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'Your success is yours to craft': 7 great grads share what they’ve learned

Spring 2020 Concordia Non-Academic Medal winners, and Governor General’s Academic Medal winners reflect on their time at the university
June 11, 2020
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By Ashley Fortier

Convocation preview: 6 great Concordia grads

While Concordia’s in-person spring 2020 convocation ceremonies are cancelled, there’s still ample opportunity to recognize the 6,244 latest graduates.

On June 2, the university launched CU Celebrates, for friends, family, peers and professors to honour the graduating class, including by creating and sharing a custom message. All of this is leading up to a virtual celebration that will be held on June 18, which will feature Concordia’s spring 2020 honorary degree recipients.

The Governor General’s Academic Medal winners and non-academic medal winners will also be recognized as part of the online celebration. We asked these standout students to share highlights of their time at Concordia and advice for future grads.

 


Pierre Dushime

Pierre Dushime

BA Honours, Political Science
Recipient of the O’Brien Medal

Dushime is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society, is on the Dean’s list and is recipient of the Jean Picard and Concordia Golden Key scholarships. On campus, he has held positions of VP academics of the Political Science Student Association, chief of external affairs at the Concordia Model United Nations and sports team captain at the Jeux de la Science Politique 2019.

Off campus, Dushime has engaged with the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) since 2016. Currently serving as co-chairperson of the CCR’s Youth Network, he also serves as one of the 18 youth advisors to the Minister and Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

3 keys to a good education

  • Discipline, consistency and gratitude: these are key to efficient study habits and a healthy mind.
  • Setting goals is not the end of academic achievements, but the beginning of a journey full of hard work and trial and error.
  • You cannot do it alone! As the proverb goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Along these same lines, seek mentorship, advice, build meaningful friendships, join a club and volunteer in your community.

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Diversity is an indispensable quality that fosters advancements, strengthens society and enriches the world. Concordia evinces such a quality.
  • One or two “bad” grades on your transcript is not the end of the world.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • There is no good in comparing yourself to others; your success is yours to craft out.

Next great goal

  • I plan to pursue the BCL/JD law degree at the McGill University Faculty of Law.

Nicholas Gertler

Nicholas Gertler

BA, Communication Studies and Political Science

Recipient of the Malone Medal

Gertler has been actively involved in student life at Concordia, serving in executive positions at the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) and in the Communication Studies Student Association (COMS Guild). In 2019, he was awarded the Quebec Lieutenant Governor’s Youth Medal. Gertler has also served as a research assistant in the departments of Communication Studies and Political Science, and he organized and founded the first Communications Undergraduate Academic Conference.

3 keys to a good education

  • Engage with the broader discourse and the communities around you, and allow that to inform your academics.
  • Take full advantage of the people and resources around you; go to office hours, attend talks and use the library (the actual books part, especially).
  • Read the syllabus and get organized at the beginning of the term — your stressed, end-of-term self will be thankful.

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Critical engagement with your surroundings is important and necessary. Don’t be afraid to speak up when institutions aren’t stepping up — be thoughtful, be critical and stay true to your values.
  • Find a community that you can call home within the larger system. It’s easy to get lost in an institution as big as Concordia. The flip-side is that you’ll almost certainly be able to find a group of people who share your interests.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • Do the readings, show up and ask questions — but don’t take any of it too seriously. Engagement outside of the classroom is just as important as what you’re doing in class.

Next great goal

  • In the long term I hope to complete my MA in Media Studies. In the short term, I’m trying to get my cats to stop trampling my houseplants. It is currently unclear which one will be more of a challenge.

Kelly Burchell-Reyes

Kelly Burchell-Reyes

BSc, Honours Chemistry and Multidisciplinary Studies in Science

Recipient of the Provost Medal for Outstanding Achievement

Member of the Institute for Co-operative Education and the Science College

Burchell-Reyes performed research in five different laboratories, both at Concordia and in Germany through RISE-Globalink. For three consecutive years she was named an Arts and Science Scholar, and she was awarded the Canadian Society for Chemistry Student Silver Medal. She was secretary of the 61st Garnet Key Society and in her spare time, she volunteered at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and undertook bicycle tours.

3 keys to a good education

  • Seek mentorship from those who inspire you.
  • Appreciate diverse viewpoints.
  • Stay curious about your passions and constantly ask questions.

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Be kind, surround yourself with kind people, build each other up and always say thank you.
  • Communicate your science clearly, understandably and honestly.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • Make the most of every opportunity, reach higher than you think you can reach and appreciate everything in life as an adventure.

Next great goal

  • I am currently pursuing graduate studies in organic synthesis.

