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2017 Cressy Award Winners

2017 Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award recipients attend a luncheon in their honour at New College. From left to right: Simon Spichak, Tao Wang, Nadine Abdel-Ghafar, Principal Yves Roberge, Madeline Peters, Angela-Xizhen Cao, Edem Andy Afenu, Silviu Kondan. Not pictured: Aya Mahder Bashi, Marlen Iskander, Junyi Li, Mridvika Sahajpal, Chengming Zhang.

It is testament to the extraordinary talents of New College students that 12 of our graduating students have received Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Awards – a record number. (This is a 33% increase over last year’s number, which was itself a record!)

The Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Awards, which were established in 1994, recognize graduating students who have made outstanding extracurricular contributions to the University of Toronto community. This year’s total of 221 recipients from across the University will be honoured on April 25 at an awards ceremony in Convocation Hall.

New College is extremely proud of the achievements of these exceptional leaders and we have no doubt of the significant impact they will continue to have on their colleagues and communities.


Citations Summaries

Nadine Abdel-Ghafar

Nadine Abdei-Ghafar has been an enthusiastic voice for student engagement and involvement. She has focused her energies on trying to better student experience, advocating for students while serving as the Off Campus Student Representative on the New College Student Council. Nadine is passionate about helping students transition into university, working as an Orientation Coordinator for New College, and also as a Residence Don. Nadine’s focus on creating and fostering community in New College had a significant and measurable impact for many of the students within the New College community.

Edem Andy Afenu

From his first year, Andy has been committed to enhancing the extra-curricular life of not only New College students but also Biochemistry students. While doing this he also held a high academic standard by being a Dean’s list scholar every academic year. In his first year he was the director of Finance for the Nigerian Students’ Association although he was from Ghana, a neighbouring country. He became a mentor to students as an orientation leader twice in his second and third year. He was the Wetmore Hall president of the New College Residence Council as well as the New College Council (NCC) representative for the New College Student Council. He worked hard to ensure that students in residence had their concerns addressed and also helped organize events that  brought students together, such as the talent show and residence-wide soccer competition. As an NCC student representative, Andy also demonstrated leadership and professionalism as he represented the interests of students and ensured they were always aware of policies the college was implementing. He is the recipient of the Audrey Taylor Award and of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Scholarship from Trinity College for his academic achievements. As a result of this scholarship, Andy interned at a global health organization in Western Kenya as well as volunteering at the Tumaini Center, a  children’s home. He exemplified the leadership qualities expected of University of Toronto students while collaborating on community engagement projects with students from Moi University in Kenya. Andy has also been a don at the 89 Chestnut residence.

Aya Mahder Bashi

Aya has been an exceptional student and resident at New College and has volunteered in the New College and Toronto community. She acted as a House Representative as a part of her House Council in New College Residence, was a representative of the New College Council, a New College Orientation Leader, and a Student Voice Project Peer Facilitator. Aya has now completed a year as a donship at St. Michaels’s College, and is now completing a donship at New College.

Angela-Xizhen Cao

As Vice-President of the Book and Media Student Association, Angela helped to strengthen the academic life of fellow students by lobbying for increased course offerings and diverse course topics to the Faculty of Arts and Science. Her volunteer  work with events and programming targeted to  international (CIE) and newly admitted students (New College Orientation)  promotes  student diversity and in turn encourages students to become more involvement in the UofT community. Through her work as Community Outreach Lead for Hart House Farm Community, and the organization of such activities as farm workdays, Angela has raised awareness amongst her peers of issues of sustainability  and equity. In doing so, she has helped to promote the personal growth of her peers.

Marlen Iskander – not available to attend

 Marlen has dedicated her time at the University to bettering the experience of others. She consistently ensures that her peers are well and supported. She has been involved in the New College Residence Council, House Council, and now as a don, showcasing her leadership qualities in each of these roles. She has helped to ease the transition  of first year students beginning their university journey. She has held the elected positions of Wilson Hall Building President, and Social Director for Whitton House. She most recently was hired for the position of Residence Don in New College. She has also volunteered as a New College Orientation Leader. Her enthusiasm and positive attitude can always be counted on, and she is steadfastly committed to assisting students within her community.

