Celebrating Waterloo's Class of 2021 Valedictorians
By Victoria Lumax. The Spring 2021 Convocation ceremonies take place on June 18 and 19, 2021.
Graduating from university is a significant achievement. Culminating years of dedication and hard work, convocation is a time for celebration — looking back with pride and looking forward with hope.
This milestone is even more meaningful for Waterloo’s six undergraduate valedictorians, who, for their social and academic contributions, have been chosen by their peers to represent them at their respective graduation ceremonies. Read about their Waterloo journeys below.
Faculty of Arts
Much has happened for Kyle Rowe (BGBDA ‘21) between celebrating his Waterloo acceptance in his high school library in North Vancouver, BC, and leading his cohort into their futures as valedictorian. Rowe is graduating with an Honours Bachelor of Global Business and Digital Arts (GBDA), along with a Global Experience Certificate (GEC) — a degree that both represented a mix of his interests and pushed him to discover new passions.
Extra-curriculars played a big part in Rowe’s time at Waterloo, and if he could offer one piece of advice to younger students, it would be to engage in student life as much as possible.
"Get involved in as many clubs and societies as you can. You meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet in your courses and you get to work on projects that you’re actually interested in.”
He is especially proud of his role as an executive on the Waterloo-partnered hackathon StarterHacks, where he played a pivotal role in helping host one of the first large tech events in Ontario to have more than half of those in attendance identifying as female. He also takes pride in the ways he’s helped foster an entrepreneurial spirit and excitement through the Waterloo Entrepreneurship Society (EntSoc); countless employer-student connections were made because of Rowe’s support and leadership.
Rowe is especially grateful to his professors for their mentorship and feels very lucky to have worked with them for the past four years: “I challenge anyone to find professors who care more about their students than those in Stratford.”
Rowe currently works in brand management and digital marketing and has future plans to complete a master’s degree in Europe. With dreams to start his own marketing agency, Rowe has set his sights on big things.
Faculty of Engineering
Jonathan Miguel Logarta-Chin (BASc ‘21) came to Waterloo with an open mind and is leaving with a new sense of confidence and hope. Logarta-Chin, graduating with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering, admits that becoming valedictorian is validation that all his struggles, hardships and doubts were worth it.
While proud of becoming valedictorian and receiving “arguably the most expensive piece of paper in my life,” he is also proud of a personal achievement — coming out as gay.
“It was when I fully got to appreciate who I was as a person and felt comfortable in my own skin,” Logarta-Chin says. “The engineering field is constantly working to promote inclusivity, which was one of the main reasons I felt so encouraged. I plan to champion diversity in engineering and hope to make a positive impact in the field; coming out was just the first step.”
For Logarta-Chin, his friends played an important role in his university career. What he will miss most, other than “the extreme sport of geese dodging,” is the daily interactions with his peers, whether it was on campus or just throughout Waterloo. One of his fondest memories was moving into residence, and the many accompanying fun times and adventures.
Logarta-Chin will soon be working at BA group as a Designer EIT, a job he was offered one month before his last exam. He is excited for the future of his professional career and believes this is only just the beginning.
“For the engineering class of 2021, this is just beginning for all of us. Use all the lessons you’ve learned and transform it into motivation for your next move. Achieving success only comes through actions guided by the heart.”
Faculty of Environment
When Lauren Petropoulos (BES ‘21) first toured the Waterloo campus, she felt a sense of comfort — and everything just clicked. Petropoulos chose Waterloo because of the Faculty of Environment’s great programs and the incredible potential of co-op, and she feels fortunate to be using her education to engage with topics she finds deeply meaningful.
“As a young woman graduating from university, I feel honoured to be privileged enough to pursue an education and use my education to pursue my passions,” says Petropoulos. “I hope to be an example to other young women who are looking to address issues related to climate change, as well as an example that you can start anywhere.”
