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‘If something matters to you, always go the extra mile’: 6 great grads recall their stand-out moments at Concordia

Find out what this year’s Engagement Award winners found most rewarding about giving back to their community
May 25, 2022

This spring and summer, Concordia will host convocation in person for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Graduates from 2020, 2021 and 2022 will all be honoured during the ceremonies taking place at Place des Arts across several dates in June and August.

Leading up to these long-awaited celebrations, six Engagement Award–winning graduates from the 2022 class have shared some of their memorable moments at Concordia. The Engagement Awards recognize outstanding contributions to student life, community engagement, safe practices and sustainability on campus.

Read their stories and the lessons they wish to offer current students.

Young smiling man with long, straight blond hair and a colourful shirt.

Chris Vaccarella

Sustainability Champion Award
Bachelor of Arts
Political Science

The most important lesson I learned during my time at Concordia was finding my true self. I was always the quiet person who sat in the front of class, took notes and kept to myself. I knew I had drive and ambition, but my shyness held me back until friends convinced me to get involved in student politics in 2020.

Since then, I have held positions as VP finance and president of the Political Science Student Association (PSSA), Concordia Student Union (CSU) counsellor, board member of the Sustainability Action Fund and a volunteer for the Climate Emergency Committee and CEED Concordia.

Some accomplishments include writing the first-ever sustainability policy for the PSSA, helping to plant 250 trees in the east end, advocating for free, sustainable and accessible menstrual products on campus and motioning for the first-ever mural festival at Concordia.

Over two years, I held close to 20 positions at school organizations, gave back to the students and community at large, while maintaining an A- average. Getting involved in student politics at Concordia made me find my true self, and it’s only the beginning.


Young woman with long, dark hair and a dress shirt © Concordia University, photo by Lisa Graves

Xiaoxiao (Faye) Sun

Sustainability Champion Award
Bachelor of Science
Environmental Science

I have had the pleasure of working with an immeasurable number of brilliant peers, colleagues and professors. Those who made a lasting impression are the ones who have had faith in my ability to succeed, despite my many mistakes and setbacks, and have decided to continue supporting me throughout my journey.

Because of them, I have learned that failure does not exist when we are able to learn from our mistakes; that there are those who will be there for you and support you through difficulties without judgment (sometimes in the most unlikely places); and that asking for help is not a weakness but requires an immense amount of courage in a world that over-values individualism.

Your connections and relationships to others will be the life raft you need to stay afloat, so take time to cultivate them. Above all, don’t ever allow the barriers you experience to dim or extinguish your sense of wonder and passion for learning.

Young smiling woman, with long dark red hair, a red hat and a patterned shirt.

Rebecca Mersiadis-Lavallee

Volunteer Recognition Award
Bachelor of Arts
Communication Studies

My most formative experience in university was in my Moving Images II class, taught by Michael Smart. In this one-year class, I got the opportunity to be a part of an incredible group of people and we made a short film together. This class, which luckily took place just before the pandemic, was meant to give you the experience of working on a film set. Every member of our class took a position as part of the film crew or actors.

I had the wonderful responsibility of being the producer and this allowed me for the first time to really get to know and collaborate with my fellow students as well as my incredible instructor. This experience truly ignited my passion for film production and wanting to pursue this career in the future. I will never forget all the memories we shared and the challenges we conquered together.

Young smiling man with short, dark hair, wearing a dress shirt.

Eduardo Malorni

Concordia Council on Student Life (CCSL) Award
Bachelor of Engineering
Mechanical Engineering

Concordia is endless! It feels like there is always something new to learn behind every corner. Beyond what I learnt in the classroom, joining the CSU really made me experience things I would never have seen or done had I not gotten involved. From hosting poetry nights to negotiating the purchase of a property, there was always something new to jump into every day.

It is crazy to think of all the incredible things that students dreamed of while hanging around together late at night on campus and how these projects were able to go from dreams to reality. As much stress as Concordia gave us at times, it also provided a place for us to be exposed to so many different things that otherwise would have taken a lifetime to experience. There will never be a replacement for a place like this.

Young woman with long, dark hair and green eyes.

Donya Meshgin

CCSL Award
Bachelor of Engineering
Software Engineering

If I had to pick only one word to describe what makes Concordia so special, it’s community. The togetherness that we have, our readiness to help one another, the support from our peers, professors and employees — you can’t find that anywhere else.

To embody that spirit of community, I involved myself within various facets of Concordia life. I held different positions at Concordia’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders and I became the chairperson of the Engineering and Computer Science Association. As for academic life, I had the pleasure of being a teaching assistant, a programmer on duty and a research assistant.

A pivotal moment for me was working at the Applied-Perception Lab under the supervision of the amazing Marta Kersten-Oertel. My research on my multiple sclerosis application was published in a biomedical engineering journal, and I presented it at a workshop at the International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention.

One thing I learned was that prioritization and balance are key. You can't do everything, but you can do a whole lot if you learn to prioritize what matters most. And if something matters to you, always go the extra mile. Spending time and effort in the right places, even for the littlest things, will always be meaningful.

Young smiling man with a short beard, a backwards basketball cap, wearing a blue T-Shirt.

Amine Ben Arous

CCSL Award
Bachelor of Science
Actuarial Mathematics

Concordia provided me with numerous opportunities to develop my character, but my time at the Mathematics, Actuarial, and Statistics Student Association and the Arts and Science Federation of Associations will stay with me forever.

These gratifying volunteer roles gave me the opportunity to form strong connections, work on my organizational and leadership skills as well as create wonderful initiatives that impact my community.

Throughout my university degree, I learned the importance of community building. You can go fast on your own, but you will go much further in life if you surround yourself with people who have similar goals and support one another. Whether it’s to study for exams or to celebrate successes, these friendships can go a long way.

I have also learned the importance of Wayne Gretzky’s famous quote: “You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.” Initially, I had many doubts about my ability to secure an internship or complete a big project, but I never let fear of failure stop me. Some of my greatest success in life came from those bold moments.

I am incredibly grateful to my professors, friends and family who supported me throughout this journey. I will never forget these years spent at Concordia and I’m excited for what is to come next.

Find out more about Concordia’s upcoming in-person Convocation ceremonies for the graduating classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022.


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