Recognizing student leadership

Recognizing student leadership

Student Affairs celebrates student leadership with annual awards.

By Nikta Sadati, Division of Student Affairs

April 16, 2021


Student Affairs’ Student Recognition Awards celebrate the extraordinary contributions of student leaders and their efforts in supporting others and promoting inclusivity at Queen’s and beyond.

The 2021 awards honour 12 students who are recipients of The Peer Leadership Award, The Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity and Indigeneity Impact Award, and The Brian Yealland Community Leadership Award.

“This annual awards program celebrates the integral role of our students on campus and in their communities,” says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs. “With the challenging impacts of the pandemic on student life, this year’s awards are especially important as we recognize student leadership and engagement in a primarily online environment and their commitment to making positive change. I want to congratulate all recipients and express my thanks and gratitude for their significant contributions.”

The following is the list of the awards and 2021 student recipients.

The Peer Leadership Award is presented to students who through their commitment, skill, dedication, and interest in helping others, have exemplified excellence in peer-to-peer assistance and outreach. The 2021 award recipients are:

Miriam John (BScH'22, Biology) served as student facilitator for the “Lead, Include, Transform (LIT)” inclusive leadership training program –– run by the Human Rights & Equity Office and the Student Experience Office in Student Affairs. She has also served as the Co-founder and Co-President of the student advocacy club, Queen’s Freedom from Violence. Miriam’s also served as the first ever Project Coordinator for the Peer Support Centre x Committee Against Racial and Ethnic Discrimination (PSC x CARED). Over the summer of 2020, during the height of the Black Lives Matters protests, Miriam identified the need for immediate mental health support for her peers. She planned and co-facilitated group mental health support sessions for racialized students. She then led a peer-based mental health support service for self-identified BIPOC students. In each of her roles, Miriam displays a fierce passion and eagerness to connect with students and the community, offering opportunities for further education and awareness. Miriam passionately goes above and beyond in her commitment to student outreach and support.

Rohit Shukla (PhD'22, Civil Engineering) is a member of the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) Student Assistant Team, working to support the transition of arriving international students to the Queen’s community. Rohit is also the current International Student Affairs Commissioner with the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS). In this role, he works to ensure that the concerns and interests of international graduate students are heard and represented at Queen’s. Rohit recently advocated for the equalization of PhD tuition fees for international students and domestic students, which will be in effect starting in Fall 2021. In addition to Rohit’s commitment and dedication to on-campus activities, he works for the betterment of the Kingston community. In collaboration with the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) and the City of Kingston, Rohit was part of the PhD Community-Initiative where he helped in addressing the physician shortage issue in Kingston. Rohit shows genuine compassion for others and is dedicated to improving the Queen’s and the greater Kingston communities. 

The Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity and Indigenization Impact Award is presented to Queen’s students, individuals, and groups, who have shown their commitment to empowering the diversity of the Queen’s community and have worked to further understand the interplay and intersections among different identities. The 2021 award recipients are:

Biology Graduate Students: Regan Cross (PhD'23), Monica Garvie (PhD'23), Samantha Gene (PhD’23), Riley Gridzak (PhD'24), Kristen Hayward (MSc’21), Nell Libera (PhD'22), Hana Thompson (MSc’22), and Harshavardhan Thyagarajan (PhD’23). This group of graduate students organized and caused significant positive change in the culture and governance of the Biology Department at Queen’s University in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer. The students wrote to the department, outlining specific actions that should be taken to address outstanding equity, diversity, and inclusivity issues. Some of these changes now implemented include establishing two yearly Biology BIPOC Field Course Scholarships, forming the Biology Anti-Racism Reading Group, and working with the two departmental seminar committees to increase the diversity of speakers in the annual seminar line-up. This group has demonstrated a commitment to social justice and continue to be a force for positive change.

Ishita Aggarwal (MD'23) is committed to acknowledging and fighting systemic barriers faced by marginalized populations, particularly female-identifying and racialized groups, and increasing representation of vulnerable peoples in education, healthcare, and social services. This year, she was Co-Chair of the Jacalyn Duffin Health and Humanities Conference (HuMed), an event that aims to create a space where learners and educators of all disciplines can discuss the intersections of medicine, health, and the arts and humanities. Furthermore, Ishita is the first-ever Director of Sexual Health of the BIPOC Women’s Health Network, a coast-to-coast medical student-run organization aiming to improve community health experiences of BIPOC womxn. As a self-identifying foreign-born woman of colour, Ishita’s experiences of oppression and discriminatory attitudes fuel her passion and devotion to striving for equity, diversity, inclusivity, and Indigenization in all she does.

Named in honour of Brian Yealland, Chaplain at Queen’s University for 32 years, the Brian Yealland Community Leadership Award is presented to Queen’s students, individuals, or groups, who work with and encourage youth who are experiencing social, behavioral, economic or other challenges by helping them realize their worth as individuals and their potential to achieve. The 2021 award recipient is:

Claire Michelle Wright (BScH'21, Environmental Toxicology) has been an integral part of Camp Outlook for the past four years and leaves a lasting positive impression on her colleagues and all of the youth she works with. She drove an increase in the volunteer-run program’s reach to youth at risk in the Kingston community, by adding over 60 social agencies and schools as referral agencies. Additionally, she was an instrumental organizer in what was Camp Outlook’s biggest fundraising campaign to date. Claire’s contributions enabled Camp Outlook to celebrate its 50th anniversary of providing free of cost, barrier-free camping and outdoor trips to area youth in 2020. Claire’s unprecedented commitment to the program and her hard work and dedication enables and encourages youth to experience the wonders of nature and create positive memories for the community.

To learn more about these and other awards and funding programs, visit the Student Affairs website.