Mental health is very important to Petropoulos and she describes one of her greatest undergraduate achievements as her ability to find balance.
“It’s important to make sure that you are prioritizing yourself and also doing your best,” says Petropoulos. “The times where I do something spontaneous or get out of my comfort zone are the times where I feel the most fulfilled, and I’m proud of everything that I have accomplished over this degree.”
She provided leadership within her program, serving as president of the Waterloo Environment and Business Society. Petropoulos also volunteered her time with clubs such as Impact Alliance, World Merit Waterloo and Student Energy.
As an Honours Environment and Business graduate, she is eager to work toward policy change that increases energy equity and climate justice in Canada and beyond. She is currently a Policy Analyst at Natural Resources Canada and looks forward to finding new ways to educate others on how both individuals and institutions can make change.
Faculty of Health
Exiting high school, Rithvika Ramesh (BSc ‘21) had a lot of questions about her career path. As she progressed through her degree at Waterloo, she found that her program — Honours Health Studies — answered many of them, presenting a variety of learning opportunities and an intriguing interdisciplinary approach to health care.
As a first generation Canadian, who emigrated from India to Canada with her family as a toddler, being chosen as Valedictorian means the world to Ramesh.
“The pride and joy expressed from my family, both in Canada and India, epitomizes how meaningful this milestone is to us.”
Ramesh feels very fortunate when reflecting on her accomplishments, such as being a mentor in her community, getting vaccinated, finishing her undergraduate thesis and getting into both law school and medical school. She is especially grateful for the encouragement of her friends, colleagues and family.
“But it would be remiss if I did not mention that I have an incredible support system that has empowered me to achieve every single thing on that list,” says Ramesh. “None of my accomplishments were attained in isolation, and for that I am grateful.”
Ramesh will be starting medical school this fall at McMaster University. She states that her goal is to be a welcoming and supportive health-care professional.
“I hope that my future career is one where I can be an advocate every day and help those around me. I am not yet certain in what capacity I will be doing any of this, but I am eager to begin the journey.”
Faculty of Mathematics
Monica Xu’s (BCS ‘21) interest in Waterloo began with Waterloo math contests, all the way from the Grade 7 Gauss to the Grade 12 Euclid. Graduating with a degree in Computer Science, minor in statistics, Xu was drawn to the University because of its emphasis on the creation, study and potential of technology.
“The community thrived in innovation, problem-solving and collaboration, and that was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Xu is proud of the breadth and depth of experiences she participated in while at Waterloo. When she was not studying abroad, working as a Math Teaching Assistant or getting involved in clubs such as Women in Computer Science (WiCS) and the Computer Science Club (CSC), she could be found performing with the University of Waterloo A Cappella Club. She was part of four different singing groups throughout her degree and describes her involvement in the A Cappella Club as a big part of her undergraduate experience. She has fond memories surrounding the times when, once every term, she would busk at the St. Jacobs Farmers Market with her A Cappella group, stating that “regardless of the weather, we never failed to sing our hearts out.”
While at Waterloo, she volunteered as product manager at UW Blueprint, a student organization all about “tech for social good” that offers pro-bono technical services to non-profits.
“Promoting diversity and inclusion of underrepresented minorities in technology is also something very important to me, so I spent a great deal of my time in extra-curricular activities towards diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) advocacy.”
Monica will be moving to New York to work as a product manager in the tech industry. Long-term, she is looking forward to travelling the world, learning new things and “building products that make people happy.”
Faculty of Science
Science, anti-racism and law: Chinonso Ekeanyanwu (BSc ‘21) recognizes that her undergraduate journey was a little untraditional. As valedictorian, she hopes to demonstrate to her peers how they can be successful by staying curious and persistent.
“My biggest hope was to show others how you can mix and match your interests with science to create and pursue unique career paths and opportunities,” says Ekeanyanwu. “I struggled more than I want to admit, and more than most people know, at various stages of my academic career, so being chosen to represent the Science class is such an honour.”
