Student leaders honoured by Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

Top student leaders and volunteers in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) have been honoured at an awards ceremony co-sponsored by the Centre for Student Success and York Alumni Office. Members of the LA&PS and York community, including LA&PS Dean Martin Singer; Professor Marilyn Lambert-Drache, associate dean, student relations; and Jeff Ball, manager of alumni support & campus partnerships, came out to celebrate and recognize the outstanding contributions students have made to the Faculty and to the University.

Left: LA&PS Dean Martin Singer

“The ceremony honoured our most precious resources: our students,” said Singer. “University education is not just about credits, not just about attending class, writing exams or papers; university is about preparing the next generation of Canadian and global citizens – it’s about fostering the next generation of leaders and these students are leaders in the truest sense. They haven’t shirked responsibility, they have taken on responsibility; they haven’t avoided opportunity, they have seized opportunity; they haven’t thought about how little they have to do to get a university degree, they’ve thought about how much they can do while getting a university degree – and that’s what distinguishes them.”

Eleven LA&PS students and three student associations were honoured with these awards:

The Helen Vari Award – New graduate (summa cum laude) and active volunteer Jamil Jivani was recognized for his outstanding academic achievement and community service. As president of the International Development Studies Student Association, Jivani has organized several events to help connect York students to the local community and beyond. He has also worked on behalf of a number of community organizations both locally and globally, including the African Canadian Youth Justice Program and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund Canada. In Nairobi, Kenya, he managed a pilot program for Child Connection Organization which assisted youth who were leaving children’s homes and orphanages in building their independence.

Outstanding Student Leadership Award – From president of the Sociology Undergraduate Student Association and assistant director of the York Lions in Training Program for high-school students to collaborating with peers for an Aboriginal women’s shelter and sitting on the Vaughan Youth Cabinet, Ashley Gismondi has made the most of her undergraduate years at York. She took home the award along with Steven Goncalves and Adnan Raja who both serve on the Student Council of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (SCOLAPS) and were recently honoured at the SCOLAPS awards ceremony (see YFile, June 21). 

Outstanding Student Volunteer AwardShazma Abdulla and Cheyanne Thurga Kiretharagopalan were recognized for their exceptional leadership and service. Abdulla is an alumni adviser for SCOLAPS, a York senator and has served as a student representative on several committees. Kiretharagopalan is active within the School of Social Work and will take on the role of president of the Social Work Student Association in the fall. She is vice-president of internal affairs for Habitat Humanity at York and has volunteered for the University’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Support Line.

Right: Marilyn Lambert-Drache, Thurga Kiretharagopalan (winner of Outstanding Student Volunteer Award) and Singer

Outstanding Overall Contribution to Student Experience – Two student associations were honoured in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the enrichment of the undergraduate student experience. The Atkinson Professional Accounting Association held 35 events this year and partnered with the Daily Bread Food Bank, Villa Colombo, Good Shepherd Ministries, Hope for Children, Junior Achievement of Ontario and World Vision Canada. Members also held various professional development workshops and networking events.  

The Undergraduate History Students Association played a role in the development of a video on York’s Department of History for the American Historical Association. The group also held their first-ever undergraduate history students’ conference (see YFile, Feb. 26) and organized workshops in conjunction with the Career Centre. 

Alumni Award for Commitment to Student Experience and EngagementDiana Golts and Garry Smolyansky were recognized for their roles as president of their respective student associations and for organizing events that connect students and alumni.  

Above: Students from the History Students Association and department chair Professor Jonathan Edmondson (far right)

Two student associations were also honoured for their efforts to connect students with alumni. The Undergraduate History Students Association and the Sociology Undergraduate Student Association organized a number of unique events this year, including a Haunted Tour of Historical Toronto, career conversations with graduates and several meet-and-greets.

Above: Students from the Sociology Undergraduate Student Association and Jeff Ball of the Alumni Office (far right)

Soaring Award for First-Year InvolvementChandrakamal Bagratee, Nancy Bediako and Tania Maj Roden also took home an award. They received the SOARING for First-Year Involvement Certificate, which recognizes outstanding participation in the areas of leadership, volunteering and skill development. SOARING, which stands for Success, Opportunities Achievements & Realizing Them, is a points-based program that rewards students for participating in academic, professional and social activities outside of the classroom.

“Our student ambassadors, volunteers and club leaders are active York citizens and their spirit and dedication make this campus such a wonderful place to be,” said Lambert-Drache. “I am inspired by their energy and innovative ideas – it’s one of the most pleasurable aspects of my role as associate dean, working with such talented and community-minded students.”

Videos of the award ceremony are available on YouTube.