Annual College awards ceremony recognizes outstanding students

On March 18, 2021, New College celebrated many of our exceptional students at the college’s annual Awards and Scholarship Reception. The ceremony, held virtually for the first time, showcased the remarkable academic achievements of New College students.

The evening was hosted by New College Principal Bonnie McElhinny and Registrar Kerri Huffman. In her opening remarks, Principal McElhinny acknowledged that while she wished attendees could have gathered in person, this in no way diminished how proud New College was of this year’s award winners. In fact, those who won awards this year should be exceptionally proud of excelling in difficult circumstances.

“We are here to celebrate your remarkable achievements in a complex year. Indeed your accomplishments this year are all the more remarkable given the challenges many of you have faced in thinking about your education this year”, said McElhinny. “This time has made us reflect on what it means for New College to be in community and to work as a community. Students, I miss you – we miss you.  One of the pleasures of this position is having the opportunity to meet so many talented students. We miss you, but you continue to inspire us by all that you have done.” 

College Registrar Kerri Huffman then announced all the award winners present at the ceremony, encouraging all those presents to use virtual reactions and the chat box for offer congratulations to each other. Following the announcement of the award winners, attendees had the chance to spend some time in breakout rooms that were hosted by New College alumni (and past award winners). In the breakout rooms, there were opportunities to discuss careers paths, post-university life, and connect with other members of the college community.

This evening was also a chance to thank the donors who fund these awards and support New College students. Principal McElhinny took the opportunity to acknowledge this generous support.

“We want to thank the donors who so graciously funded scholarships. Your gifts, play a significant role in the life of our students.  You create opportunity, you offer recognition. I have heard from so many students and alumni how this form of recognition, even when it is a modest amount of financial support came and a critical moment and changed someone’s life.” 

Other speakers during the evening including New College Student Council president Lucy Zuo, Susan Marchiori, donor and founder of the Dr. James Kam Chiu Wong Memorial Scholarship in Philosophy, and recent alumni Rodrigo Noorani Espinoza.

New College Gold Leader Scholarship

At the ceremony, this year’s Gold Leader Scholarship winner was also recognized. This is the highest award the College gives to a current student, and goes to a New College student who is in their final year of an undergraduate degree and who has achieved academic excellence while demonstrating leadership within their community.

Image by Wend Yasen

This year’s winner, Kyra Bingham, fully embodies the spirit of this award. Kyra is a Dean’s List scholar studying Critical Studies in Equity and Solidarity and Human Geography, who has previously received two New College In-Course Scholarships, as well as a Dean’s Excellence Admission Scholarship. She is also a James Beard Foundation’s National Scholar. During her years at New College, she discovered a passion for studying issues surrounding food sovereignty and challenging the systems that produce poverty, climate change, and hunger.

Throughout her undergraduate years, Kyra has given her time and energy to a multitude of organizations and projects that aim to amplify student voices, focus on improving student mental health, and creating a university system that is more just and accessible.  She has been a dedicated member of the Critical Studies in Equity and Solidarity Student Union as a senior executive, and as the editor of the inaugural issue of ROVE, the program’s undergraduate journal.

When accepting her award, Kyra spoke eloquently about her thoughts on leadership, equating her experience to the poetics of trees, which are seen as tall and powerful each in their own right, but beneath the ground is a vast network of roots and interconnectedness. 

“In this I can be seen as a young tree, now well decorated, in my forest of resiliency and care, nourished by the radical ideas of the CSES department,” said Bingham.  “As my final year comes to a close, I know that like these trees, my relationships are everything.  for me, my ideas of leadership have been transformed by the knowledge, wisdom, and mentorship from my professors at New College.”

Bingham spoke of the impact of her time working with Winona LaDuke, an Anishinaabekwe environmentalist, economist, author, and prominent Indigenous activist, who invited Bingham to work with her at her hemp and heritage farm, The Anishinaabe Agricultural Institute. Bingham has taken great inspiration from this work, which she will be continuing following her graduation.  She remains dedicated to continuing to work for a future “that is just, that is decolonized and that is beyond capitalism”.  She offered words of encouragement to her fellow students that “this world is possible, and we must first start to live it. Live it in your everyday actions, investigate how to create it in your studies.”

The evening ended with a busy chat with many messages of congratulations from family and friends who attended the ceremony.  We look forward to celebrating in person again next year!