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VIDEO: 13 notable Concordia alumni share tips for success

As part of #CUcelebrate, accomplished grads inspire the class of 2021
June 16, 2021
By Joanne Latimer, MFA 94

collage of the 12 faces

In a special tribute to Concordia’s class of 2021, notable alumni — all at the top of their fields — shared their words of wisdom via video message.

Their inspiring thoughts were collected into the montage below for #CUcelebrate, the virtual hub for graduation festivities.

Get to know the individual speakers and read excerpts from their messages, below.

Kathy Reichs, LLD 11

The best-selling American crime author, TV producer and forensic anthropologist kicks off alumni video messages with a heartfelt congratulations to the class of 2021. Kathy Reichs was catapulted to fame when her first novel, Déjà Dead, became a New York Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award. The FOX TV series Bones is based on her work and her novels.

Kyle Curry, BFA (music) 17, and Joel Curry, BFA (music) 17

Canadian duo Pansy Boys is capturing the hearts and minds of music fans of dreamy orchestral pop. Formed by queer Toronto-based twins Kyle and Joel Curry, the brothers' music has been dubbed “dreamy melancholy for troubled times” by CBC Arts, and New York City’s Paper magazine praises their new album Seasons of Doubt.

"Hey Concordia grads of 2021, you made it, you're here! Congratulations! We're sending lots of love and light your way. Good for you."

Photo: Sabrina Reeves

Mike Payette, BFA (theatre) 07

After helming Montreal’s Geordie Theatre as the artistic and executive director for six seasons, Mike Payette is moving on to become the artistic director of Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre in September.

Payette co-founded the Montreal independent company Tableau D’Hôte Theatre and is known for his work at the Black Theatre Workshop, Théâtre Jean-Duceppe and at Centaur Theatre.

"Congratulations to all of you graduating during what has been a really trying year!"

Photo: Neil Mota

Naya Ali, BA (community public affairs, policy studies) 11

A rising star in the rap world, Naya Ali was recently recognized with an inaugural SOCAN Foundation Black Canadian Music Award, and the only one out of six winners to hail from outside Ontario.

"I'm sure it was a trek of a time to get here, to finish your degree. That's phenomenal and well deserved."

Neldy Germain, BFA (design) 17

Neldy Germain's website and Instagram feeds are compelling calling cards for his work as a visual designer who provides web graphics, identity and branding. Clients include Boutique 363, Jeuness Vagabonde, Fous de l’ile and start-ups such as Dynamo, Votre Montreal and DINR.

Germain's work has been recognized by publications and websites including VSCO, Instagram,, CBC and the Montreal Gazette.

"The biggest successes of your life are going to be the things you failed at 10 times before you succeed."

Lucas Lawton, BA (communication studies) 17

Dancer and choreographer Lucas Lawton has been winning awards at World Irish Dance Championships since 2012. After a week-long workshop audition, he was chosen to perform in a Riverdance performance at the famous Gaiety Theatre in Dublin in 2019. More recently, Lawton performed in Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance in Taiwan.

“Take the time to find what you truly love doing. Pursuing your passion is what's going to make you the most fulfilled and happy."

Analoga Kawina, BFA (film production) 02

The actor-singer-songwriter goes by her artist name, Hagiel. She was a 2020 semi-finalist in the International Songwriting Competition judged by Tom Waits and Chris Martin, among other acclaimed musicians. Hagiel can be seen in M'entends-tu? (Can You Hear Me?) on Netflix.

"What I learned from Concordia was teamwork. It's so important, even after your studies."

Flora Weistche, BA (human environment) 19

A role model in the Indigenous community, Flora Weistche works for the Cree Nation Government as the environment management coordinator based in Montreal. She has been volunteering for 10 years for the homeless and Cree medical patients who reside in the city. Weistche received national CBC news coverage for My Grandmother’s Garden, her beadwork on an entire caribou hide to honour her grandmother’s memory.

“What I learned at Concordia that has stayed with me is time management. It's enabled me to be a better organizer and planner."

Jeremy Comte, BFA (film production) 13

Jeremy Comte is the writer-director behind Fauve, the film nominated at the 91st Academy Awards for Best Live Action Short Film. It played at 187 festivals, winning more than 90 awards. Fauve was featured on Vimeo Staff Pick Premiere, Short of the Week and NOWNESS.

"Recognize your strengths and weaknesses. If you're humbe enough to know what you need to work on and who you need to surround yourself with, you can accomplish anything."

Marion Thénault, Bachelor of Engineering (aerospace) student

Freestyle skier Marion Thénault won her first career aerials gold medal in Kazakhstan in March. The World Cup win qualifies the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science student to compete in the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.

"You don't have to restrict yourself to one path. You can expand your horizons and follow as many endeavours as you want, as long as you're driven and passionate."

Salim Valji, BA (journalism) 17

As Calgary bureau chief for TSNSalim Valji has a job coveted by many sports fans. He has been covering the Calgary Flames and the Stampeders since November 2020. Prior to joining TSN in 2017 — where he worked as an associate producer and statistician for the network’s regional coverage of the Montreal Canadiens — Valji contributed stories to The New York Times, The Canadian Press, the Montreal Gazette, CBC and ESPN, among others.

"If I have words of wisdom they are to work hard, take care of yourself and go far beyond your comfort zone, enjoy the process and get creative."

Kim Thúy, LLD 17

Kim Thúy's first novel Ru, won the Governor General's Award for French-language fiction in 2010. The Concordia honorary degree recipient is an ambassador of the refugee experience, having come to Canada at the age of 10 as a Vietnamese “boat person” — a refugee fleeing her post-Vietnam War country under perilous circumstances.

"You’ve made it through the year with success,” she notes. “You’ve passed all the tests. That means you are all exceptional."


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