Now an Honours Science graduate, Ekeanyanwu was involved in many extra-curriculars during her degree, from the Biomedical Science Student Association to Residence Life. She also provided leadership to initiatives related to ethnicity, race and activism, such as the African Student Association, the Black Medical Leaders of Tomorrow, Racial Advocacy for Inclusion, Solidarity and Equity (RAISE) and the Afro Fusion Dance Club. One day, she hopes to start a non-profit organization focused on creating mentorship opportunities for Black young professionals.
Despite her hesitancy and doubt at Waterloo, she persisted through them and states that, when looking back, there is nothing she would have done differently.
“Each fork in the road, each mental breakdown and all-nighter led me to where I am now,” says Ekeanyanwu. “And I am proud of where I am now. That for me is the true definition of success.”
While Ekeanyanwu will miss “living in the bubble tea capital of Canada,” she is looking forward to pursuing a law degree at Western University. With the fields of health and pharmaceutical law being of special interest, she is eager to use scientific background to increase equity and justice in the field of health care.
ApplyBoard nets $375M in latest funding round
ApplyBoard, the online platform that empowers students around the world to access top quality education, announced yesterday it has raised C$375 million (US$300 million) in Series D funding at a post-money valuation of C$4 billion (US$3.2 billion).
The round was led by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board (Ontario Teachers’), through its Teachers’ Innovation Platform (TIP). TIP focuses on late-stage venture and growth equity investments in companies developing innovative technologies. Existing investors Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, BDC, Harmonic, Index Ventures, Garage Capital, and Blue Cloud Ventures also participated in the round. Since its founding, ApplyBoard has raised C$600M (US$475M).
"Education has the power to change lives and bring peace to the world, and ApplyBoard is more committed than ever to helping the millions of students who are dreaming of studying abroad," said Martin Basiri, Co-founder and CEO, ApplyBoard. "With limited international travel over the past year, we are seeing pent-up demand from students looking to study abroad. We are excited for what this new investment will allow us to accomplish to help our students, partner institutions, and recruitment partners, so that our industry can build back better in a post-COVID world."
ApplyBoard has grown in six years to be the online market leader in the study abroad industry, helping more than 200,000 students with their application journey, and plan to support millions in the coming years.
ApplyBoard’s rapid growth continued this past year, expanding to offer access to international educational programs in the UK, Australia, and the US and doubling the number of global team members to more than 1,000. ApplyBoard has also added new products and services over the past year, including ApplyProof, which enables stakeholders in the student journey (including admissions officers and immigration officials) to trust the authenticity of documents, such as English test scores, letters of acceptance, and more.
ApplyBoard was founded in 2015 by brothers Martin, Meti, and Massi Basiri. Co-founder and CEO Martin Basiri came to the University of Waterloo in 2010 to earn a Master’s degree in Mechatronics, and was followed several years later by brothers Meti (Co-founder and CMO), and Massi (COO), who both studied at Conestoga College. As international students who experienced the challenges of the application process, they decided to start ApplyBoard to make it easier for others. ApplyBoard launched from the Velocity Garage in 2016.
The Indigenous Initiatives Office is inviting you to a lunchtime performance with Deantha Edmunds, Canada’s first and only Inuk professional classical singer. "For Indigenous Peoples' Day (June 21), spend your lunch hour with Canada’s first and only Inuk professional classical singer, Deantha Edmunds," says a note from Indigenous Initaitives. "An urban Inuk, Edmunds aims to empower Indigenous people and share their stories. She explores and embraces her Indigeneity through poetry and song on Monday, June 21, at 12 noon." Register.
Distribution of the University of Waterloo equity survey continues today via email. With more than 48,000 members of the University to contact, it may take a day or two for your personalized email to land in your inbox. Keep an eye out for the survey invitation. If you have questions about the equity survey, visit the Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion website.