Marguerite Rolland

Marguerite Rolland

BA, Honours in Linguistics and History
Recipient of the Malone Medal

Rolland has served as both a teaching assistant and a research assistant in the Department of Linguistics, alongside involvement in student groups such as the Concordia Linguistics Student Association and ASFA. Rolland also worked as a student advocate at the Concordia Student Union Advocacy Centre for more than two and a half years. She received the Classics, Modern Languages and Linguistics Scholarship in 2018, won a Concordia Council on Student Life Outstanding Contribution Award in 2019 and was awarded the Quebec Lieutenant Governor’s Youth Medal in 2020.

3 keys to a good education

  • Get involved in the university community. When you find places, groups and people that make school feel like home, it will change the experience for the better.
  • Talk to your profs. They genuinely want to see you learn and pique your interest. Attend office hours, go to lectures and academic talks and participate in class.
  • Go to bed early. Unless you need to submit an assignment by 11:59 p.m., stop studying after 10 p.m.

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • I learned how important it is to question and be critical of the sources and information that are presented to you. This of course applies academically, but also to everything else in life.
  • As students, it’s essential to engage with our institution. We represent the majority of the university community and our experience matters. If you see a problem that needs to be addressed, flag it, find the person who’s in charge of it and try to change it.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • Use the resources that are available to you. Concordia has an incredible fee-levy community that can (read: will) enrich your education 10 times over. Go to the People’s Potato, The Hive and Le Frigo Vert, use the Concordia Co-op Bookstore, attend Cinema Politica screenings and get involved in the student organizations that represent you.

Next great goal

  • To survive law school!

Armel Jolin

Armel Jolin

BA, Honours in Linguistics
Recipient of the Governor General’s Academic Silver Medal

Jolin was awarded scholarships from the Association of Alumni of Sir George Williams University Inc. (2019, 2020) as well as ASFA (2020). He had the opportunity of working three terms as a teaching assistant and receiving the financial support of a Concordia Undergraduate Student Research Award for his summer 2019 research term. From 2018 to 2020, he maintained a continuous involvement with the Concordia Linguistics Student Association, acting as vice-president for internal affairs (2018-19) and vice-president for academic affairs (2019-20).

3 keys to a good education

  • Education has to engage you beyond exams and grades.
  • Your field of study extends beyond the classroom: consider research or internship opportunities.
  • Attend lectures and other events in your department: your learning community will help fuel your motivation.

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Professors are more than just teachers, they are mentors. Ask them for guidance and heed their advice.
  • You will largely benefit from building a supportive community around you.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • Always challenge yourself and stay curious.

Next great goal

  • I will be starting my master’s in linguistics in the fall.

Maurice Ngwakum-Akisa

Maurice Ngwakum-Akisa

BA, Economics, Business Studies and Computer Science

Recipient of the Dean of Students Medal

While at Concordia, as an African international student, Ngwakum-Akisa had the honour and pleasure of serving and representing his community through several roles. He was president of the African Students’ Association of Concordia, academic delegate and coach for the John Molson Competition Committee and served as director and chairperson for the Commerce and Administration Students’ Association (CASA). Ngwakum-Akisa was also a member of the John Molson Faculty Council and a CEOx1Day finalist.

3 keys to a good education

  • Be open-minded about new ideas and new experiences.
  • Be a critical thinker and constantly question your assumptions.
  • Be resilient in the face of the obstacles that will come your way.

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • The race is typically over before it even begins.
  • Relationships are everything.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • Where you come from doesn’t have to determine where you are going. Invest your time and energy into improving your community and what you will receive in return will be tenfold what you were ever able to give.

Next great goal

  • My goal is to change the world through the development and empowerment of the African continent and African communities globally, with an emphasis on sustainable economic development, strong governance and leadership and climate change–conscious policy decision-making.

Philippe Boucher

Philippe Boucher

BA, First Peoples Studies and Sociology
Recipient of the Concordia Medal
Concordia International participant

Boucher was involved with his student association as co-president of the First Peoples Studies Member Association and co-coordinator of First Voices Week, an Indigenous celebration week on campus. Boucher was also an ambassador for the Spark! campaign with the Dean of Students to encourage student engagement.

3 keys to a good education

  • Be curious and discover your own interests.
  • Find motivation based on these interests.
  • Apply hard work and selfless dedication.

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • I came to be critical of what I learn and my own privileges.
  • Getting involved brings changes despite the challenges.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • Always try to include Indigenous perspectives in whatever you do. Indigenous voices have been erased for too long — it is time to break the cycle.

Next great goal

  • I plan to complete a master’s in criminology about Indigenous adults exiting family violence.

 

Find out more about CU Celebrate.



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