Celebrating Waterloo’s Class of 2022 valedictorians
Meet the ten inspiring individuals representing Waterloo’s newest grads
Meet the ten inspiring individuals representing Waterloo’s newest gradsBy Angelica Marie Sanchez University Relations
Convocation is a special time to celebrate a significant milestone. These ten students have been selected by their peers, in recognition of their social and academic contributions to the Waterloo community, to represent the graduating class of 2022.
For Ola Idris (BA ’22) studying in the Faculty of Arts offered the perfect opportunity for her to balance both her academic studies and personal life while pursuing her passion for advocacy.
Extra-curricular activities played a large role in Idris’ time on campus: She was an Arts Ambassador and peer tutor at the Writing and Communication Centre during her study terms. Idris also participated in multiple speaker panels through student-led organizations such as the Women’s Centre, Racial Advocacy for Inclusion Solidarity and Equity, TedxUW, and the University of Waterloo’s UNICEF Club.
“I have many fond memories from participating in the clubs and extra-curricular activities with other African and Black students, but they are all encompassed by the feeling of walking into the Student Life Centre pre-Covid and seeing so many familiar faces of friends and feeling at home and welcomed,” Idris says. “That feeling is unmatched by any one specific memory.”
As a very active student in the Waterloo community, Idris recalls being most proud of her passion for racial advocacy and equitable change, where she joined the University of Waterloo’s Black Association for Student Expression — later becoming president of the student organization.
She uses that resilience as an advocate for more Black and Indigenous professors and courses. Idris helped curate one of the first Black history courses offered at Waterloo with Dr. Christopher Taylor.
Idris is graduating with an Honours Arts and Business degree in Political Science, with an International Relations Specialization and a minor in Economics.
Before coming to Waterloo, Ellen McGee (BASc ’22) was unsure what she wanted to study but was told she would like engineering because of her interest in math and science. But after visiting the fall open house and listening to the talk on Systems Design Engineering (SYDE), McGee knew the program was for her.
“It had a huge focus on the design process and looked at the big picture problems,” McGee says. “I was excited to learn about different aspects of engineering and I liked how SYDE allowed you to be creative while solving problems every term with a design course.”
Along with playing in intramural sports, McGee was heavily involved in the Waterloo Engineering Society (EngSoc) having spent time in different roles: class representative, director, commissioner, and even being president for more than one year. But McGee’s fondest memories were during orientation week as a leader with her friends and welcoming incoming first year students.
“I was also EngSoc president at the time and gave a presentation on Engineering traditions, including the purpling event,” McGee says. “We had a huge turnout of 400 first years at the purpling event, where so many people dyed themselves purple – the colour of Engineering – a week of being goofy and having fun on campus.”
After graduating with her Bachelor of Applied Science in Systems Design Engineering,
McGee is travelling through Europe with her friends before returning to Seattle to work as a programs manager at Microsoft, where she was hired after a successful final co-op term.
Chukwunonso Jeffery Moneme (BASc ’22) is graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Chemical Engineering. Passionate about racial advocacy within Engineering, Moneme became one of the founding members of Waterloo’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. As well as being founder and chair of the Faculty of Engineering Community Roundtable which enables the faculty to enact change holistically with input from community members.
“The work in equity, diversity and inclusion that I have done through the Engineering society,” Moneme says. “However big or small, means the most to me overall.”
Moneme prides himself in his extra-curricular activities at Waterloo, including multiple roles within the Waterloo Engineering Society: a member of the Board of Directors, the inclusivity commissioner, the advocacy advisor and diversity director. He was also an orientation leader and an executive for UW EngiQueers. Outside of the University, Moneme’s milestones also include being founder and co-chairs of the Anti-Black Racism Task Force for the Engineering Student Societies Council of Ontario (ESSCO).
“Waterloo’s been a major part of my life for the past five years and I have enjoyed being here, it won’t be easy to leave,” he says. Post-graduation, Moneme will be continuing his education at Concordia University for a Master’s in Chemical Engineering.
Siddharth Kumar’s (BASc ’22) was drawn to the University of Waterloo after speaking to a friend who spoke highly about Waterloo’s co-op program and its widely respected Engineering programs. Kumar is graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering.
He spent much of his time getting involved in clubs over his five years, such as the BioMechatronics Club, an academic representative, a peer mentor, a first-year commissioner, an orientation leader, an EngSoc representative, and having the good fortune of being in the EngPlay for three different productions.
“I think the resources and the feeling on campus that we were working on something bigger than ourselves is a rush that I will continue to seek out for the rest of my life,” Kumar says. However, being an engineer is not the only work Kumar plans on pursuing after graduation.
While Kumar is headed to California as a full-time engineer at Apple Inc., he will also continue his journey as an artist and expand his horizons by working in film and tv productions. “In the upcoming years, I hope to launch some exciting products and also pursue a Master’s of Fine Arts in acting at an acclaimed institution.”
