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‘Enjoy the journey’: 6 great Concordia grads share what they’ve learned

The fall 2019 valedictorians and Governor General’s Academic Medal winners reflect on their time at the university
November 8, 2019
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By Ashley Fortier

Convocation preview: 6 great Concordia grads

Students from four faculties and the School of Graduate Studies are getting ready to take the stage during Concordia's fall 2019 convocation ceremonies.

In all, more than 1,000 of them are eligible to receive their diplomas on November 18, in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Montreal’s Place des Arts. 

Four new honorands — a Pulitzer Prize-winning press photographer, a Canadian business icon and a pair of STEM education pioneers — will address the graduating class.

Four 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.


Annie Rollins

Annie Rollins

PhD
Humanities
Valedictorian

Annie Rollins is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) doctoral fellow. She served as Concordia’s Humanities PhD Graduate Student Association president in 2014 and 2015 and was head coordinator of the Annual Interdisciplinary Humanities Graduate Conference in both 2015 and 2016. Rollins was also recipient of the Hitting the High Notes Scholarship, the John W. O'Brien Graduate Fellowship, two fine arts in-course merit scholarships, the Graduate Student Mobility Award and a travel bursary from the Ministère de l'Éducation de l'Enseignement supérieur.

3 keys to a good education

  • Present and supportive guides and teachers
  • A progressive and flexible institution
  • An equally curious cohort of collaborators

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Success in learning is as much dependent on the community you surround yourself with as it is on your intrinsic curiosity.
  • Learning never ends.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • Don't just focus on influencing your field of research. Let the research influence you, too. Let the work change you.

Next great goal

  • I want to change the way we value and approach preserving traditional performance forms.

Philippe Collin Therrien

Philippe Collin Therrien

BSc
Biology
Governor General’s Academic Silver Medal

After completing an engineering degree at Polytechnique Montréal, Philippe Collin Therrien enrolled as a full-time student in Concordia’s Department of Biology. While working part-time, volunteering and becoming a father, he maintained a position on the Arts and Science Scholars list for the full duration of his degree and was awarded the Campaign for the New Millennium Student Contribution Bursary.

3 keys to a good education

  • Motivation
  • Perseverance
  • A good support system

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • There will be unexpected events — plan accordingly.
  • You might be surprised just how well you can do if you try your best.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • If you haven’t found what you want to do with your life, make changes, try new things, take opportunities and most importantly, give your best today so that you are better tomorrow. Passion often hides in unexpected places, and you may find going the extra mile brings more than just good grades.

Next great goal

  • I aspire to pursue a career in medicine to serve my community and commit to lifelong learning. But for now I’m taking a bit of time off to care for my seven-month-old daughter.

Eric Fillion

Eric Fillion

PhD
History
Valedictorian

Eric Fillion holds a certificate in journalism fundamentals, an MA and a PhD in history from Concordia. His doctoral thesis, “Experiments in Cultural Diplomacy: Music as Mediation in Canadian-Brazilian Relations (1940s-1960s),” examines the social and symbolic importance of music in Canadian international history. A member of the 2018-19 Public Scholars cohort, he also helped broaden the reach and scope of the Concordia Library jazz-related fonds through his ongoing work on Quebec countercultures.

3 keys to a good education

  • Being physically — and intellectually — present
  • Being totally engaged
  • Being unreservedly passionate

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Great mentors are genuine, approachable, perceptive and have a good sense of humour.
  • Writing and long-distance running are complementary activities. Both are exercises in humility that require dedication, mindfulness and a certain level of tolerance for pain and solitude.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • Take the time you need to be the person that you are and explore the many detours that life throws at you. Enjoy the journey, because there is more than one path to a fulfilling and successful academic experience.  

Next great goal

  • I want to revise my dissertation into a publishable monograph while mining archives for my next project: a history of international music festivals held in Canada during the long, global sixties.

Alireza Haghighatmamaghani

Alireza Haghighatmamaghani

PhD
Building Engineering
Governor General’s Gold Medal

Alireza Haghighatmamaghani started his PhD program in building engineering in fall 2015. His academic performance led to a number of scholarships and awards including the Concordia International Tuition Award of Excellence, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers Concordia (ASHRAE) graduate student award and the Concordia Accelerator Award.

3 keys to a good education

  • Good mental health
  • Hard work and perseverance
  • Passion for learning new things

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Concordia is a great place to find your potentials and prosper. Take advantage of it.
  • Being different from your peers is sometimes good. Don’t be afraid to question stereotypes.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • Definitely there will be minor setbacks throughout your graduate studies, but don’t let them change the path you have chosen in life.

Next great goal

  • I want to become a faculty member, teaching the next generations and conducting research to make the world a better place.

Carlos Zetina

Carlos Zetina

PhD
Industrial Engineering
Valedictorian

Carlos Zetina’s PhD research focused on developing mathematical models and algorithms to optimize the design and operation of large-scale transportation and communication networks. The results were published in four articles in high-impact peer-reviewed journals.

Zetina also co-founded the Montreal Operations Research Student Chapter, the Operations Research Challenge-Montreal and the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering mentor program. Zetina feels he became a better colleague and professional thanks to the many friends and mentors he found at Concordia.

3 keys to a good education

  • Passionate professors and lecturers
  • A culturally diverse and collaborative environment
  • Getting involved beyond the classroom

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Collaboration is more fruitful than competition.
  • Truly thinking outside the box is not easy.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • Take the time to clearly establish your core values. This will make all forthcoming career choices much easier.

Next great goal

  • I wish to create an organization that provides youth in Belize, my home country, the opportunity and resources to learn technology and entrepreneurship to be able to capitalize on the current worldwide tech revolution.

Mostafa Ayoobzadeh

Mostafa Ayoobzadeh

PhD
Business Administration
Valedictorian

Mostafa Ayoobzadeh joined the PhD program at the John Molson School of Business in January 2014. Throughout his studies, he served as the president and vice-president of the John Molson Doctoral Student Society and led a mentoring program for PhD students across Concordia. He also won a few awards, including a scholarship from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC).

3 keys to a good education

  • Believe in your goals
  • Be persistent and determined
  • Surround yourself with positive people

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Moving to Canada to pursue my doctoral studies at Concordia was the greatest challenge in my life. It taught me how to stay determined and strong if I wanted to achieve an extraordinary goal.
  • At Concordia, I also learned how to work with a diverse group of wonderful people through many leadership opportunities.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • Believe in what you do, have a passion and never give up on your dreams. Stay determined.

Next great goal

  • Having finished my doctoral studies, I aim to follow my passion for research. I have a curious mind and I intend to use it in finding the answers to many research questions.

 


Find out more about Concordia’s fall 2019 convocation.

 



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