Spring 2020 Convocation Academic Awards Recipients

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Academic Achivers

Awards for Distinguished Academic Achievement are presented annually at spring convocation in recognition of academic excellence of the top graduating student from each academic plan. The award recipient is chosen by the Undergraduate Officer based on scholastic achievement. Congratulations to the 2020 Academic Achievement Award recipients!


Alyssa Mclaren

Student Profile (Academic Achievement Award) - School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability +

ENV Alumni Gold Medal Award and President's Excellence Award

Alyssa Mclaren

"No one goes into environmental studies looking to get rich. We do it because we possess a sense of greater purpose — a desire to seek social and environmental justice, to protect those who need protecting, and restore lands, waters, and communities that are hurting or are lost.

My experience in SERS was, to say the least, challenging — but both in the most stressful and remarkable of ways. Beyond the expected pressures of academia, SERS challenged me to open my worldview to new perspectives, introduced me to some wonderful and inspiring people whom I now call dear friends, and helped me discover more about who I am. I have a long list of people to credit for helping me get to where I am today. From professors who took the extra initiative to reach out to me or help me through difficult subjects, to students who encouraged me to extend beyond my comfort zone and have fun all the while, to my family who stood by me through it all — it’s been a long journey that I have not trekked alone.

I’ve worked hard to get here — of course, we all have — but as I reflect on these past five years and look ahead to our future, I know that the hard work is not over. As we step out into this world of chaos and uncertainty, don’t forget that you stand beside an army of environmental studies graduates, who, just like you, want to bring about positive and meaningful change. We’re in it together. Congratulations, my fellow Class of 2020!" — Alyssa Mclaren


Frank Chau

Student Profile (Academic Achievement Award) - Geomatics 

Frank Chau

"My interest and experiences in Geomatics have taken root since my early childhood. Since I was a kid, I was fascinated with street maps in Hong Kong. I enjoy memorizing interesting street patterns and drawing maps during my spare time, as well as observing new spatial changes when a new atlas was published. My dream of studying what I love was materialized when I was accepted into the Honours Geomatics Program at the University of Waterloo. Throughout the five-year co-op program, I had numerous opportunities to learn how to design effective maps, analyze spatial data and conduct various interesting assignments and projects. My most unforgettable memory was working in the Geddes lab for seven hours straight to complete my remote sensing assignment with my friend. Despite the time-consuming work, I really enjoyed working on my assignments with my classmates sharing our ideas and thoughts. Besides academic courses, I also had valuable opportunities working in five different organizations, including three universities and two government departments. These working experiences help me build a strong foundation in GIS techniques, problem-solving and organizational skills, which could be applied in my various academic courses and ease the difficulty of those courses. 

I am very pleased to receive the Environment Academic Achievement Award for Geomatics. This award certifies my outstanding achievements and hard work in my academic courses, especially my major Geomatics courses. I would like to sincerely thank you all my friends, parents, professors, TAs, and classmates for their continual support throughout my five-year academic journey. Without their valuable guidance, I would not be able to receive the award. 

Finally, I have some words for my fellow classmates: Continue pursuing your dreams and don’t lose hope in the COVID-19 pandemic. I am confident that we could all get through together and use our strengths to change the world. God bless!" — Frank Chau  


Elisabeth Bruins 

Student Profile (Academic Achievement Award) - International Development  

Elisabeth Bruins

"It’s strange to think that I’ll probably never sit in Alumni Hall at St. Paul’s again. How many hours did I spend there pouring over case studies about the Chilika Lagoon, dissecting French philosophical theories, or drawing political economy diagrams? Looking back, the INDEV program was not what I expected when first enrolled. And good thing it wasn’t. I came in with harmful and outdated notions of “development” and the misguided desire to “save the world”. With the help of great friends (shout-out to Siobhan <3) and professors — like Dr. Seirlis, whom I had the honour of working with for my fourth-year thesis—I did as much unlearning during my undergrad as I did learning. I leave the program now a much more critical thinker, committed to the life-long process of challenging myself, and wherever else I encounter them, the Western-centric ideas about what it means to be “developed.” This may be a difficult process, but it is also an incredibly joyous one. It allows us to collectively consider what a different world, one that brings us closer to equality and sustainability, might look like. I may never sit in Alumni Hall with my classmates again, but I’m sure our paths will reconvene in the future as we each take this challenge on in our own way." — Elisabeth Bruins 


Siya Agarwal  

Student Profile (Academic Achievement Award) - Planning

Siya Agarwal

"Having lived in the bustling metropolises of Mumbai and Jakarta, I have always been fascinated by cities. Cities to me represent the best and worst of us – from being thriving cultural hotspots to being hubs for dangerous informal settlements – and I wanted to be part of the movement that made them better. The Planning program at the University of Waterloo has completely changed my understanding of the built environment. It opened my eyes to the complexities of infrastructure change. It made me reflect on my own beliefs and perspectives. Through this program, I have had the opportunity to work at several different consulting firms and explore the range of what planning has to offer – from transportation to design. I have had the opportunity to attend UN conferences and work with distinguished professors to publish papers. I have also had the opportunity to participate in numerous design, entrepreneurship, and technology competitions to push the boundaries of what is possible. 

