Celebrating Env. Class of 2022 graduate award winners

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Meet the eight inspiring individuals representing the Faculty of Environment’s newest grads at this spring’s in-person convocation.

The Faculty presents the distinguished Academic Achievement Award annually at the Spring convocation to the top graduating students from each academic plan in recognition of their academic excellence.

Each award recipient is chosen by the Undergraduate Officer based on the scholastic achievement.

We congratulate the 2022 award recipients and wish them the best in their future endeavours.

Jaskaran Dhillon

Valedictorian – Planning

Jaskaran Dhillon

Dhillon came to Waterloo with an open mind for his future in urban planning and is leaving with a collection of memories and experiences he will never forget. With his outgoing nature, Dhillon has always been drawn to work with people, especially those with different backgrounds and perspectives.

“I think the long, drawn-out group projects have been some of the most, if not the most, memorable parts of University for me,” Dhillon says. “Of all my experiences, I felt like these challenged me intellectually and academically to the greatest extent.”

Dhillon looks back on the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) taking up a large part of his life over the past few years, from being a teaching assistant to residence life ambassador and being a member of multiple student-led councils and clubs. Dhillon feels his journey as a Waterloo student came to a full circle when he received the honour of being nominated as valedictorian by his peers.

“Over my five years here, I tried my best to get involved in the school so I can interact with the faculty and so many of my peers in such meaningful ways,” Dhillon says. “Those experiences were really what I thought of when I accepted the nomination. To be able to represent a faculty filled with forward-thinking students who I have learned so much from is something I have a deep appreciation for.”

Jenna Phillips

President’s Award of Excellence and Academic Achievement Award – Environment, Resources and Sustainability

Jenna Phillips

“I am honoured to receive the Academic Achievement Award for SERS, and the President’s Award of Excellence. My undergraduate experience was incredibly enlightening, and I am grateful to be recognized for my efforts.

I love the flexibility of SERS because it allowed me to step outside my comfort zone, explore new topics and skills, and uncover my passions. Equally, the sense of community among the Faculty of Environment was pivotal to my academic and professional success. I fostered friendships with students across programs and cohorts through classes, Peer Leading, the Environment Student Society, and Orientation. Likewise, the kindness and faith demonstrated by our Faculty made me feel capable of changemaking. From volunteering to support student events to offering compassion when the pandemic turned our education upside down, I really appreciate how community is at the heart of our Faculty.

I am eager to continue my educational journey alongside amazing Faculty as I pursue my Masters in Global Governance, working to build resilient food systems in the face of climate change.” – Jenna Phillips

Kate Dienstmann

Alumni Gold Medal & Academic Achievement Award Geography and Environmental Management

Kate Dienstmann

"Over my five years at Waterloo, I have discovered the great depths of the geography discipline and am incredibly thankful for it because it has unlocked a passion in me that I didn’t know existed. 

One of the reasons I appreciate my experience in the Geography and Environmental Management (GEM) program so much is because of the introduction to the varying streams of geography that is given in the first years and then the flexibility to create a unique course load tailored to my specific interests over the course of the degree.  It is because of that, and the amazing faculty in GEM, that I was so successful in my undergraduate career, learned of my passion for geography, and received the opportunities to share my experience to help others. 

Without this experience in GEM, I would not be moving on to the University of Western Ontario to complete my Masters in Environment and Sustainability and would not be so keen or motivated to make a difference in the world of others by applying all that I have learned here and will continue to learn in the future." – Kate Dienstmann

Zihan Yin

Academic Achievement Award - Geomatics

Zihan Yin

“What is Geomatics you might ask? Going into the program, I did not have a clear understanding of what we do. As someone who is always curious and driven to learn, I am happy to say that I MADE IT!

I will always remember those days that I spent in the lab working on projects; and the huge relief that came after clicking the Dropbox “submit” button on Learn. Most importantly, I was able to establish so many meaningful connections with like-minded people and turned them into life-long friends. Looking back, I can see my transformation as a student, a colleague, and a person. What I love the most about our program is that we could take a wide selection of courses with a relatively small but close group of students. Along with the opportunity to take part in the co-op program, they very well prepared us to become versatile and knowledgeable working professionals in the workplaces.

Moving forward, I am moving into a new field by pursuing a master’s degree in Information Technology. But NO, I am not saying bye to geomatics, instead, I will be able to integrate my knowledge, and offer a unique viewpoint in discussions. In the meantime, spreading awareness and engaging insights of what we do would also be a part of my mission.

