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Seven students recognized for leadership with Cressy Awards

OUTSTANDING STUDENTS: Pictured with Gordon Cressy (centre) are award winners (from left): Leah Ko, Jemy Joseph, Jemcy Joy, Ruthie Cowper Szamosi, and Gillian Reiss. Missing: Edwina Fernandes and Pramudith Manujaya Maldenaya. (Photo by Kim Tull.)

by Shayla Duval

Many opportunities are available to students who want to show leadership and give back to their community, but only some students find the courage — and equally impressive, the time — to step into these roles.

Seven students from U of T Scarborough who have shown this leadership and given of their time have been recognized as recipients of this year’s Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Awards. Students Edwina Fernandes, Jemy Joseph, Jemcy Joy, Leah Ko, Pramudith Manujaya Maldeniya, Gillian Reiss, and Ruthie Cowper Szamosi, are this year’s Cressy Award recipients.

The Cressy Awards honour graduating University of Toronto students who have demonstrated a commitment to extracurricular activities and contributed to enhancing the quality of student life. They were established in 1994, in honour of Gordon Cressy, U of T’s former vice-president of development and university relations.

“The Cressy Awards recognize those students who have truly made a difference to their campus and their university, as well as to the broader community,” says Kim Tull, manager, alumni relations. “These individuals represent the gold standard of what student involvement and commitment to others are all about.”

A total of 108 students from across all campuses and divisions of U of T were presented with these prestigious student recognition awards at a celebration in April. This year’s event was held at 89 Chestnut Residence on the University of Toronto’s St. George campus.

These seven U of T Scarborough students have given their time to help or to further university life on campus and in the wider Scarborough community. Short profiles on the winners follow here.

Jemy Joseph

“When I first joined U of T Scarborough I didn’t intend to get involved,” said Jemy Joseph, who was born in Kuwait and lived in India before coming to Canada in 2000. “Thankfully, I came across a number of senior students in the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) who encouraged me to take on leadership positions.”

In her four years at U of T Scarborough, Joseph became heavily involved in the SCSU and has held several senior positions on it. During her role as life sciences director and vice-chair from 2005 to 2007, she oversaw the SCSU’s six standing committees. In a later position as vice-president academics, from 2007 to January 2008, she helped to produce the Anti-Calendar publication and advocated for various academic needs on campus. She has also volunteered as a student mentor and as a peer counselor for the Academic Advising and Career Centre.

“I love the balance of social atmosphere with academics at U of T Scarborough,” Joseph said. “The smaller campus size gave me numerous opportunities to get involved.”

Joseph is working toward a major in neuroscience and double minors in biology and psychology. She will graduate in June and plans to pursue a Master’s degree or a PhD in either neuroscience or public health.

Joseph’s commitment to extracurricular activities also earned her this year’s prestigious John H. Moss Scholarship, given to an individual University of Toronto student who has show leadership and strong academic skills.

Jemcy Joy

Jemcy Joy got involved in student societies and clubs started in her first year, when she volunteered at the Association of Biology and Chemistry Students, and became the interactive activities producer for a student organization called Challenging AIDS in Society.

Since then, Joy has been involved with various groups, including the Student Mentorship Program, the International Student Centre, and the Life Sciences Students’ Union. In her fourth year she was elected the vice-chair of the SCSU board. Even with her many on-campus activities, she still found time to volunteer helping children through her local church.

While studying at the campus, Joy said she enjoyed the “close-knit community feel and advantage you get at U of T Scarborough, while still having access to all the facilities and services on all three campuses at the University of Toronto.”

Although her family is originally from India, Joy was born in Saudi Arabia and immigrated to Canada in 1999. After completing her major in neuroscience and double minors in biology and psychology this spring, she said she plans to take a year off to relax, work, and explore her interest in teaching and research.

