on image to enlarge)
Back row: Me Pierre Frégeau, Patrice Blais, Frank Pons, Melisa
Forero and Benoît Grondin. Middle row: Professor V. Ramachandran,
Aviva Rosenberg, N.R. Konepally, Aiman Hanna, Melanie Anestis, Nisha Sajnani,
Steven Faguy and René Biberstein. Front row: Lina DIorio,
Professor Virginia Nixon, Alana Baskind, Candis Steenbergen, Jennifer
Willet and Professor Jim Jans.
Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj
by Eleanor Brown
Melanie Anestis tried and failed to hold back
her tears after being honoured for her outstanding contribution to the
university community during this years Concordia Council for Student
Life awards ceremony.
I want to share one lesson I learned, Anestis said, her voice
breaking, to a standing-room-only crowd at the April 5 event. We
can learn from each other. Theres a lot of tension, we may not always
agree, but we have to listen.
Anestis is finishing up her term as president of the Political Science
Students Association and is a member of the Golden Key Honour Society,
an acknowledgement of her high academic achievement. The staff and
faculty make extracurricular work possible, she said. It makes
it easier to stay here till 1 a.m. when youre surrounded by nice
The awards for outstanding contribution to student life outside the classroom
all go to students.
Aviva Rosenberg acknowledged her award by thanking members of
the university community. They made me feel like a person first,
instead of a disability, she said. I built up my self-confidence,
self-worth and self-esteem. I am a multi-sensory learner, and I retain
more information when I am an active participant. I will cherish this
She has been a volunteer peer health educator at Concordia Health Services
for five years, and spent many long hours researching health queries on
behalf of students.
Cristelle Basmaji is one of the few students who can say she changed
the curriculum. This years president of the Commerce and Administration
Students Association helped found and organize Concordias first
Undergraduate National Case Competition, which drew teams from 11 of the
top business schools in the country. She also helped create an academic
program at the John Molson School of Business to coach students for competitions.
This year has definitely been a lot of hard work, Basmaji
said. She, too, acknowledged the complicated state of student politics
at the university (a mid-term Concordia Student Union presidential resignation,
and two elections in the last few months). I enjoyed dealing with
it full force, she said, of encouraging students to get more involved
in their own affairs.
As co-presidents of the 800-member Concordia International Students Association,
Melisa Forero (from Colombia) and Benoît Grondin (of
France) have helped grow the group substantially.
Many of you may not go through what international students have
to go through in a foreign country, said Forero. She left the details
unsaid, but they range from learning a new language to culture shock,
loneliness and homesickness. They need encouragement to make their
lives easier in school.
Nisha Sajnani is a Graduate Students Association executive member,
and has spent time pushing for increasing health care benefits for grad
I dont think its possible to contribute to ones
environment without a supportive community. My experience here has been
enriched because I have found a space where I can contribute of myself.
A joint award went to PhD students Candis Steenbergen, Jennifer Willet,
Alana Baskind and Sylvain Duguay for organizing the universitys
first interdisciplinary humanities conference, a raging success called
Duguay said, For interdisciplinary students, its always a
challenge. Were floating in the university. Its challenging,
but also rewarding.
The Link student newspaper staff swept the two media awards given
out this year. Editor-in-chief René Biberstein kept his
comments short. This award isnt really just for me, its
for the team that put the Link together this year.
His nomination papers noted the difficult year hes had, from battles
with student politicians to the post-Sept. 11 economic downturn.
Link webmaster Steven Faguy picked up the second award.
In addition to creating and maintaining the weekly papers Internet
presence, he has also covered student council, a particularly daunting
prospect this year. I do it because I enjoy it, Faguy said.
And also, he deadpanned, I have most of my classes in
the Hall Building [where The Link is located], so its a good place
to sit down.
The merit awards were split among Concordia staff and students. Staff
members are often overlooked for their contributions, noted one presenter,
as he called to the podium Lina DIorio, secretary of the
Liberal Arts College.
She said, The students, are the best part of my job. They hold a
special place in my heart.
Associate Professor of Psychology James E. Jans, who is also the
acting director of the PhD humanities program, got the nod for being a
supportive thesis adviser, updating the graduate handbook and helping
push through the R/Évolution humanities conference. I dont
so much direct this program as hang on, he announced, pointing to
the students as the true driving force.
Stingers soccer great Frank Pons has accumulated an impressive
array of honours for his athletics, but hes also a PhD student in
marketing with a 4.02 cumulative GPA. (4.3 is perfect.) Im
going to stay in school for life, he announced. Im going
to be a professor.
Niranjan Reddy Konepally is founder and president of the Indian
Students Association and a well-loved tutor in the Concave engineering
building. This was his first acceptance speech in English, so Im
a little bit scared. He went on, Regarding new students, especially
those from South Asia, they must have a lot of patience. The education
system is very different. It is our duty to help them.
Patrice Blais has sat on just about every university committee
open to students, from the Board of Governors to the CCSL itself. He became
the interim Concordia Student Union president at a time of internal turmoil.
Students who go directly home from class dont know what theyre
missing, he said. Involvement is an essential part of university
life. My main criticism is that we do not truly understand the power that
we have [as students].
Four teaching excellence awards were given. Me Pierre Frégeau,
who runs a full-time law practice and teaches part-time at Concordia,
still manages to find the time to be the supervising lawyer at campus
Legal Information Services.
He has never succumbed to the drudgery of teaching the same course year
after year, said one of Frégeaus former students. He
refers to students as colleagues, and challenges students to be critical
thinkers. Pierre teaches to inspire students.
Aiman Hanna lectures in computer science. Sometimes my wife
says, You like Concordia more than me. I really like Concordia
a lot, but she is number one! insisted Hanna, to laughter.
He had serious things to say, as well. My concern, my duty, my goal,
is to make the university number one in Canada, if not the whole world.
Virginia Nixon, art and music coordinator at the Liberal Arts
College, whose service her students considered beyond the call of duty,
was pleased about the recognition, but called it misdirected. Its
easy to teach students who are really interested, she said.
Twenty years ago almost to the day, Venkatanarayana Ramachandran
received a merit award from the Concordia Council on Student Life. This
year he got one as a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering
Department. He said with a laugh that he didnt arrange any
of this. Dr Ramachandran may not have lobbied for the honour, but
his students certainly did.