Student Experience Awards honour the achievements and contributions of campus leaders who have made a lasting difference in students’ lives and in campus-community relations. Each year, the University community is invited to submit nominations for staff, faculty and students who exemplify commitment and contribution to U of G and the greater community. This year’s Student Experience Awards were celebrated at an in-person event, the first since 2019.
Learn more about this year’s inspiring winners:
André Auger Citizenship Award
Rithik Choudhary – School of Computer Science, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Software Engineering
Celebrating an undergraduate or graduate student who has consistently demonstrated a sense of personal responsibility and commitment toward community.
As an outstanding and active citizen of the School of Computer Science community, Rithik Choudhary has displayed exceptional dedication to campus involvement, program outreach, and innovation in enhancing student experience at the University of Guelph. He has taken on numerous leadership roles throughout his academic career including Vice President External for the Society of Computing and Information Sciences, President of the Guelph Coding Community, and the U of G representative for the non-profit Computing Councils of Canada.
Rithik’s work as the Co-Founder and Co-Lead for GryphHacks, U of G’s official representative hackathon, has truly set him apart. In this role, Rithik interviewed, appointed, and led a committee consisting of five departments, bringing together over 30 students across various programs and disciplines. He oversaw budget plans and committee expenditures, venue and catering procurement, marketing, and outreach, among other responsibilities, all while inspiring his team and those around him to become active student leaders on campus. Through these efforts, Rithik helped to create a 48-hour hybrid hackathon that brings together students from diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, creating an inclusive environment that celebrates diversity and promotes teamwork.
Brian D. Sullivan Student Leadership Award
Ishaka Maharaj – Department of Animal Biosciences, Animal Biology
Presented to a graduating student who has made significant contributions to student leadership through their involvement as an elected or appointed student representative at the University of Guelph.
As a passionate and active member of the University of Guelph community, Ishaka Maharaj has made significant contributions to U of G through her strong commitment and dedication to supporting fellow students. She has worked to build community and promote inclusion and involvement through her participation as an Orientation Volunteer, Bounce Back Facilitator, member of the Innovation Fund committee, and member of the Central Student Association Board of Directors. As a member of the Orientation Team, Ishaka was responsible for planning and executing large-scale events, with a focus on including diverse points of view and student groups. She also created and delivered event-planner training to student leaders, focusing on equity, diversity, and inclusion.
As President of both the Hindu Students Society and the Indian Students Association, Ishaka has been a strong advocate for the representation of Indian students on campus. She has helped to build a sense of community among Indian students and fostered a greater understanding and appreciation for their diverse backgrounds.
Erin Angus Graduate Student Engagement Award
Gen Borg – Ph.D. Candidate, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Inorganic Chemistry
Presented to a graduate student who has made significant contributions to graduate and all student life through their engagement within the campus community during the past year.
Gen is an Anishinaabekwe (Anishinaabe woman) from Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island. Gen graduated with Honours in the Bachelor of Science Co-op program in 2018, began her Masters in 2020, and is currently completing her Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry. Throughout her academic journey, Gen has become an advocate for Indigenous women in STEM and an inspiring role model for other First Nations, Inuit and Métis students. Her editorial, “An Indigenous Journey to Belonging”, was published as part of the American Chemical Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Cover Art Series and provides a glimpse into her journey as a leader and Indigenous woman in chemistry.
Within the University of Guelph community, Gen has made significant contributions to graduate and all student life through her leadership roles as Co-Chair of the Indigenous Student Society, Vice President of the Guelph Graduate Chemistry Society, as a student representative on President Charlotte Yate’s Advisory Committee on Anti-Racism, and as a laboratory Teaching Assistant.
Hasnul F. Abdollah International Student Award
Bawneet Singh – Bachelor of Engineering, Computer Engineering
Celebrating the commitment, kindness and service demonstrated by an undergraduate international student who has made a significant contribution to the international student community at the University of Guelph.
