Environment Student-Athlete Award

Recognizing students who pursue both sports and studies

Environment students are highly interdisciplinary, with a diversity of passions, including sports, that enrich their studies as well as their physical and mental well-being. Juggling the financial and time-constraint demands of their academics and athletics is no small feat. The Environment Student-Athlete Award recognizes students who through the pursuit of both sports and studies, become resilient leaders and problem solvers with an awareness of social and sustainability issues.

environment student athlete award

Support our students

Please consider supporting Environment Student-Athletes and taking advantage of the Faculty's matching opportunity for cash or multi-year pledge gifts over $2,500 in value. A maximum total of $40,000 will be matched, to build an endowment that can support up to two awards per year. 

Athletics have given me a lot of confidence in myself, especially in regards to leadership and teamwork. I am not only more confident in my decision-making, but I also take criticism much better than before. Because I am comfortable being myself, I am much more approachable to my peers which helps them in turn feel more comfortable being themselves.

Karen Chen, ENBUS, Rugby, Honour Roll

The environment student-athlete award is available to full-time domestic and international undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in any year of any program in the Faculty of Environment, who are also members of a Warriors varsity team. Applications are submitted through Student Awards & Financial Aid. Recipients are selected based on a combination of athletic talent, contributions to the team and school, and academic success criteria. A minimum of one award will be given out each year, at a value of ∼$1,200. 

Get to know our current student-athletes

Woman posing for picture of her face

REKA SOMOGYI, Planning, Figure Skating, Honour Roll

“Competing at OUA’s [as a Waterloo Warrior athlete] was a really memorable moment for me. I hadn’t competed in my sport [figure skating] for eight years just due to it being so expensive.”

“In Urban Planning teamwork is such a big part of the program; you bring ideas to the table but it’s also crucial that you listen to others. Being on a varsity team has shown me how to communicate and work within a team as well as build confidence with your team and not just on your own.”

"Sport is such a great contributor to my mental health. As early as our practices are… I always go to practice with a smile and I leave with a smile too, no matter even if it’s been a really bad practice or a really bad day… It’s an outlet for creativity and destressing.. I think I do so well in school because of sports and the life skills that come with it... Life without sport is unimaginable."

Woman posing for picture of face in a rugby jersey

KAREN CHEN, Env. & Business, Rugby, Honour Roll

“I plan to be an environmental lawyer. I’m confident that I will accomplish my goals and I can attribute that to the growth mindset and resilience I’ve gained from playing sports.”

“I think there is no healthier policy expansion than the introduction or encouragement of sport. There are many linkages between what we study at the Faculty of Environment and the world of Athletics and Recreation: geography and health, food and environment, mental health and environment, social justice and sport, and etc.”

“Scarcity always makes things difficult. I can’t be worried about what or if I’m going to make rent or eat and also if I’m going to be captain next year on the rugby team. One slip up, one time being sick or extra tired, or one small lapse in judgement can result in a concussion or a serious injury for yourself or others. I think about that everyday. Having one less thing to worry about helps a lot. Financial support doesn’t ever just help with purchasing necessities, it’s more about peace of mind.”

Man posing for picture of face in baseball hat and jersey

LUKE ZETTEL, BES'21, MEDI'23, Baseball, Honour Roll

“Especially going through a stage where sports were taken away from us through the pandemic, it’s really made me appreciate my passion and not take for granted the things that fill my cup, that truly drive me and make me happy, those are the things that’ll keep you going.”

“Any student-athlete takes pride in succeeding and excelling and maximizing their potential and part of this includes minimizing or mitigating stresses like finances.”

“It’s recognition like this that will make memories and will teach life lessons to student-athletes. It’s more than the financial contribution, it’s the recognition that their other passion is worth it, and their hard work is being rewarded.”

Man posing for picture of his face while wearing track racing shirt

AIDEN PARKINS, Geo. & Aviation, Track, Honour Roll

“As for what environment students bring to athletics, I think it’s the mindset that we learned in our programs. It’s that diversity, that thinking, decision making, being more sustainable […] it teaches efficiency […] the environment is a dynamic system, everything is changing, so we need to be on our toes. We need to be able to adapt. And the same thing goes as an athlete, you gotta be able to keep moving and continue to put in the daily consistent work beyond motivation; it is the courage to sail the largest of seas with no land in sight”

“[sports] taught me how to be happy, stress relief and the happiness behind achieving goals, the importance of putting in the work, how to manage situations, conflict, taking what a perception of you is, eliminating it, and making sure your perception of you is where you want to be.”

“One of the biggest things that students face in university is the financial burden. In supporting this award, you’re helping students who are going through maybe tough times in their life really grow. You’re supporting growth and you’re giving students an opportunity to build personal skills, develop themselves, and inspire the next generation of Waterloo Warriors.”

Man posing for picture of his face in track racing outfit

BEN SMITH, Geo. & Aviation, Track, Honour Roll

“I’m in Geography and Aviation, which on its own is a very busy program with flying and courses but having to manage track and field practices four or five times a week on top of that, you really have to manage your time well.”

“Once I finish my track and field career I’ll still be running just for fun because I enjoy running. [Running] gives me time to put away all the stress from school and to focus.”

Man posing for picture in baseball hat and jersey

OWEN COYLE, Planning, Baseball, Honour Roll

“During university, a lot of people go and get a job to help with expenses they have like groceries, rent, and tuition. But as a student-athlete, it is hard to have a job, be a student-athlete, and do school all on top of that, so an award like this would help a lot.”