Today, I am honoured to be selected to receive the Academic Achievement Award for Planning. My university experience has been one of both tremendous hardship and immense growth, and I am incredibly grateful for this recognition of my efforts.  

If there is one thing I would like to share with my classmates - is to never settle. To keep exploring and searching till you find what gives you joy, and to be relentless in the pursuit of your goals. I wish the Class of 2020 the best of luck and I am excited to see what the future holds for us!"— Siya Agarwal 


Jennifer Fliesser 

Student Profile (Academic Achievement Award) - Geography and Environmental Management  

Jennifer Fliesser

"I’m honoured to be a recipient of the Environment Academic Achievement Award for the graduating Geography and Environmental Management class of 2020. Each year I’ve spent at the University of Waterloo has been progressively more challenging and exciting. I’ve loved how multi-disciplinary this program is and have taken advantage of the multitude of courses cross-listed with similar disciplines like planning and resource sustainability. My academic interests have always been split between the science of environmental systems and human interaction with our environment. Consequently, the GEM program has excellently supported my interests through the Earth Systems Science, Restoration and Rehabilitation and Environmental Assessment courses. I’m grateful to have met and collaborated with so many amazing people pursuing these diplomas and I hope to continue working with you in our future careers. As we move forward in our academic and/or professional careers, don’t forget the breadth of knowledge dispensed in your GEM degree. You have a vast knowledge base in geomatics, scientific research, human population and development studies and much more. My hope for all of you, is that you use these skills to pave your road to success. Best wishes and congratulations!" — Jennifer Fliesser


Jessica Omrin

Student Profile (Academic Achievement Award) - Environment and Business  

Jessica Omrin

"Since term 1, I've always strived to do my best in all my courses. I graduated with a major average of 90.30% and a cumulative average of 89.27%. I made sure to challenge myself throughout my undergraduate degree, which I did by taking upper and lower year Biology and Kinesiology classes as my electives.

I enjoyed that the ENBUS program allowed students to touch a wide variety of subject areas. One of my main highlights over the course of my undergrad was the co-op aspect of the program. The co-op terms I had at American Express, Ontario Power Generation, and the Independent Electricity System Operator were invaluable to me. These internships helped me discover new areas of interest and shaped my career path. Another highlight was the capstone project I completed with my ENBUS peers, where we had the opportunity to work with TC Energy. Since graduating, I've started a position as an Associate Product Manager in the Technology unit at American Express.

Congratulations to the ENBUS class of 2020! While our last term wasn't what we imagined sure you have some great memories and experiences from your time at UW to focus on instead. Keep working hard and all the best!" — Jessica Omrin 

Wren Lamont 

Student Profile (Academic Achievement Award) – Knowledge Integration

Wren Lamont smiling

"My education at the University of Waterloo has been driven primarily by curiosity and desire to understand what matters to me from as many perspectives as possible. I took many minors/specializations, many courses that I didn’t have prerequisites for, and did splendidly. My work was motivated by a desire for equity and inclusion of diversity in education. (Specific concentrations in gender, queer, trans, and disability justice.) 

With regard to information that speaks to my achievement: I was accepted to deliver three conference presentations as an undergraduate, worked as research assistant from second to fifth year, consulting on matters from graduate dissertations and faculty writing groups to a $2.5 million SSHRC grant (for Engendering Success in STEM) and the knowledge mobilization from the research it enabled. Additionally, I spearheaded and supported many student initiatives, such as interdisciplinary Combining Two Cultures Conference, open-access Journal of Integrative Research & Reflection, Educational Outreach design sessions, various roles on Knowledge Integration Student Society. I have also facilitated sessions and contributed major revisions to the then-nascent LGBTQ+ Making Spaces program. 

With the support of Knowledge Integration and many other communities, faculty, and dear friends, I’ve combined my curiosity and urgency for change to build more inclusive learning communities. I hope my time here has made a positive impact, however small, on this wonderful community.

To anyone who experiences barriers or notices an injustice – know there’s always something you can do about it. Unite with your peers, lean on your community, and make a change." — Wren Lamont 

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