'Huge adventures are waiting for you': 7 grads offer advice to the next generation

Fall 2020 Concordia Valedictorians, Governor General Academic Gold Medal winner and great grads reflect on their time at the university
November 13, 2020
By Julia Scandella

7 grads offer advice to the next generation

While Concordia’s fall graduates won’t be able to gather in-person for a convocation ceremony just yet, the university has pivoted to honour the class of 2020 online.

On November 19, CU Celebrate will commemorate the achievements of the university’s 1,831 fall grads. Leading up to the virtual celebration, we asked a few standout students to share highlights of their time as a Concordian.

Here’s what they learnt and what they would like future grads to know.

Desirée de Jesus

Desirée de Jesus

PhD, Film and Moving Images
Fine Arts valedictorian

Desirée de Jesus is a writer, film researcher, and a video essayist. Her research concentrates on post-recessionary girlhood cinema, as well as the intersections of race, gender and aesthetics in film and digital media.

This work has been supported through various awards, namely the Concordia Public Scholars program, the Bourse d'études Hydro-Québec de l'Université Concordia, the Glay Sperling Scholarship, and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowship. 

3 keys to a good education?

  • Opportunities to grow
  • A supportive community
  • Skilled, knowledgeable instructors who are invested in your success

1 Lesson learned at Concordia

  • Taking advantage of opportunities to connect with students and faculty across many disciplines, as well as with people and institutions not affiliated with the university, enriched my research, nourished me relationally, and expanded my thinking about how best to contribute to wider communities.

Next great goal

  • I’m excited about further developing my artistic and critical practices, namely videographic film criticism, through creative outlets like Side Eye Cinema, to engage issues affecting marginalized and racialized communities, invite reflection on neglected artistic and social histories, and reconstruct the cinematic archive in more inclusive ways.

One piece of advice for future grads?

  • Don’t talk yourself out of opportunities. Sometimes you have to say “yes” and figure it out later.

Pierre Dushime

Mohaned Chraiti

PhD, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Engineering valedictorian
Recipient of the Governor General Academic Gold Medal

Mohaned Chraiti is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher with the LIDS lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA. He made several contributions to the 5G and 6G cellular networks. He was awarded the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Postdoctoral Fellowship over the period 2020–2021.

Chraiti was also awarded the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Nature et technologies (FRQNT) Postdoctoral Fellowship Scholarship offered over the same period (but declined). He received the FRQNT doctoral scholarship over the period 2017–2019.

3 keys to a good education?

  • Make space for out-of-the-box ideas.
  • Broaden knowledge, and diversify teaching materials.
  • Be aware of recent scientific advancements.

2 lessons learned at Concordia?

  • Patience
  • Perseverance

Next great goal?

  • Lead my future students to successful careers

One piece of advice for future grads

  • The real challenge is inside you, not outside. Success starts the day you start challenging yourself.

Anika Sisto

Anika Sisto

PhD, Business Administration
John Molson School of Business valedictorian

Anika Sisto began her PhD at the John Molson School of Business in 2013, where she had the opportunity to present and publish findings on several research projects pertaining to innovation and internationalization in small firms. She now works as a senior analyst and advisor for the Department of National Defence.

The key to a good education

  • Curiosity. Keep asking questions: be an active participant in your journey to continually improve and learn!

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • The culmination of a difficult undertaking is worth every ounce of effort.
  • In the most challenging of times, it is possible to grow and reflect on the person we can become.

Next great goal

  • I want to make use of my knowledge and experience gained at Concordia and apply it to my career in performance measurement.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • While the relationship between effort and reward is often imbalanced, perseverance is indestructible and may just be your most important asset.

Franklin Chacon Huete

Franklin Chacon Huete

PhD, Chemistry
Faculty of Arts and Science valedictorian

Franklin Chacon Huete was awarded several scholarships including, the PhD International Tuition Award of Excellence, Triskelion Fellowships, the Merit Scholarship for Foreign Students (PBEEE) from the Government of Quebec.

He has published his research and collaborations in six peer-reviewed journals, and presented his research at 12 national and international conferences. Chacon Huete was a tutor for the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities (ACSD) and organizer of chemistry conferences. He also served as a research guide for nine undergraduate students’ final graduation projects.

