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‘The biggest obstacle is taking the first step’: 6 dedicated grads share their favourite Concordia moments

Here’s what Engagement Award recipients gained while giving back to the community
June 10, 2021
By Julia Scandella

Leading up to the third edition of CU Celebrate on June 17 — a virtual celebration of the class of 2021 — Concordia’s award-winning graduates shared their biggest takeaways and best memories during their time as a student.

Among these great grads are the Concordia Engagement Awards recipients, who have made exceptional contributions to student experience, community engagement and sustainability at the university.

Read the Engagement Awards winners’ stories — and what they want future grads to know.

Young woman with long, strawberry blonde hair. Photo: Alessia Fent

Chloë Lalonde

BFA, Art Education and Anthropology
Sustainability Champion Award

When I wasn’t in class at Concordia, you could be sure to find me surrounded by paper and stuff in the basement of the Hall Building at CUCCR (Concordia University Centre For Creative Reuse), or on my laptop writing and editing articles for The Concordian at The Hive. My peers at both CUCCR and The Concordian were really what made my undergraduate degree what it is. And while the work that I did there often felt more important than my class work, combined, the world was at my fingertips. Subjects wove in and out, feeling all too relevant, all the time.

I would like to thank CUCCR’s Arrien Weeks and Anna Timm-Bottos for guiding me on my journey in creative reuse and sustainability, Stan Charbonneau (department assistant in Art Education) for making the impossible very possible, my 4TH SPACE and CUCCR families, and Faculty of Fine Arts faculty Salinda Hess, Thérèse Mastroiacovo, Mindy Yan Miller, Orit Halpern and Michelle Lasalle, among many others, for awakening creative practices within me that I will carry onto my master’s studies.

Le Lin

Le Lin

BFA, Design
Sustainability Champion Award

My name is Le (he/they). One contribution that I’ve put a lot of my heart in is voluntarily leading and representing the Queer Print Club (QPC) for the past few years. QPC is a community-based print collective from LGBTQIA2+ students in the Faculty of Fine Arts. We organize and facilitate artist talks and workshops, create publications and exhibit at zine fairs.

The latest project is our publication Cycles, a collective zine that I designed, organized, helped print and bind. Cycles features the works of 15 queer artists and explores dialogue about queer personal history, lived experiences, culture and relationships within our community.

Rather than selling the zine, we asked for donation receipts to Black Lives Matter and QTBIPOC charities. We raised more than $1,000 towards the Black Perspectives Initiative, Taking What We Need, AGIR, Black Healing Fund and more. I loved leading/facilitating QPC and hope it will continue to thrive in the years to follow!

Tiffany Matraxia

Tiffany Matraxia

MA, Educational Studies
LIVE Volunteer Recognition Award

I will always fondly remember the time I spent studying at Concordia. By attending classes, joining student associations and volunteering for student centres, I formed supportive and encouraging connections while also giving back to the community. The many individuals who helped me along the way are dear to my heart. I want to thank the many professors who provided me with constructive feedback to develop my skills. To my cohort, thank you for sitting with me late at night, asking big questions and trying to find answers.

The biggest lesson I learned was the importance of getting involved. There are many benefits to volunteering — increased confidence, strong lifelong connections, gratitude and fulfillment. Of course, the biggest obstacle is taking the first step, but the benefits are so rewarding when you do. You’ll never know what you are capable of unless you try!

Erica Chelini

Erica Chelini

BSc, Psychology and Linguistics
LIVE Volunteer Recognition Award

Many of my experiences at Concordia have come together to create a profound impact on who I am today.

One of the first courses I took at Concordia was Introduction to Linguistic Science, which sparked an immense curiosity: How do we acquire and learn languages? How do babies differentiate between different languages? How do we coordinate so many small movements to speak? I’m appreciative of the fantastic professors at Concordia who have helped me explore these interests further.

This fascination led me to get involved in research. My supervisor was a mentor to me. She taught me a lot beyond just sound scientific practices and how to develop my skills — how to develop my character. She empowers students, building on their strengths, which is so valuable. I carry this lesson with me and try to extend it to all facets of my life, including volunteering.

I have volunteered at Concordia with groups like the Garnet Key and the Sustainability Ambassadors Program, where I further learned how to work together to create wonderful ways to make meaningful change within our community.

I’m so incredibly grateful for these formative years at Concordia.

Alain Ndakengurutse

Alain Ndakengurutse

BComm, Human Resources Management and Accounting
Outstanding Contribution Award

Service to others, the way to maximize your student life!

Lesson 1: Don’t let your fear stop you from achieving greatness.

I still remember like it was yesterday the day I decided to run for an independent director position. Like a young man going on his first date, I was nervous!

Despite all my fears, I was the only one to run.

Lesson 2: Invest your time wisely.

In the last couple of years, I have enjoyed volunteering for the John Molson Accounting Society, preparing taxes for students, giving Career Management Services workshops, and recently acting as an independent director representing the interests of over 7,500 students.

Lesson 3: Surround yourself with a good team.

Thanks to the awesome teams I have been working with, we organized two Black Student Career Development events, with other independent directors we launched the first Diversity Committee (DC), and we got the approval for the first DC bursary with my committee.

As result, service to others allowed me to maximize my student life.

Fiona Harrison-Roberts Photo: Melvin-John Herbilla

Fiona Harrison-Roberts

BA, Journalism
Outstanding Contribution Award

Concordia’s Department of Journalism is filled to the brim with talented and celebrated journalists that are willing to impart their knowledge and wisdom to young, budding journalists.

I had the pleasure of being taught by Montreal Gazette journalist Aaron Derfel during my second year. The knowledge that he imparted during our Reporting and Research Methods class was invaluable.

Being involved with a variety of student groups has allowed me to realize my potential. I enjoyed planning events to help foster a community among my peers and advocating for students in any way possible.

Join Concordians to honour the Class of 2021 virtually at
CU Celebrate on June 17, starting at 12 p.m. ET.

Read more Concordia stories from the Class of 2021.



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