We all have different ways of giving back, whether giving our time and skills or making a charitable donation. However, the reason is often the same — you want to help make a difference.  

Sarah Konrath

Dr. Sara Konrath (BA ’02)

Dr. Sara Konrath (BA ’02) understands this well. Having grown up in the region and studied at the University of Waterloo, Konrath is now a social psychologist and associate professor at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, where her research focuses on philanthropy and what drives people to give back.   

Earning a PhD and becoming a researcher wasn’t a career path Konrath considered when she began studying at Waterloo. During her first co-op term at a large insurance company, she realized that a corporate career wasn’t right for her. Then, a co-op posting for the psychology department caught her attention.  

“I started working with a professor, and it went so well that I became part of his lab team for the rest of my co-op terms. I discovered that I love research,” Konrath said.  

The support and mentorship from her professor, Dr. Michael Ross and then-graduate student Dr. Anne Wilson, were instrumental in changing Konrath’s life trajectory. She grew up in a lower-income family and was a first-generation post-secondary student. Konrath says it is not common for someone whose parents don’t have a university education to become a professor.  

“Waterloo is a place that's welcoming to people of all backgrounds. I remember feeling a sense of belonging, and I was excited that people recognized I was a hard worker and smart,” she said.  

I don’t think people always recognize how powerful a university experience is.


Konrath says many people played a role in her success growing up, including a woman named Ruth, whom her mother met while receiving support from a nonprofit organization. Ruth went above and beyond to help Konrath’s mother and became an essential part of their family.  

“She took on a grandmother-type role and gave my mom a lot of practical and emotional support. I often wondered what made her do that because she didn't get anything from it. Now that I'm studying these things, I understand she got something from it. She did it because she truly cared. She got joy from seeing the difference she was making,” Konrath said.    

Today, Konrath is following in Ruth’s footsteps by supporting organizations that are making a difference in people’s lives, including the University of Waterloo. She makes an annual gift to the Department of Psychology to support the same undergraduate research program that sparked her career.   

“Waterloo was amazing. I never expected my life to turn out the way it did. I recognize how it was such a significant part of my own journey, and not everyone has that opportunity. I don’t think people always recognize how powerful a university experience is. It's more than just a credential or piece of paper. It's a community, and Waterloo is an amazing community.”     

Student award recognizes 2SLGBTQIA+ community involvement  

Arden Song

Arden Song (BASc ’23)

When Arden Song (BASc ’23) received the Liu-Kennington Award for the 2SLGBTQ+ Engineering Community, she realized just how valuable her extracurricular involvement had been.    

“I don’t like tooting my own horn,” she said. “I always felt like the stuff I’d done at EngiQueers and elsewhere wasn’t that important or significant when compared to the accomplishments of others. I now realize that mindset wasn’t entirely correct.”    

During her first year as an engineering student, Song began questioning her sexuality and then her gender. As she underwent her transition to outwardly become her true self, Song found a safe queer space with EngiQueers (EQ), a 2SLGBTQIA+ social group for Waterloo engineering students.    

“It’s difficult to state how important this group has been in my life,” she said. “I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that the EngiQueers space and people saved my life.”  

As Song transitioned and flourished, she took a leadership role as EQ president, allowing her to organize events and opportunities for her community. In her fourth year, she was recognized for her involvement with the Liu-Kennington Award, created by Michelle Liu (BASc ’18, MASc ’20) and Allie Kennington (BASc ’19, MASc ’22). Both wished there had been more on-campus support and mentorship for them as 2SLGBTQIA+ engineering students. Recipients are selected based on their positive contributions to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community through extracurricular or volunteer involvement.   

For Song, the award does more than support her campus community. It makes her reflect on her accomplishments.  

“Thank you for helping me realize my potential,” she wrote to Liu and Kennington. “Maybe one day you’ll hear my name somewhere big and remember that you were the ones who lit that spark.”