Leah Ko

Leah Ko’s wide-ranging interests are reflected in the variety of groups with which she has been involved with during her time in university. In 2005 she joined the U of T Scarborough chapter of Frontier College, a literacy outreach program, and has since headed the development of after-school programs in which U of T Scarborough students tutor children from two Scarborough elementary schools. She also co-founded a campus club that supports the Leprosy Mission Canada, has been a student member on the academic appeals committee, volunteered with the Student Mentorship Program, and was the leader of the U of T tri-campus women’s basketball team.

“There aren’t enough words to sum up what I like best about U of T Scarborough,” Leah Ko said. “I have been able to see familiar faces daily and have been able to know each of my professors, and in turn they know me by name because of the small class sizes.”

Ko, who was born and raised in Toronto, plans to graduate this spring with a double major in history and English. She intends to pursue a master’s degree in arts, with a focus on American history, at the St. George campus.

Pramudith Manujaya Maldeniya

Pramudith Manujaya Maldeniya is currently president of the psychology and neuroscience departmental association for students at U of T Scarborough. He originally got involved with its precursor organization, the neuropsych association, back in his first few years of university. Majoring in psychology and integrated biology, he worked to help establish a departmental association that distinguished psychology and catered to the specific needs of psychology students. Maldeniya is also President of U of T Scarborough’s Rotaract club chapter, which helps young adults to connect with and contribute to their community.

“People should really get involved in university life,” Maldeniya said. “Every time you participate in the school, you get something back. Even if it’s just a small club, you get to meet other students and get to know them, you get to know the school better, and you might pick up some tips about career opportunities.”

The small campus size is the best part of U of T Scarborough, according to Maldeniya, because it fosters a close-knit community among students, and makes it easier to connect with professors.

Maldeniya was born in Sri Lanka and raised in Dubai before immigrating to Canada almost a decade ago. He plans to attend McMaster medical school after his graduation this spring.

Gillian Reiss

After meeting some people who encouraged her to volunteer on campus in her first year, Gillian Reiss got involved in a wide variety of extracurricular activities. She was the Women’s Centre external coordinator from 2004 to 2006, and organized an event for International Women’s Day 2006 that drew more than 200 attendees. She has also helped to organize an event called Grrrlfest and the International Women’s Week celebration four times.

As well, Reiss has taken strong leadership roles, holding positions that include the vice-president academics of the humanities departmental student association, and the head coach of the Academic Advising and Career Centre.

“This campus provides so many opportunities to get involved in challenging positions,” Reiss said. “I would have probably not been able to become a Women’s Centre coordinator at a much larger institution after my first year, and I would have never worked so closely with deans, directors, and chairs at a campus that was more adversarial with its administration.”

Reiss, who has lived in many cities across Canada including Regina, Toronto and Ottawa, is completing a major in English and minors in both women’s studies and philosophy. She plans to take a year off after her graduation this spring, before pursuing further studies in either professional or graduate school.

Ruthie Cowper Szamosi

Throughout her time at U of T Scarborough, Ruthie Cowper Szamosi has been heavily involved with the Student Housing and Residence Life Office, first as a residence adviser and now as an area coordinator.

“Residence life was something that I wanted to be involved in since my first year,” said Szamosi, who is originally from downtown Toronto. “I felt the residence advisers made a really big contribution, and I wanted to make that same contribution.”

Before applying to be a residence advisor, however, she decided to join the SCSU to build her skills and see what other opportunities were available on campus. She also served as vice-president academics on the math and computer science departmental student association, and a student representative on the Council on Undergraduate Education.

Majoring in English and math, Szamosi is enrolled in the Early Teacher Project at U of T Scarborough. Through this program, she will be granted automatic admission to U of T’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) after her graduation in November 2008.

Edwina Fernandes

Edwina Fernandes, a sociology student, was not available for comment at deadline time. At the Cressy Awards ceremony, she was recognized for her work with the U of T Scarborough chapter of Frontier College, a literacy organization.

Shayla Duval is a fourth-year student in the joint journalism program offered by U of T Scarborough and Centennial College.

© University of Toronto Scarborough