Environmental studies celebrates excellence at awards gala

enviromental studies award winning group

enviromental studies award winning group

Award recipients, presenters and guests convened at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel Nov. 22 to honour academic achievement in environmental studies at the seventh annual Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) Awards Gala.

FES Dean Noël Sturgeon delivered the opening remarks and welcomed everyone to the event recognizing students and faculty members who have won awards in the past year, as well as donors, friends and volunteers who made these awards possible.

“The Gala is our time to step back from our day-to-day work and take in how much we FES Dean Noël Sturgeon and FES Professor and Dean's Teaching Award recipient Robin Cavanaghaccomplish at FES, celebrating our wonderful students and our generous supporters,” said Sturgeon.

From left, FES Dean Noël Sturgeon and FES Professor and Dean’s Teaching Award recipient Robin Cavanagh

Jeff O’Hagan, vice-president advancement, congratulated the award recipients and donors, thanking donors for their support and commending them for “choosing to invest in students, giving them confidence and further encouraging them to pursue academic excellence”.

The Dean’s Teaching Award was the first of the evening’s honours to be recognized by Sturgeon. Professors Mark Winfield and Robin Cavanagh are the recipients of the award given out earlier this year in acknowledgement of excellent contributions to teaching and pedagogy in FES.

Five featured student awards were also selected to be highlighted at the event among the FES Associate Dean Leesa Fawcett with award recipient Elizabeth Cuellarnumerous awards and bursaries, which the Faculty boasts and hands out every year.

From left, FES Associate Dean Leesa Fawcett with award recipient Elizabeth Cuellar

FES Professor and Associate Dean Leesa Fawcett acted as master of ceremonies and began by honouring recipients of the George and Helen Vari Foundation Entrance Award for Environmental Studies – awarded to both undergraduate and graduate students based on financial need and academic merit. First-year student Elizabeth Cuellar was among the recipients of this award and took to the stage to express her gratitude.

“I am really excited to have won this award. As a first year student, I think many of us struggle with financial Maryam Kimia Ghomeshi speakingstress, and to know that a portion of my tuition is covered is a wonderful thing,” said Cuellar.

MES student Maryam Kimia Ghomeshi (right), recipient of the Unilever Canada Graduate Award in Environmental Studies, was called upon to speak next. This award is given annually to support a graduate student who demonstrates a good academic record and financial need, with preference given to those with an area of concentration in sustainability. With the help of this award, Ghomeshi was able to dedicate her summer towards studying energy models that have been implemented across North America with an aim of maximizing community participation, ownership and direct community benefits from renewable energy.

Sally Livingston with award recipient Joshua RussellFrom left, Sally Livingston with award recipient Joshua Russell

This was followed by a tribute to the recipient and donor of the John A. Livingston Ecological Conscience and Nature Advocacy Award, established with the support of Ursula Livingston in memory of Professor Emeritus John A. Livingston. Professor Livingston was a key player in the development of FES and a prominent figure in biological conservation in Canada. Sally Livingston, daughter of the late professor, was called upon to help congratulate this year’s award recipient, PhD student Joshua Russell. With the help of this award, Russell was able to further his research on children and their experiences with grief and loss in the wake of environmental crisis.

John Lang, chair of Michelle’s Prize fundraising committee, with award recipient Sarah May LindsayThe next award honoured at the event was Michelle’s Prize – established by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) to mark its 40th anniversary of legal, community and social activism directed towards protecting our environment.

From left, John Lang, chair of Michelle’s Prize fundraising committee, with award recipient Sarah May Lindsay

It is named in honour of the late Michelle Swenarchuk, a lawyer, environmental activist and former executive director of CELA who passed away in 2008. Fourth-year BES student Sarah May Lindsay was selected as this year’s recipient. She thanked CELA and the Faculty for awarding her this scholarship which will help further her studies in animal ethics, equity and justice.

HSBC award recipient Michael Kenny; Ernest Yee, vice-president, corporate affairs, HSBC Bank Canada; HSBC award recipient Michael Collins; and HSBC award recipient Briar JonesFrom left, HSBC award recipient Michael Kenny; Ernest Yee, vice-president, corporate affairs, HSBC Bank Canada; HSBC award recipient Michael Collins; and HSBC award recipient Briar Jones

This year’s new HSBC Bank Canada Environmental Studies Awards wrapped up the awards portion of the evening. The awards are available to students entering the third or fourth year of the BES program. These recipients are selected on the basis of academic achievement, community service and financial need. Ernest Yee, vice-president, corporate affairs, HSBC Bank Canada, was in attendance to present certificates to the inaugural recipients of the awards, including fourth year BES student Michael Collins who was invited on stage to say a few words.

“As just one member of a wonderful cohort of peers, this is a very humbling experience,” said Collins. “This award has been instrumental in helping me to finish my degree as a full-time student while continuing to give back to the York community”. He expressed his sincere gratitude to HSBC Bank Canada for “their leadership and support of environmental studies and commitment to fostering a better tomorrow with strategic investment today”.

Fawcett concluded the presentation by calling all student award recipients in attendance to the stage, congratulating them on their achievements and thanking donors for their continued support.

“Each year, through the selection of award recipients, the Faculty recognizes students who demonstrate above-average achievement in their academic endeavours. In many cases, these awards are really important sources of financial and moral support for students who may not otherwise have access to post secondary education,” said Fawcett.

For more information on FES awards, visit the FES Resources & Services web page.

By Jessica Lamoglie De Nardo, media/communications coordinator for York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies