networks virtualization and resource management.

3 keys to a good education

  • Show eagerness to learn that is fueled by passion.
  • Find the right environment: a university that offers its students high-calibre education.
  • Pursue services outside the classroom. Workshops, seminars, co-operative education and exchange programs are all fundamental to shaping tomorrow’s leaders.

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Succeeding in graduate studies requires discipline, asking for help, channelling critics with a positive outlook and a whole lot of hard work.
  • Engaging in community work gives you a sense of belonging and fulfillment.

1 piece of advice for graduates

  • Obtaining a diploma is about the journey and not the destination. Enjoy the ride, revel in your accomplishments, learn from your failures, surround yourself with good people, be mindful, be yourself and dream big!  

Next great goal

  • To establish a solid academic career.


Hosein Maleki

PhD, Administration
John Molson School of Business

Maleki is currently an assistant professor of finance at Temple University’s Fox School of Business in Philadelphia. Before that, he was a visiting scholar at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Maleki’s research interests include corporate finance, banking, fixed income securities and the political economy of finance. 

3 keys to a good education

  • Make your education your own. What you produce should have your colour and your sound. 
  • University is too important to waste solely on a narrow field. Inspiration can come from anywhere.
  • Seek new meaning in what you educate and profess.

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Never fear starting from scratch — past glories will fade.
  • Expect the unexpected outside of your office walls and learn to enjoy the surprise.

1 piece of advice for graduates

  • Don’t feel restrained by limits others believe to exist.

Next great goal

  • To publish in top-rated journals and write my own book.


Charlotte Roddick

Charlotte Roddick

BA, Honours in Psychology
Faculty of Arts and Science
Governor General’s Academic Medal (Silver)

Roddick’s psychology honours thesis was on non-verbal behaviour and perceptions of assertiveness. She has also done psychophysiological research on heart rate variability and negative emotions. Roddick is interested in pursuing research in the fields of health psychology, social psychology and industrial/organizational psychology.

3 keys to a good education

  • Seek out caring professors who know their subject. Challenge, but above all, support other students.
  • Make use of the Student Success Centre, the library, tutors, workshops and more.
  • Study what you’re interested in — it makes it easier to stay committed.

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Your best work always comes from collaborating with others.
  • The most important lessons are learned outside the classroom.

1 piece of advice for graduates

  • Be honest with yourself.

Next great goal

  • Finding the right graduate program.


Read about turning points in the lives of the four individuals who will receive honorary doctorates during this fall’s convocation ceremonies.

Consult the complete Concordia fall 2016 convocation schedule, and be sure to share your thoughts and photos on social media: #CUgrad and #CUalumni.


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