Veraj Paruthi (BASc ’22) was once a high school student who felt lost when it came to figuring out what program, let alone which university to apply. The University of Waterloo stood out the most for him because of the Co-operative Education program.
“I heard students landing amazing jobs not only after graduation, but during their undergrad,” Paruthi says. “These stories had me hooked.”
Paruthi is proud of his academic and career achievements and credits Waterloo’s co-op program for helping him hone his skills. He went from not knowing how to code programs to landing his first technical co-op and leading entire products at startup companies by himself.
When asked about his greatest achievements, Paruthi recalls being selected as valedictorian being high on the list. “Getting into my program was and still is something I’m very proud of, but it is my progression of co-op placements over the last five years is something that still impresses me.”
Graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Computer Engineering, Paruthi will be working as a software engineer at a startup.
Jaskaran Dhillon (BES ’22) is graduating with a Bachelor of Environmental Studies in Planning. 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.”
When it was time for Precious Nwaka (BSc ’22) to decide on a program, she was convinced that Waterloo’s Health Studies program was the right choice. Nwaka recalls getting accepted into Waterloo as a moment that changed her life and was excited to dive into the program that integrates health, life and social science — a mixture of all three topics she loved.
Nwaka remembers failing her CHEM 123 final exam as one of her fondest memories during her first year at Waterloo. The memory taught her a lesson that she feels is important for other students to recognize. “At the time, I thought that any schools I would apply in the future would overlook me because of that grade,” Nwaka says. “But then it taught me that despite any challenges or failures I may experience, as long as there is tomorrow, I can overcome them.”
Nwaka overcame adversity through hard work and determination which opened pathways to some of her greatest achievements. While at Waterloo, Nwaka was involved in the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children, the UW African Student Association, the Pre-Med Society, and the Journal of Undergraduate Health Research. She successfully published articles which includes an opinion piece on COVID-19 vaccinations and her honours thesis on the association between menstrual experiences and self-esteem in Canadian youth.
After graduation she is focusing on a career around patient-centered care from a pharmaceutical perspective. “I know that I want to work with people and use my expertise to help them live healthier and happier lives.”
Nwaka is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Health Studies and a specialization in Health Research.
After completing high school in Quebec, Farzaan Nathoo-Khedri (BMATH ’22) knew the Faculty of Mathematics at Waterloo was the place for him.
“Enrolling at the University of Waterloo was a no-brainer,” Nathoo-Khedri says. “The University has an incredible reputation both in Canada and internationally, and one of the most driven and passionate student communities in the world.”
Nathoo-Khedri immersed himself in many areas of campus life, including his time as a student ambassador, an orientation leader, a math tutor, participated in various intramural sports, and held different positions with the Actuarial Science Club — later becoming president in his final year.
The community of students, faculty and staff helped make Waterloo feel like a second home for Nathoo-Khedri. He feels confident that he will stay in touch with so many amazing people who shaped his student experience.
After graduating with his Bachelor of Mathematics in Actuarial Science, Nathoo-Khedri has moved to San Francisco, where he's working full-time as an actuarial analyst at Lyft. “I hope to continue acquiring new skills and challenging myself in new settings as I believe that one’s educational journey and self-growth never truly stops.”
When Aisosa Laura Ohiegbomwan (BSc ’22) first visited campus during open house, she discovered the Biomedical Science program was a gateway to professional school which aligned with her goals.
One of her fondest memories was moving into residence, where Ohiegbomwan remembers feeling excited and optimistic to meet new people. She remained involved on campus by participating in the UW Pre-Pharmacy Club and the UW Supporting Heart and Stroke Club.
Ohiegbomwan admits being chosen as valedictorian not only validates her capabilities in writing, communicating and presenting, but also shows her growth in finding confidence in herself.
“Graduating from university is of course a great achievement,” Ohiegbomwan says. “But becoming valedictorian is what I am particularly most proud of because I am the first of my siblings to do so.”
Ohiegbomwan is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science. She looks forward to the next step of her journey by finding work, gaining experience and building valuable connections with others that she can use in her applications to professional school.
While Marya Talha (BSc ’22) moved abroad to study at Waterloo, she instantly felt a sense of community in her new home. Talha admires the student community at Waterloo for being open to experimenting and following their passions, which motivated her to do the same.
“I will miss the flexibility which enabled me to follow my curiosities at the University of Waterloo,” Talha says. “Halfway through my undergrad, I developed an interest in understanding the Latin roots of biology terminology better. I simply began to take courses in the Classical Studies department and later developed the interest into a full-fledge minor.”
Talha not only feels very fortunate to complete her degree but also having the honour to be selected as valedictorian, where she will be able to tell her story and connect with the wider student community one last time.
Talha feels very fortunate when reflecting on her accomplishments, such as being an orientation leader, a library ambassador and the founder of University’s Bioethics Society, a club she founded during the COVID-19 crisis. She will be continuing her advocacy for health care issues by diving deeper into the field of bioethics and health equity within her community.
Talha is graduating with a Bachelor of Science and a double minor in Biology and Classical Studies.
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.