Congratulations to the Class of 2022! Work hard, enjoy the process, and believe in yourself. Ciao!” – Zihan Yin

Nicole Herdman

Academic Achievement Award – International Development

Nicole Herdman

“My time at the University of Waterloo has given me countless memories and what feels like a lifetime of growth in just four years. I have loved the variety of courses available to me, the many student services available to provide academic and social support, and the wonderful communities that I have had the privilege to be part of. More than this, it’s been instrumental in shaping who I am. I simply could not imagine spending the last four years at any other school, or in any other city.

I have successfully completed my BES in International Development with the help of my friends, family, professors, and advisors, without whom I would have faltered early on. The Faulty of Environment is a beautiful community filled with spirited and involved students who are eager to make a change. Alongside my BES, I have pursued a Joint Major of Peace and Conflict Studies. This Joint Major complimented my International Development degree in striking ways and has taught me to find syntheses between the many aspects of development, conflict, poverty, urban design, gender, and violence. 

I am honoured to be the 2022 recipient of the Academic Achievement Award for International Development and so appreciative for the knowledge, memories, and experiences that I have gained through the Faculty of Environment. Now, I am leaving the University of Waterloo confident in my ability to solve problems, and to create tangible and sustainable solutions to real world problems. Above all, I am leaving with warmth in my heart for having been a part of an inspiring, motivating, and passionate community. Congratulations to the Class of 2022, and best wishes for the future!” – Nicole Herdman

Natasha Ing

Academic Achievement Award – Planning

Natasha Ing

“Up until Grade 12, I had never actually heard of Urban Planning and was considering Teaching, Science, and Business.

But I was intrigued by design, valued the importance of community, acknowledged the ever-changing nature of our surrounding built form, and had an early interest in mobility (my six-year-old self had my heart set on becoming a school bus driver).

As my curiosity grew, I became interested in the “behind the scenes” work of cities and stumbled upon Urban Planning. I wanted to be involved with a profession that could directly impact how individuals interact within spaces and how that could translate to a greater quality of life for all. Community is at the heart of everything that we do, and with the pandemic, the importance of what Planners do has become more apparent. My experiences in land development, social planning, transportation planning, affordable housing, and community engagement have allowed me to adopt a multi-disciplinary approach when tackling issues. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have been provided with thus far.

These past five years at Waterloo have paved the way for my career and I am honoured to have been selected as the recipient of the Academic Achievement Award for Planning. One of my biggest takeaways is that with everything you do, lead with passion and perseverance because our level of intelligence is not the only indicator of success.

Cheers to the Class of 2022!” – Natasha Ing

Prarthna Kashyap

Academic Achievement Award – Environment and Business

Prarthna Kashyap

“I first became interested in environmental studies in 7th grade when my school participated in Earth Week. On the very last day, a small army of 12-year-olds was able to build a fully functional and buoyant raft using nothing but recycled Tetra Paks. As a middle schooler, it blew my mind. I knew I was destined for this field.

I love the sense of community that the Environment and Business program builds. I have always felt at home in this program because we have always been encouraged to work together. I realized that I am not just leaving with some interview ready teamwork skills, but with the knowledge and experience that no one person can solve a problem. It is truly and always a group effort.

My next steps include continuing to explain to people what Environment and Business as a program is and going to law school so I can explore environmental law. Eventually, I would like to join a business sustainability team.

Ultimately, this award is as much mine as it is my friends’. I could not have gotten here without them and their support, and I am incredibly appreciative of my time here.” - Prarthna Kashyap

Luna Kawano

Academic Achievement Award – Knowledge Integration (KI)

Luna Kawano

“To be completely honest, I was not expecting to receive this award. Although I have been heavily involved on and beyond campus, I have not been super involved academically. I did not realize I had a Dean’s Honours Average until I got the email suggesting I apply. I guess I bring this up because it connects to the greatest lesson I learned in KI – learning is FUN.

Although high school me would not admit it, I cared a lot about my grades. I did not invest so much in true learning and understanding as I did in chasing that extra percentage. When I transferred to KI from Software Engineering, I started to prioritize the things that resonated with me. What am I really interested in? How does what we are learning connect to the real world? How can I make this more fun and exciting for myself? I went from a “follow the rubric to a T to get good grades” to a “who cares about grades as long as it’s meaningful” kind of person and I am so grateful for it.

Faced with an increasingly interconnected world with complex issues, there is a need for BOLD intentionality and interdisciplinary collaboration. KI has given me the confidence and tools to take on these challenges with an open mind. I am excited for what is to come next!” – Luna Kawano

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