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‘Make a positive impact’: Concordia great grads share what they’ve learned

Spring 2023 non-academic medal winners reflect on their time at the university
June 12, 2023

Students from all four faculties and the School of Graduate Studies are getting ready to take the stage during Concordia's spring 2023 convocation ceremonies. More than 6,400 are eligible to receive their diplomas on June 20, 21 and 22 in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Montreal’s Place des Arts. 

Nine new honorands, including a cardiothoracic surgeon, an Inuk artist and activist, and the author of the book behind the hit film Slumdog Millionaire, will address the graduating class.

Eight recipients of Concordia’s non-academic medals will join them onstage. We asked these accomplished students for the secrets to their university success.

Smiling woman with long dark hair and a green top

Vanessa Manroop

Recipient of the O’Brien Medal
Bachelor of Commerce
Human Resource Management and Services

The most formative learning experiences I had at Concordia were acquired through work done as a student ambassador for the Black Perspectives Office (BPO) and as a student facilitator at Homeroom, a program out of the Dean of Students Office.

The BPO was such a great experience: tabling, having student lunches and creating content with and for students that look like me and that have similar cultural experiences. It brought me so much joy to be able to share university resources tailored to Black students in need.

This past academic year with Homeroom was very special because, for the first time, they collaborated with the BPO and were able to have a group designated for Black students, thereby creating a safe space on campus. It was truly an honour for me to lead that group and teach Homeroom material with an inclusive lens. The laughs, smiles and memories shared in sessions, at games nights and through special speaker events will forever have a special place in my heart.

These on-campus jobs have truly shaped and prepared me for my next life chapter.

Smiling man with dark hair, glasses and wearing a suit shirt and jacket

Khaled Matloub

Recipient of the Concordia Medal
Bachelor of Engineering
Electrical Engineering

My most formative learning experience at Concordia came from teaching. I had the opportunity to tutor with the Student Success Centre, give crash courses with the Engineering and Computer Science Association and provide tutorials with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. You get to develop a much better understanding of a concept when you explain it to others.

These experiences allowed me to refine my communication skills and adapt my explanations to different learning styles. They also taught me the importance of empathy and patience. And as a bonus, there is a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction when your students tell you they did great on their exams. It reaffirmed my passion for learning and education, inspiring me to continue seeking opportunities to share knowledge and make a positive impact on others.

Young smiling woman, with long blonde hair, wearing a white shirt.

Sierra Campbell 

Recipient of the Concordia Medal
Bachelor of Engineering
Civil Engineering

Throughout my time at Concordia, I was involved in the Engineering and Computer Science Association for three mandates. I first joined at the beginning of the online learning environment, hoping to connect more with my peers. There, I experienced an amazing community filled with inspiring student executives applying classroom knowledge to innovative projects.

Skills I developed here further propelled me into my Co-op work terms, which were a standout learning experience for me. Under the guidance of my mentor in the Women in Engineering – Career Launch Experience program, I was able to smoothly transition into the workplace and explore career opportunities. I am fully prepared to enter the workforce as a proud graduate of the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science thanks to my participation in student government and the Institute for Co-operative Education.

Young smiling woman with long blonde hair, wearing a turquoise necklace

Gabriella Dery

Recipient of the Malone Medal
Bachelor of Arts
Honours Human Environment

Concordia has provided me a range of rich experiences — both through varied academic courses with knowledgeable and passionate professors, as well as through incredibly interesting extra-curricular opportunities. These have led me to become the person I am today. But if I were to highlight one particularly formative and impactful initiative, I would choose my involvement in the establishment of the Disabled Spoonies and Friends Club

Spoonies, a club created for and by students with disabilities, has given me the tools and the community to help navigate academic, everyday and now professional life. Spoonies has not only taught me how to organize and mobilize — skills I am using in my new job, and which will continue to serve me well — but also how to listen to myself and those around me. It has helped me to build my confidence and resilience, be better prepared to handle the challenges I encounter and even thrive with patience and care.  

Young smiling woman with long black hair and wearing a pink top and black blazer

Surya Lakshmi 

Recipient of the Stanley G. French Medal
Master’s Degree
Information Systems Security

A pivotal transformative experience during my time at Concordia was taking on a student leadership role. Being part of the Engineering and Computer Science Graduate Association team, entrusted with the responsibility of guiding and representing peers, brought a whirlwind of prospects. From organizing events, attending meetings to fostering teamwork and inspiring change, it was a rollercoaster ride of learning and growth.

But amidst the late-night planning sessions and occasional stress, there was an undeniable joy in seeing the impact of our efforts, witnessing the camaraderie among fellow leaders and celebrating shared accomplishments. Being an international student from India, I am grateful for the opportunity to engage with diverse communities and collaborate with passionate individuals. It shaped my values, instilled a sense of duty toward the well-being of others and fuelled my desire to continue making a difference beyond the university walls. It was a journey filled with laughter, friendship and a deep sense of fulfillment that I'll forever cherish.

Young smiling man with a beard and wearing a graduation gown and cap

Sean Levis

Recipient of the Dean of Students Medal
Bachelor of Arts

My most formative learning experience at Concordia was developing an understanding of the power that each student has when they become a part of a community of like-minded people. When I first joined Concordia, I came from a different province and knew no one. I had a hard time finding employment, stable housing and struggled very much in my academics. 

Once I was able to find a job, I quickly found housing at the Woodnote Solidarity Cooperative, student housing created and run by Concordia students. I was encouraged by my new friends to get involved and I’m so glad I did. I quickly became a housing advocate and eventually joined the Concordia Student Union. This allowed me to flourish academically and socially, while gaining a wide variety of skills that made me more employable.

I encourage any student reading this to get involved in your student association or any student group doing something that interests you. The learning outcomes from the community and the classroom will allow you to achieve anything. 

Young woman smiling widely wearing a white T-shirt and doing a peace sign

Kyla Alexis Palanca  

Recipient of the Malone Medal
Bachelor of Arts
Human Relations with a Minor in Immigration Studies 

My passion for community development was deepened as I completed my degree.

It is not every day that students are able to put the knowledge and skills they have acquired directly from the classroom into regular practice. I feel incredibly thankful to have been given the opportunity to do so through my involvement in the Filipino Organization of Concordia University Students (FOCUS), as a vice-president of events for a year and a co-president for two consecutive years. 

The most challenging and simultaneously the most rewarding experience I had at FOCUS was leading the creation, preparation and execution of SHOWPAO: The Festival 2023. Through this project, I was able to witness my team grow their relationships with one another while honing their respective skills. It truly is an honour to realize you had an impact on others.


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