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'It takes a village'

Faculty of Arts and Science valedictorian, Gabrielle Mandl, reflects on what she has learned over the past decade at Concordia
November 24, 2023

FAS fall 2023 valedictorian, Gabrielle Mandl, in the lab “The more people you know in the place you spend the most time, the more that place is going to feel like a home,” explains Gabrielle.

Students from the Faculty of Arts and Science are taking the stage at Place des Arts on November 28, during Concordia's fall convocation ceremonies. Among them is valedictorian Gabrielle Mandl, who made a mark within the faculty and among her peers.  

"Gabrielle Mandl represents the best of Concordia University, as a student, researcher and as a role model for our students,” explains Francesca Scala, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at the Faculty of Arts and Science. “Her leadership and community engagement align with the broader goals of our institution, making her the ideal candidate to deliver the valedictorian address at the convocation ceremony."  
Born and raised in the heart of South Carolina with roots tracing back to Montreal, Gabrielle embodies a dual citizenship that mirrors her diverse upbringing. Her father, Michael Mandl, proud Concordia alumn (BEng '83), instilled in her a deep appreciation for education and community. However, tragedy struck when he passed away when she was just 13, leaving her with a longing to reconnect with his legacy. For her, Concordia became more than an academic institution; it became a reflection of her father's aspirations – a place that embraced community, fostered education, and felt like family.  

Gabrielle shares her takeaways and memorable moments from life at Concordia. 

Gabrielle Mandl with her supervisor, John Capobianco Gabrielle Mandl with her supervisor, John Capobianco, on the day she defended her PhD thesis.

Gabrielle Mandl                   
PhD '23 

Three keys to a good education?

  • Persistence
  • Time management
  • Not being afraid to ask for help  

Two lessons you learned at Concordia?

  • Failure is a learning opportunity
  • Learning by doing is essential

What does it mean for you to celebrate this milestone moment? 

It’s a dream come true. It is particularly poignant as the first in my family to pursue graduate school. Reflecting on my challenging start in undergrad, reaching a point of thriving makes this achievement even more significant. Credit goes to the Access Centre for students with disabilities, which provided me with essential tools to succeed in both of my degrees. Finding support from them has truly been life-changing, and I'm immensely proud of how far I've come. 

What's next for you?

My ultimate goal is to be a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Concordia! Teaching and mentoring are not just career aspirations; they are my absolute passion. All I want to do is help people through education and guidance.

Do you have a memory to share from your Concordia experience?

For five years, each fall and winter semester, I volunteered to give pro-bono 5-hour crash course sessions for first year Chemistry students. On average, 200-300 students attended each semester. The experience of teaching on such a large scale was incredible – people crowded on stairs and stages due to limited space. To this day, I still hear from individuals who express gratitude, saying, "You really helped me back then!" Being surrounded by people who encouraged such initiatives made all the difference for me.

One piece of advice for future grads?

Get to know as many different people as possible – from the security guards to the electricians to the cleaning staff. And don’t take these people for granted, ask for their perspectives and learn about their experiences. The more people you know in the place you spend the most time, the more that place is going to feel like a home. 

Gabrielle will address the Class of 2023 on Tuesday, November 28.

Learn more about the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Concordia. 
And learn more about Concordia’s convocation ceremonies.

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