Student earns award for academic success in Portuguese & Luso-Brazilian Studies

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York University undergraduate student Vanda Mota has been named the 2017-18 recipient of the Dark Stones: The Azorean Spirit Award, presented annually by Portuguese & Luso-Brazilian Studies.

Vanda Mota
Vanda Mota

Mota is working toward a major in history and an honours minor in Portuguese & Luso-Brazilian Studies. This award is sponsored by Banco Santander Totta’s Toronto representative office, and it recognizes and celebrates Mota as the most accomplished student of the 2017-18 academic year.

The Dark Stones: The Azorean Spirit Award, established in 2014, recognizes the academic achievements of students enrolled in the Portuguese & Luso-Brazilian Studies program at York University. This award is only open to full-time students enrolled in the program who have completed at least 12 credits in Portuguese courses and who have obtained an overall grade point average of at least 7.0. The award also recognizes students’ co-curricular and extracurricular involvement.

In addition to her studies, Mota has been an active volunteer and attendant of the Expressions of Lusofonia international conference at York. She is of Portuguese descent and is taking courses in the Portuguese & Luso-Brazilian Studies program, and she says these courses give her the opportunity to meet other Portuguese-Canadian students and students from other lusophone and non-lusophone backgrounds. It also gives her the opportunity to learn more about Portugueseness or lusofonia.

“I started studying Portuguese in my second year at York University,” said Mota. “Although I had some knowledge – both my parents are Portuguese and speak the language – my goal for the year was to better my oral and writing skills. I learned not only those skills, but I also had the chance to learn about the different cultures and ways Portuguese is used in the world. Throughout the remaining years in the program, I engaged with fellow classmates and developed great friendships with people who were also interested in Portuguese and Luso-Brazilian Studies. We all came from different backgrounds, yet we were able to come together and help each other learn, as each of us had something to contribute.”

Thanks to ongoing support from educators at York University, Mota decided to pursue a minor in Portuguese studies in addition to her history major. In particular, she said, Professors Inês Cardoso and Maria João Dodman showed her the joys of learning more about her culture and the lusophone world, while also teaching her how to improve and engage with the language, its cultures and literature in meaningful ways.

“This award has been a wonderful surprise, and I would like to thank those involved in the process of creation and supporting this award,” said Mota. “Special thanks to my professors and Ms. Gabriela Cavaco, the manager of Banco Santander Totta, for providing me with this opportunity in the program of Portuguese & Luso-Brazilian Studies. You are inspiring and supporting deserving students like myself to excel in the program.”

The official award ceremony is tentatively scheduled to take place in February 2019.

For more information about this and other awards and scholarships in Portuguese, visit

About the Dark Stones: The Azorean Spirit Award

This award honours José Dias de Melo, author of the seminal novel Dark Stones (1964), an important Portuguese writer from the Azores. He is popularly known as the writer of the whales due to his extensive work regarding the whaling industry and the saga of the Azorean people. A staunch defender of equality, dignity, social justice and freedom, Dias de Melo’s works have emphasized the plight of poverty, injustice and systemic exploitation inflicted on the Azorean people. His many works, which include some available in translation, are especially poignant to Azoreans, including a large community in the Greater Toronto Area. In addition, due to York University’s commitment to social justice, diversity and the global community, this award also speaks to the University’s mission and priorities.

About Banco Santander Totta

Banco Santander Totta is a leading Portuguese banking institution and one of the largest banks in Portugal. With representation worldwide, Banco Santander Totta is also a prominent contributor to community through cultural and educational development and support.