Introducing the Class of 2020 valedictorians
Meet the six class speakers that have inspired our graduating students
Meet the six class speakers that have inspired our graduating studentsBy Meghana Anthannagari and Adriann Kennedy University Relations
Convocation is a time to celebrate a significant milestone. This year’s convocation celebrations may look a little different, but the role of the valedictorian remains the same — to represent the graduating class and address the students, families and supporters who will come together to recognize this important day.
These six students have been selected by their peers in recognition of their social and academic contributions to the Waterloo community.
For Kanishk Goomer (BSc ’20) studying in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences (AHS) was a perfect mix of family tradition, opportunity and personal passion. He has uncles and great-uncles who attended Waterloo, and he was excited by the idea of gaining experience through the co-op program. But it was the chance to study something he loved that really sealed the deal.
“I loved sports and science growing up, and kinesiology seemed like a great mix of the two,” says Goomer. "The human body is fascinating to me, and kinesiology offered insight as to how it works on a scale that we can easily see. I focused on biomechanics later in my degree. I think it's beautiful because it demonstrates that the laws that govern our bodies are the same that govern the ground we walk on and the air we breathe. Everything is connected."
Extracurricular activities were a huge part of Goomer’s time on campus: he joined the Waterloo Warriors Lifesaving Club in his first year and quickly added the Salseros Club, Rowing Club and Outers Club to his schedule. He was also a fixture in the AHS student community, serving in multiple roles with the Applied Health Sciences Undergraduate Members and volunteering to welcome new students during Orientation.
Now that he’s completed his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, Goomer has relocated to Canmore, AB to spend some time exploring the Rocky Mountains and reconnecting with the outdoors while he plans his next adventure. He says his time at Waterloo was really important for his self-development and encourages new students to explore everything the university can offer.
“Don’t be afraid to push your boundaries and try new things! It can be something as small as talking to the person next to you in class or joining a new club with a friend,” urges Goomer. "All that's important is you poke and prod at who you are because that's how you'll learn and grow as a person."
When it was time for Sim Purba (BGBDA ’20) to decide on a program, Waterloo’s Global Business and Digital Arts (GBDA) seemed like a natural choice. He really enjoyed exploring design in high school and was excited to find a program that consolidated his interests in different forms of art, user experience design, and business in one degree.
All of those interests were put to work when Purba and his friends launched GBDA Creators, a mini-documentary series that showcases the work of their peers. Three years later, he credits the project with pushing him, both personally and professionally.
“Not only have my technical skills improved a lot, but I've also learned how to be more authentic and comfortable with who I am from some of the incredible people I've had the pleasure of meeting," he says.
Purba also put his skills to work around campus, co-creating a documentary as part of the Fashion for Change team and joining the UW Hip Hop club (@uwhiphop) as a performer and videographer.
For now, the new graduate is feeling lucky to have found a career in user-experience design that he genuinely enjoys, figuring out what makes people tick and how to solve problems for them. And he’s grateful to Waterloo for checking every box on his university experience wish list.
“I made friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. I experienced high-highs and low-lows that helped me grow as an individual. I learned both tangible and transferable skills that have set me up for success. I got work experience in a field of my choice before I graduated. And most importantly, I can look back on the entire experience with no regrets!”
Khristen Lowe’s (BASc ’20) curiosity in chemical engineering ignited the first time he observed chemical reaction processes during a high school chemistry class. He was drawn to the University of Waterloo after hearing about the co-op program and its widely respected Engineering program.
He’s consistently turned challenging experiences in his academics and career into learning opportunities. After moving from Barbados to attend Waterloo, he's proud of acclimatizing to a new culture, new linguistic styles and, of course, the harsh winters. He’s also consistently turned negative experiences in his academics and career into learning opportunities. Through his involvement in Power to Change, Waterloo’s Pentecostal Assembly, he built a sense of community with his peers.
After being elected three times as an academic class representative, Lowe has learned how to encourage openness in tense environments. He danced for seven years before arriving on campus and cherished his time with the Cuban Salsa Club. Realizing that he formed genuine connections with his peers and finding a home away from home are fond memories.
After graduation, he is looking to secure employment in an engineering role and work towards his P. Eng. certification. The key, Lowe says, is to always be true to yourself.
“Comparing yourself to others is disrespectful to who you are. You have your own upbringing, your own way of perceiving and processing things. You have your own motivations and your own personal challenges. Don’t forget you are on your own path.”
When Alan Li (BCS ’20) first arrived on campus, he didn’t have a background in computer science. But he did have a genuine curiosity about technology and its role in our daily lives. Drawn to Waterloo by the strength of the co-op program, he initially felt intimidated by classmates with more experience. So, he got to work, determined to learn as much as he possibly could through his study and work terms.
Li is proud of his academic and career achievements but also highlights the time he spent building a community as an active member of MathSoc. He first got involved as a Computer Science representative, then served as the speaker of council and president. These roles taught him a lesson that feels particularly poignant in these uncertain times:
“I learned to love the community and realized that truly good things come from even just a few individuals being compassionate and understanding of each other — we should strive to be more patient and caring with each other,” he says.
After graduating with his Bachelor of Computer Science with a minor in Combinatorics and Optimization, Li has moved to New York City, where he's working full-time as a quantitative developer at a hedge fund. “I really see this as still the beginning and want to take every day in stride and just learn as much as I can.”
Megan Thomas (BSc ’20) has always been very interested in biology and the flexibility of Waterloo’s Biomedical Science at Waterloo was attractive. Her decision was finalized when she visited the campus in her final year of high school and instantly felt a sense of community. She knew she’d be able to call this place home.
Thomas says her most enjoyable experiences include working as a laboratory assistant and library ambassador, volunteering at the Women’s Centre and KidsAbility and being a science orientation coordinator. During her summers off, she pursued new opportunities like her internship at a hospital in Quito, Ecuador. She’s made lasting friendships with students and faculty members that she says helped shape her into the person she is today.
After graduation she plans to attend medical school and her aspiration is to become a general practitioner. "The application process is a long and difficult one," acknowledges Thomas, "but I'm ready and excited for the journey that I am about to embark on."
"My experience at Waterloo has definitely prepared me for the future. My mentality towards setbacks has changed for the better," she says, reminding us all to “take it one step at a time and have fun along the way because everything happens for a reason.
The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is co-ordinated within the Office of Indigenous Relations.