Atkinson STARS Unit celebrates volunteerism

At York, volunteering is an integral part of the teaching and learning experience. Students, alumni, faculty and staff donate hundreds of hours each year to ensure the success of many programs, resources and on- and off-campus events. The Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies has several volunteer initiatives and a committed group of individuals dedicated to making meaningful contributions to the Atkinson community and to York at large. On May 2, the Student & Alumni Relations (STARS) Unit held its second annual Shining Stars – Volunteer Recognition Celebration, honouring the many contributions made by volunteers during the 2006-2007 academic year.

Right: The Shining Stars award

Five members of the Atkinson community – including three students, one professor and an alumnus – were formally recognized with Shining STARS Awards. Each received an individual plaque honouring their contributions, and all of their names appear on a larger plaque that is located in the STARS Unit.

“This year’s recipients are true Shining Stars,” said Atkinson Associate Dean Martha Rogers. “They have given their time, energy and ideas to help make the STARS Unit and the Atkinson Faculty exciting, relevant and engaging. We are so proud to count them among our outstanding community citizens.”

Daraius Bharucha was recognized for his leadership skills and outstanding contribution to the Atkinson community. He has been a mentor to many students. Bharucha was a Millennium Scholar and recipient of the 2005 Governor General of Canada’s Silver Medal for Academic Excellence. He has also acted as a panelist and keynote speaker at a number of STARS events over the past few years. He graduated from Atkinson with a bachelor of arts in religious studies and is a recent graduate of York’s Bachelor of Education program (July 2006).

Right: Daraius Bharucha shows off his award

Always the first to respond to calls for volunteers, Professor Madelyn Dick of the School of Arts &  Letters embodies the meaning of spirit and community. Dick was honoured for her generosity both as a volunteer and an Atkinson donor. She has taught at Atkinson since 1968 and been the Chair of the School since July 2001. In September, she will take on the role of Chair of the Atkinson Faculty Council.

Left: Dean Rhonda Lenton (left) with Madelyn Dick

Atkinson student Seher Goderya was founding editor of the Atkinson BEAT, an online student newsletter. She has volunteered at numerous STARS events such as Orientation, Fall Campus Day, March Break, the Ontario Universities Fair and several Cultural Galas. She has also been a student panellist at a number of workshops and a peer mentor to new students. Goderya graduates this week with a bachelor of administrative studies honours degree in general management.

“I loved having the feeling that through my experience and what I had to say, I was able to make someone else’s life a bit easier,” said Goderya. “University is about discovering who you are and for me, volunteering has allowed that.”

Between August and December of this year alone, student Kaleem Haider put in over 52 volunteer hours – setting a new record. Haider has been a TEAM (Team of Enthusiastic Atkinson Ambassadors) member since 2005, and an active volunteer for the United Way Campaign Toy & Food Drive and a number of other Atkinson and STARS initiatives. He has provided several presentations on services and programs to students as well as given a number of campus tours. Haider graduates later this week with a bachelor of administrative studies in accounting.

Known for her creativity and enthusiasm, Nupur Khandelwal, an Atkinson student, helped to establish TEAM –a group of Atkinson student ambassadors. She also helped to set up a community development fund for students and alumni, volunteered at numerous events both on and off campus, and helped to establish a promotional campaign for new graduate programs. Khandelwal was a member of the Atkinson Students’ Association Board in 2005-2006 and is graduating this week with a bachelor of administrative studies honours degree in human resources.

“Volunteering has provided me with a lot of transferable skills,” said Khandelwal. “Different volunteering opportunities provided me with avenues to connect with others, enhance my strengths and further explore myself. It is invaluable for students – it is an excellent way to enhance skills, make the most of your university experience and it also looks impressive on a resumé too.”

During the 2006-2007 academic year, Atkinson increased volunteer participation by an unprecedented amount. The student-alumni mentorship program grew its pool of alumni mentors by 27 per cent; 797 volunteer hours were contributed by TEAM student ambassadors to community and student events; and several new volunteer initiatives were developed including supporting a local community garden, establishing a new volunteer Web site and the creation of three professional development workshops for alumni and student volunteers. The STARS Unit also held a workshop in March on the value of volunteering – attracting over 100 students.

"Volunteer contributions are the backbone of many organizations,” said Carole Umaña, director of the STARS Unit. “At Atkinson, we are blessed with a large group of committed and supportive students, faculty, staff and alumni who contribute greatly to our community at York. Indeed, the STARS programs for students and graduates are made possible through their hard work, creativity and commitment. We are very grateful."

For more information on the recognition event or volunteering at Atkinson, contact the STARS Unit at ext. 33572 or e-mail