Bawneet Singh is a committed and engaged student leader who has made outstanding contributions to the international student community at the University of Guelph. As a Bounce Back program facilitator, Residence Assistant, and U of G Ambassador, Bawneet has mentored many undergraduate students and helped them work through academic challenges on campus. He constantly motivates those around him to engage with the broader community, more specifically in areas concerning the additional obstacles and needs of international students. In each of these roles, Bawneet has shown extreme kindness and a passion for supporting undergraduate international students and the broader U of G community.
Laurie Shnarr I Am A Gryphon Award
Bawneet Singh – Bachelor of Engineering, Computer Engineering
This award recognizes a recipient(s) who provide exceptional service to students and exemplify the I AM A GRYPHON commitments – Determined, Caring, Engaged, Respectful and Authentic. The recipient(s) have risen to meet a significant challenge, have demonstrated creativity or innovation in their approach, and as Gryphons, have been committed to being respectful, caring, determined, engaged, and authentic.
Bawneet Singh is an exceptionally involved student leader who upholds the I AM A GRYPHON values of being Determined, Caring, Engaged, Respectful, and Authentic. He is a very engaged student who has taken on multiple roles on campus including working as a Residence Life Assistance, Bounce Back Facilitator, and U of G Social Media Ambassador.
As a Residence Assistant, Bawneet is responsible for supporting the transition of around 50 first-year students through the establishment and maintenance of meaningful personal relationships, organization of community building activities, and by providing constant support for these students. Bawneet has also been an active member of the Hospitality and Sustainability Committee, helping to organize events and initiatives that promote sustainability and raise awareness about environmental issues. Their contributions to the committee have been invaluable, and they have demonstrated a deep commitment to promoting positive change in the university community.
Additionally, Bawneet has contributed to the academic leadership at UofG through their involvement in the Robotics group, as Vice President of the IEEE Guelph branch, and member of the Cybersecurity group. Their dedication to these groups has helped to create a culture of excellence and innovation at the university.
Sarina Perchak – MSc Student, Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition
Presented to a First Nations, Métis or Inuit student enrolled in an associate diploma, undergraduate, or graduate program of study at the University of Guelph, University of Guelph-Humber, or Ridgetown Campus who is engaged in co-curricular activities that enrich their educational experience and is achieving well academically. The recipient is also connected in meaningful ways to the larger community, actively encouraging others to become involved, and is a role model for other Indigenous learners.
Sarina Perchak has been awarded the Kishaadigeh Award for her outstanding contributions to First Nations, Inuit and Métis students at U of G and in the wider community. Sarina identifies as mixed ancestry (Métis, Irish, Ukrainian) from Treaty One Territory and is a master’s student in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph. She is an exceptional scholar and passionate and dedicated community member, student, teaching assistant, and volunteer.
Through various food sovereignty and security projects, Sarina takes on a community activator role. She has been an impactful member of Wisahkotewinowak, an urban Indigenous Garden collective that provides land-based learning and cultural sharing through gardening and a weekly food distribution program for Indigenous families. Sarina has also ensured that U of G students are aware of local opportunities to strengthen their relationship with the land and learn about Indigenous food sovereignty. With White Owl Native Ancestry, Sarina facilitated a youth-led research project that documented land-based experiences and wellbeing of Indigenous youth in the Kitchener region. The project was a great success, and was later exhibited in a gallery, published online, and shown at the Human Rights Film Festival.
Not only is Sarina praised for achieving academic excellence, but her community goes beyond human relationships and incorporates a very real relationship with the land she works on, caring for and being cared by those places that have become significant to her understanding of her responsibilities as a human being.
R.P Gilmor Student Experience Award (Staff, Faculty, Alumni, and Community)
Alexis Charles – Coordinator, Cultural Diversity Programs, Student Experience
This award is presented to an individual staff or faculty member/group who are committed to improving the student experience and have contributed to the betterment of student life at the University of Guelph.
Alexis Charles is known for always going above and beyond in her role as the Cultural Diversity Programs Coordinator. Her passion and tenacity for developing meaningful and transformational programming for Black and racialized students at the University of Guelph is recognized by many.
Alexis works closely and tirelessly with many Black and student groups of colour, providing exceptional support in various capacities such as creating safe spaces for greater alliances and partnership with other student associations, faculty, staff and the Guelph community.
