The Garnet Key Society: ‘Like having a backstage pass at an awesome concert’
The Garnet Key Society is an honour for the best and brightest at Concordia. These 12 outstanding undergraduate students wear their signature maroon jackets while attending lectures and galas, and serving as ambassadors for an academic year.
They’re chosen for their ability to balance high academic achievement with community involvement. Each year, they also apply their skills to a community project.
A case competition for a cause
This year’s project, Forces of Change, was a multidisciplinary case competition for a cause, in collaboration with Advancement and Alumni relations. Held on March 4, it promoted inter-faculty networking and encouraged students to share ideas on how to further one of Concordia’s strategic directions, Take pride.
Five teams of five students competed for prize money to donate to a charity of their choosing. The winning team — Maria Polanco (psychology), John Wanjiku (ENCS Phd), Chloe Evans (finance), Carolina Serrat (finance) and Khushboo Handa (mechanical engineering) — donated $2,000 dollars to Dans la rue, with $1,500 coming from sponsor BMO and $500 from the Garnet Key budget and Advancement and Alumni Relations.
Their winning presentation proposed ways to increase pride by helping students become citizens of Concordia with more inter-faculty awareness. The five-year plan included mandatory orientation sessions, an accredited take-action class, credited internships and alumni mentorship, among other things.
Forces of Change was spearheaded by Narges Kalantari, the Garnet Key chairperson for the community project.
“It’s quite unusual for students to meet people from different faculties and work together toward a common goal,” says Kalantari, a Behavioural Neuroscience student in her final year. “Everyone learned something about what the university has to offer and how we complement each other.”
As the year wraps up, meet some familiar faces and members of the 58th Garnet Key Society:
Rob Gold: marketing and communications
Rob Gold is in his second year studying finance at the John Molson School of Business, but he’s also a product owner at Concordia’s District 3 Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
He joined D3 after successfully launching startup bKey.com by way of a crowdfunding campaign on the popular website Kickstarter.
“As a Garnet Key, I had the opportunity to help organize a talk at Concordia by professor Sydney Finkelstein of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College about his new book, Superbosses, and what it takes to become an exceptional leader and talent magnet for the modern age,” says Gold.
“After the talk, I had the privilege to attend a dinner at the house of the president of Concordia, Dr. Shepard. It was a truly unique experience and one that I’ll never forget.”
As an older student, Gold appreciates Concordia’s inclusiveness. “I decided to return to school and pursue my undergrad in my early 30s. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Concordia and am grateful to have been part of this year's Garnet Key.”
Regina Coeli Tolentino: secretary
“If it wasn’t for the Garnet Key bringing us together, I probably would’ve remained in my little program bubble,” says Regina Coeli Tolentino, an undergraduate student in her final semester at Concordia's Science College, where she’s pursuing a BSc honours degree in Behavioural Neuroscience with a minor in Multidisciplinary Studies in Science.
“Each and every Garnet Key member possesses unique skills, life stories and experiences to share. On top of that, the Garnet Keys have such charisma and great personalities while still being able to demonstrate the utmost professionalism. I am extremely honoured to have been given the opportunity to represent Concordia with such individuals.”
As a Garnet Key, Tolentino fondly recalls participating in the McGill University Health Centre’s (MUHC) Walk for Montreal to mark the opening of the new Glen hospital site, as well as an honorary doctorate’s dinner.
“I had the chance to meet with some of Concordia’s deans and other pillars in the Montreal community,” she says.
“I sat down next to André Roy, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science (my own faculty) and talked about everything from the positives to the negatives, to issues that could be improved. He even gave me some advice for continuing my studies or entering the workforce as a future graduate.”
Raphael Stein: vice-president
“Being a Garnet Key is like having a backstage pass at an awesome concert,” says Raphael Stein, a member of the Institute for Co-operative Education who’s in his final year studying computer science. “You’re still an ordinary student, but you get to see how Concordia works behind the scenes, develop relationships with administration, attend high-level events and meet cool people.”
Stein studied abroad for two terms at the Technion - Isreal Institute of Technology and has participated in several large hackathons, with two podium finishes. He’s currently working at SAP Hybris for his Co-op work term.
“Concordia gives off a positive, open vibe from the top down,” says Stein. “There is a feeling, rooted in reality, that things are constantly improving and growing. There are so many great initiatives and programs, like co-operative education, study abroad and clubs, which are highly accessible to all students.”
Caroline Houle: banquet chairperson
Caroline Houle sees the Garnet Key Society as a positive platform for generating pride and excitement among students by showcasing the many opportunities available for academic involvement, as well as spreading ideas about improving Concordia and the community at large.
“Garnet Key has truly been a life-changing experience for me,” say Houle, who’s in her second year of marketing at JMSB. “Volunteering and networking at various university-hosted events has allowed me to grow professionally and personally.”
Currently, she’s organizing the Garnet Key banquet, which will take place on May 7.
“It’s an incredibly rewarding experience since it allows for the Garnet Key alumni to reunite together for the induction of the incoming keys.”