As 457 undergraduate and 86 graduate students from the Faculty of Health prepare to virtually cross the stage this spring to convocate, we celebrate the hard work, perseverance, friendships and community it took to arrive at that moment – especially during a year that threw out the rule book on how courses should be delivered, how research is performed and how we interact socially with our peers.

We asked some of our award-winning graduates what it took for them to find success in a tough environment and what advice they would give to others who are currently studying.

Sara Wyngaarden (School of Public Health and Health Systems)  

Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal for highest standing in a Master’s program

Sara Wyngaarden“I encourage you to take ownership of your own research. Take your work in a direction that interests you and that excites you. University is such a huge investment of your time and energy and resources, but it’s really cool to be given time and space to explore topics and ideas that you find meaningful. Make them yours.

“Also, something a mentor reminded me of when I was struggling with my analysis was, ‘Tu puedes! (You can!). And when it is done, not only will you draw immense pride from your achievements, but your belief in your own capabilities will be forever enhanced.’”

Read Sara’s story

Tina Jiao (Kinesiology)

Governor General’s Academic Silver Medal for highest standing in an undergraduate program, and Kinesiology Departmental Award for distinguished academic achievement

Tina Jiao“Follow a path that genuinely interests and excites you. I love the quote, ‘If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life,’ and I think it holds especially true for students. It can be overwhelming when choosing courses since there are many factors to consider, but I found that by choosing the courses that aligned with my interests — regardless of whether or not they were notoriously difficult — I felt engaged during lectures, I was motivated to learn the material, and ultimately, I was able to perform very well.”

Read Tina’s story

Michaela Johns (School of Public Health and Health Systems)

School of Public Health and Health Systems Departmental Award for distinguished academic achievement 

michaela johns“Strive for the highest marks right from the start. When you get to third and fourth year, with a clearer idea of your direction and decide to go to graduate school, you will have more doors open to you. It is very difficult to bring up a lower average in only two years.”

Read Michaela’s story

Miru Queen Anbu (Recreation and Leisure Studies)

Athletics and Recreation Department Club Leadership Award

“CelebMiru Queen Anburate the small wins. By that I mean, celebrate that time you stubbed your toe and told yourself it was a bad moment and not a bad day; or when you set boundaries and kept them; when you asked for help instead of pushing through; went to your therapy appointment; tried again even after failing; stood up for yourself; said no; thanked your anxious thoughts for trying to protect you, even if they weren’t the right tool for the task; or when you showed yourself kindness instead of being hard on yourself for not getting that grade on that assignment, test, or exam. And for my BIPOC peers out there, celebrate the moment you broke generational curses.”

Read Miru’s story