Alexis has been instrumental in expanding holistic opportunities for U of G students including coordinating the semesterly Black-Owned Market – bringing the Black GTA community on campus for students’ awareness and engagement, as well as spearheading the Black history month committee to proliferate the voices of Black students and advancement of Black leadership excellence. Alexis continues to contribute positively to the experiences of students, particularly Black and racialized student experiences, and their betterment at U of G.
R.P. Gilmor Student Experience Award (Student)
Saksham Sharma – BSc. Honours Biological Science, Computer Science
This award is presented to an individual student or student group who are committed to improving the student experience and have contributed to the betterment of student life at the University of Guelph.
Saksham Sharma is an engaged student leader who has demonstrated his dedication and commitment to the student experience at UofG through his involvement in various student initiatives, clubs, and volunteer opportunities. Saksham has participated as an outstanding Orientation Volunteer, Orientation Volunteer Team Leader, Bounce Back Facilitator, and student staff in the Department of Physics.
Saksham has shown his dedication and work ethic in his role with the Indian Students’ Association (ISA), where he has worked with a team to foster community, share his culture, and celebrate the achievements of Indian students on campus. During the pandemic, Saksham went above and beyond in his role as part of the social media and content development team in the Department of Physics by assisting with the pivot to an online lecture system and livestream model and helped to grow the department’s YouTube channel to nearly half a million views. Saksham’s work continues to enhance student learning with the innovative creation of novel teaching technologies and methods. Saksham is a strong leader and strives to foster deep connections with other students to improve student life on campus.
Roberta Mason Award
The award recognizes a student in any semester that, for the first time, has become actively involved in campus life and has made outstanding contributions to a club or organization at the University of Guelph.
For the first time in the history of the Roberta Mason Award, the Student Experience Awards committee is pleased to have honoured two students who have demonstrated unique but equally outstanding contributions to campus life during their first year of extracurricular involvement with this award.
Gaurav Kapali – College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Biological and Pharmaceutical Chemistry
Gaurav Kapali became actively involved campus life for the first time as an upper-year student coming out of the COVID-19 lockdowns and has since become a champion for the advancement of programs that fully engage students at the University of Guelph.
Gaurav actively supports various clubs on campus and makes efforts to engage others whenever possible. As co-founder of the SciArt Club, Gaurav turned to communal art making in order to help himself, and many of his peers, cope with the mental health challenges that were heightened after the pandemic. Gaurav is also an extremely committed and driven member of the executive team at Engineers Without Borders Guelph. His invaluable contributions have positively affected many projects involving fair trade, food sustainability, and reducing waste through reusable mugs has demonstrated his commitment to environmental sustainability.
Throughout his campus involvement over the last year, Gaurav has demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication to the improvement of student life and engagement at U of G. He has found many opportunities to share his passion for ethical and sustainable practices with his peers, creating a lasting positive impact on the campus community.
Laura Gillis – Bachelor of Indigenous Environmental Science and Practice (B.ESP)
Laura Gillis is a Métis ikwe (Métis woman) from Calgary, Alberta, who moved to Ontario to pursue her degree in the Bachelor of Indigenous Environmental Stewardship. Over her first two semesters at U of G, Laura has emerged as a strong and dedicated student leader by actively being involved in campus life.
In her first year at UofG, Laura has taken part in over 20 Indigenous Student Centre (ISC) and Indigenous Student Society (ISS) events alone. These have included START Indigenous, O-Week events, various Elders circles, drum circles, beading and crafting events and info sessions. Laura has quickly become a role model to many students, showing respect and care for all those around her. She became Secretary of the Indigenous Student Society in her first year, going above and beyond in meetings, running events, and filling in wherever needed. It is exceedingly rare for a first-year student to appear with the confidence and self-awareness needed to successfully take on such a responsibility and Laura has thrived in the role.
Laura has also become actively involved as a student staff member of the Indigenous Student Centre where she has been tasked with many responsibilities including welcoming students, supporting professional staff, engaging in various events with Elders, knowledge keepers and community members, and touring the ISC. Laura has created a positive and caring space for all students to be welcomed into. She constantly goes above and beyond to maintain a strong connection with the Guelph Indigenous and campus community.