Silviu Kondan

 Silviu has been a student leader at the University of Toronto at many different levels.  At the college level, he current serves as the New College Director for the U of T Students’ Union and a Don at New College.  He is also heavily invested in equity issues, serving as Co-Director/External Director of Equity Students’ Union, Equity and Outreach Executive on the Health and Human Rights Program, and he recently worked as organizer of the Working for Change Conference. Finally, he has also been invested in cultural affairs, taking on an English Teaching Internship at Barka Language School in Hungary through AEISEC U of T, as well as serving as Co-President of the Romanian Students’ Club.

Junyi Li – not available to attend

Jesse has been active in various capacities at the college level, through his highly productive research as well as his work in the wider community. He is a very thoughtful and caring leader who instills the best in those who are under his leadership. He has been active as a New College Don, exceeding the  expectations of a don by meeting one on with each of his students and providing unique events to help them feel comfortable living on campus and adapting to university life. He has been a Peer Mentor for the First Year Learning Community group at New College and an Orientation Leader, helping to plan and co-ordinate both social and academic events for incoming students. Jesse helped students practice their English at the International Foundations Program Informal Conversation Club. As a research student he has won a number of local awards for his research excellence and has had his work presented internationally at conferences, and as the events organizer and campus representative of U of T Agape Impact, Jesse has been instrumental in helping to promote events related to faith-based personal growth to the Christian community on campus. He also volunteers at a local medical clinic involved in family medicine.

Madeline Peters

Madeline has been an exceptional leader in her time at New College. Much of her extracurricular engagement has been aimed at easing the transition of first year students into university, serving as a First Year Learning Community Peer Mentor and Student Voice Project Peer Mentor. She also contributed significantly to the New College Orientation Program, volunteering as a Marshall, Planning Executive, and in her final year working as an Orientation Coordinator. Madeline’s drive and dedication is impressive, and she was an excellent role model for incoming students to the New College community about how community engagement can enrich an academic experience.

Mridvika Sahajpal

Mridvika has, in various capacities, built confidence and skills training in students who are in the midst of their university careers. Beginning with her role as a mentor for the Academic Rebounding Community at New College, she has consistently shown genuine empathy when guiding struggling students. This continued in her work as a FITF peer mentor at the ASC where she gained valuable active listening and resource referral skills. Her cross-cultural communication and community-building skills were invaluable in her volunteer work for an AIESEC NGO in Hungary.

Simon Spichak

Simon has been involved in enriching and leading students on many different levels during his entire academic career. Active within New College as a mentor and mentorship director for the Human Biology Students’ Union, and the Vice-President of Academic Affairs for the Neuroscience Association of Undergraduate Students (NAUS), Simon is also the coordinator for mentorship with the combined Collaborative Program in Neuroscience (CPIN). He has been instrumental in helping newly admitted students feel at ease at U of T through his work as a leader within the Pre-U of T program as the head leader for Life Sciences. Simon is an active student voice on Faculty of Arts and Science Council and Undergraduate Curriculum Council, Treasurer for the Documentary Club and Exam Review Instructor for PSL301for Students Offering Support, and the Vice President of Operations for Suits U (a non-profit organization in Toronto). He actively supports Health Out Loud as the co-director and even outside of U of T as a Captain for Buskerfest in support of Epilepsy Ontario.

Tao Wang

Tao has held progressively larger roles in New College Orientation  over the past four years, most recently as Head Leader, and he has been selected as one of the Peer Mentors in the pilot year of the New Connections Peer Mentorship Program. He listens effectively to students and is a wonderfully reliable person. He genuinely wants what’s best for his peers and he takes the measures possible to support them in this. Tao’s commitment to the students he engages with forges collegiality at New; students feel connected, welcomed, and meaningful contributors to the college community.

Chengming Zhang

Peter Zhang’s contribution to the academic transition of students within New College has been significant and valued. Serving as a Peer Mentor and Senior Peer Mentor in the First Year Learning Communities, he had a direct impact on the success of a group of first year students in the Life Sciences stream. He has also been an active member of the New College Student Council, filling the roles of Social Director and Graduating Year Representative. Peter could always be counted on to show up with enthusiasm when volunteers were needed, and demonstrated to his peers the positive impact of extracurricular involvement.