“For me, going to baseball practice is a time to just forget about schoolwork and everything else. It helps break up my day and just go out to have fun.”

“I feel like the one thing being on the baseball team has helped is keeping to a schedule. It’s kind of like you're forced in a good way to exercise, get your studying done, etc. and that helps keep me on top of things.”

Man posing for picture of face in football jersey

JUSTIN SUCCAR, ERS, Football, Honour Roll

"Demanding academic and athletic schedules limit the ability to work a part time job. The support that comes from financial aid allows student athletes to be completely immersed in the classroom and in their sport without having time taken away from long work hours to support themselves - helping to decrease stress levels and increase performance."

"Helping me gain a broad understanding of several different fields of study through a multidisciplinary approach, the ERS program has provided me with unique tools in how I approach athletics. Learning from a holistic perspective through incorporating several subjects has taught me to balance my attention towards both the physical and cognitive requirements of a varsity athlete."

"Being a Student-Athlete at Waterloo has presented me with many opportunities to overcome challenges in school and sport. Balancing academic and athletic commitments has provided me with an avenue of growth to be able to excel in these demanding environments."

*All highlighted students are President's Honour Roll students. This distinguished recognition is given to student-athletes who have maintained an average of 80% and higher while competing for a varsity team. Approximately 62% of environment student-athletes were President's Honour Roll students in 2021-22. 

Former environment student-athletes share their experiences

Cody Wheten

CODY WHETEN, BES '20, Football

“The best thing that I have learned [as a student athlete] was being able to observe something and effectively communicate what I am seeing. In consulting, it's allowed me to be able to communicate with people in an effective manner and extract information from what I observe at a project site and in various scenarios.”

“Something that football really taught me is the importance of your job at that moment. You're focused on one play and that's all that matters, and if you focus on the play after (or before) that, then you are going to fail at the current play. I’ve also been taught the next play mentality and it’s something that I’ve carried forward with me. It means you can’t dwell on the previous play or scenario since you can’t change or alter the past, you can only make the next one better”

“I think sports force you into a competitive-social atmosphere. I think it allows you to collaborate in a very positive way… you're all working towards a similar goal, you're all there for the same reason, but you all have this desire to be better than one another.”

“[Sports have given me] lifelong friendships that I've put a lot of effort into. Being accountable to [My teammates] is something that has carried forward in my life. Every day I have a mindset that if I don't do my job, to the best of my ability, I'm not being accountable for myself and the job I expect myself to do. Ultimately, I'm holding myself to a higher standard.”

Humberto Guttierrez


“When you’re trying to make a team, it can be a difficult, high-stress situation that as an athlete in competitive sports you learn to deal with and it helps you grow. Later on, you can apply those skills in situations in your professional life, whether that may be interviewing for a job or preparing for a big presentation.”

“When I was playing soccer, it was not only fun and a source of physical activity, it also cleared my mind and allowed me to disconnect from other aspects of my life; it was like therapy.”

“One of the reasons why I went into environment was because I was really interested in sustainability. I value the idea of sustainability and I consciously try to live a sustainable lifestyle. To me, that means focusing not only on my well-being today, but also long-term. And so, when I think about sport and activity, it is integral to my daily routine along with eating well, working on my mental health, and striving towards greater balance.”

“[In university] sport gives you the ability to meet people right away and build strong friendships. Having access to scholarships and awards can facilitate students being able to continue playing the sport they love and anything that we can do to lower those barriers is important.”

Carly Peister


“Being part of a team has always been important to me, so having a school-work-life balance was very important. Not easy at times, but it really helped to teach everyone on our team about time management and how to prioritize.”

“The relationships I made have brought me joy and created friendships I don't think I ever would have made if it weren't for athletics.”

Deirdre Laframboise


“For me personally, there has always been a very strong connection to my overall health and nature. I chose UW's BES degree because it represented my values and passions for the natural environment. After graduation I was able to combine my love for sport with my degree as I co-founded and led a national environment/health education charity for 12 years. Since then I have continued to work in the sustainability sector, and have a personal interest in all things related to our environment and health.”

“I always worked while I was a student - even when I brought my horse to Waterloo to train I held a job at a pub to help make ends meet. While I could not have been a rider without my family’s support I paid for all costs for my degrees and always worked. I think it’s doubly challenging for today’s youth and athletes with the cost-of-living skyrocketing.”

“Sport has been critical to my overall well-being and how I cope with stress. My antidote is to be in the forests, on the trails running, or on my skate skis in the winter. Cycling. Hiking. On my standup paddle board. As long as I’m outdoors I’m happiest.”


HADI EL-SHAYEB, BES '17, Cross Country & Track & Field

“Running is extremely empowering─ in the power and speed you feel during those best race days, yet very humbling because there will also be a distance or pace that will put you in your place.. perhaps a suitable analogy to life.”

“[Sport] has also been a huge support because it allows me to maintain a healthy balanced lifestyle as I continue to train and compete several years after school now. I’m also able to pass on this knowledge of a healthy lifestyle including mental health and nutrition to colleagues and friends in the workplace!”

“As an environment student and someone who now works in the field of ecological restoration and climate resiliency, having an understanding and an approach focused on regenerative healthy systems is foundational. I strongly feel that sport and specifically one like running encapsulate the essence of this, where one is able to connect with the rawest sense of physical movement and self and push their very limit.”

“There is also a very strong emphasis on listening to one’s body while running and to avoid over training and stresses. These principles learned in sport can translate directly to our natural world, especially as we face many natural crises which ultimately stem from human misdoing and misguided character.”