3 keys to a good education

  • Perseverance. When performing experiments, it’s a key factor for not losing the motivation to pursue what we want to accomplish.
  • Follow your passion: whether you’re sitting on a classroom for hours, or doing experiments in a lab all day long, you must have passion for what you’re doing. It just makes things enjoyable.
  • Ask, ask, ask: Do not be afraid to raise your hand in that lab tutorial, or in that auditorium full of people and ask a question. As a teaching assistant, I noticed that the most interesting discussions we had in the lab always came from the curiosity or doubts of the students. I believe this is the best way to learn.

2 lessons you learned at Concordia

  • The community around you is very important. 
  • Allow time to distract yourself from school. You will see your productivity increase when you take breaks for yourself.

Next great goal

  • I am currently working at the Research Institute for Cancer and Immunology at the Université de Montréal. I joined the medicinal chemistry team that’s working on multiple exciting drug discovery projects. My goal is to continue doing research that can have a positive impact on people’s quality of life.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • University is a very unique time for personal growth. Do not be afraid to make mistakes; the most valuable lessons can come from them. Talk to your peers, and hear them out as well. It will make you realize that we are all going through roughly the same situation. Take the time to celebrate your achievements; it will just boost your passion and motivation for all the rest of things you want to accomplish.

Yana Moscovitz

Yana Moscovitz

BSc Honours, Cell and Molecular Biology

Yana Moscovitz was very active in research, student life, clubs and volunteering during her time at Concordia. She served as vice-president of academic affairs for the Biology Student Association (BSA) in 20180-19, and was selected to be part of Concordia’s 2019 iGEM team.

Moscovitz participated in the Azrieli Institute Summer School program through Concordia International. She completed her undergraduate honours thesis under the supervision of Malcolm Whiteway.

3 keys to a good education?

  • Be a proactive learner in your classes.
  • Get engaged in your Concordia community through clubs or associations.
  • Do an exchange program with Concordia International.

Lessons learned at Concordia

  • I wanted to be involved in many things at Concordia, and I had to learn how to balance it all through time-management and organization skills.

Next great goal

  • I am planning to pursue graduate studies in a thesis-based master’s program in genetics.

One piece of advice for future grads

  • Embrace Concordia’s community or learning opportunities that come your way!

Elizabeth Giagnacovo

Elizabeth Giagnacovo

BComm, International Business

Elizabeth Giagnacovo’s undergraduate career was marked by experiences such as the Co-op program, her time as a brand ambassador for the John Molson Competition Committee (JMCC) and her incredible semester abroad in England at the University of Hertfordshire.

3 keys to a good education

  • A strong drive to learn
  • Passionate professors
  • Being among groups of like-minded peers.

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Not all learning is done in the classroom.
  • Even though something seems scary, it might just be the best experience you’ll ever have.

Next great goal

  • I’m looking forward to exploring the ideal career path that will let me show my talents and continue to grow.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • My advice to future graduates is to enjoy the time you have now, but also know that there are still huge adventures waiting for you.

Salma Adem

Salma Adem

BA, Double Major in Human Relations & Child Studies

Salma Adem was actively involved in both student life and the Concordia community at large. She held several executive positions such as VP, Career Events of the Applied Human Sciences Student Association (AHSCSA) for two years, VP Secretary at the UNICEF Concordia Association, a Cultural Ambassador at the Arab Student Association, and a committee member at the Graduate Symposium in the Department of Education.

Recently, Adem was involved in the COVID-19 Student Working group along with Concordia staff and administration. In addition to her involvement in student life, Salma is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society, is on the Faculty of Arts and Science Dean’s List and is recipient of the 2020 A. Ross Seaman Scholarship for Leadership.

Salma also worked as student fundraiser at Concordia’s Alumni Relations Community Campaign before joining the Student Success Centre’s team as both a Welcome Crew Mentor and FutureReady program assistant where she worked for two-and-a-half years.

3 keys to a good education

  • Get involved beyond the classroom! Don’t bury yourself in textbooks. Always look for practical ways to engage your learning.
  • Adopt a growth mindset. Never get discouraged because you can’t understand something! Be resilient, show initiative, ask questions and you’ll get there!
  • Let your passion find you by being open to new experiences and ideas!

2 lessons learned at Concordia

  • Don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you need it! Take full advantage of the resources available to you — from student services to engagement and conference opportunities.
  • The power of collective intelligence and meaningful connections with professors and the student community are key for the best Concordia experience!

Next great goal

  • I hope to pursue my passion and complete both my master’s in human systems intervention at Concordia and my master’s in Educational Leadership at McGill.

1 piece of advice for future grads

  • Pour love into everything you do, stay curious, and approach every opportunity in life with an open-minded growth mindset!


Find out more about CU Celebrate.

Back to top

© Concordia University