Five students have been honoured with the Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Award this year in recognition of their exceptional contribution to the university.
Nominations take place in the fall of each year and are reviewed by a selection committee chaired by the Queen’s Rector in late January. The recipients were announced on Feb. 13.
The award recognizes non-athletic extracurricular contributions to the University. It includes induction into the Tricolour Society and is considered the highest commendation a student can achieve in this category.
Mark Asfar, ArtSci ’14
Since his first year at Queen’s, Asfar has been deeply involved in the AMS and the Queen’s Debating Union (QDU).
He is currently the Administration Manager at the Student Life Centre and a member of QDU, where he previously served as the 168th Socials Director and 169th Equity Officer.
His extensive list of contributions includes a part-time job as a campus tour guide and involvement with one of the SSHRC’s research projects this year. Asfar will be returning to Queen’s for law school in the fall.
“You can’t pull me away from this tricolour, crazy-spirited community — I just love it too much,” he said.
“I hope to do the award justice — I’m not going to stop now. I am going to keep contributing and trying to give back to the community because I think Queen’s is great and that’s what we should do if we want to be a part of this family.”
Jessica Searle, Nurs ’14
Searle played a critical role in the leadership and development of the Nursing Science Society during her term as president in 2013.
She formalized the Society, its proceedings and created three new positions including a speaker and two internship roles for first years.
During her presidency, the School of Nursing received the highest level of accreditation from the College of Nurses of Ontario, something it will maintain for the next seven years. Searle said her most important contribution was advocating for students.
She is currently the ThankQ Champion for the Nursing class of 2014, an initiative that aims to raise money for the Jack Project at Queen’s.
“It’s the biggest honour I think I have ever received,” she said.
“My primary nominators were the two students in the internship roles that I created, so that was very humbling to have first years nominate me for this.”
Naheed Yaqubian, JD ’14
Yaqubian is president of the Law Students’ Society and founder of The Happiness Project, a peer support resource.
She founded and witnessed the ratification of the Law Students Society of Ontario, an Ontario-wide advocacy body aiming to address the academic and professional needs of law students in an evolving profession.
Yaqubian will be working at a top labour and employment law firm in Toronto after graduation.
“I think in all of the different things that I do, I’ve always wanted to be some sort of advocate for other people, I think that theme sort of resonates throughout other things that I’ve done, whether it’s advocating for other students with The Happiness Project, or with the Law Students Society of Ontario,” she said.
“I’m very excited to receive [this award], but I’ve had a really, really great time here at Queen’s, and this is sort of like the icing on the cake.”
Isabelle Duchaine, ArtSci ’14
Following her position as AMS Academic Affairs Commissioner last year, Duchaine is currently a Faculty of Arts and Science Senator, the Student Senate Caucus Chair and co-chair of the politics Department Student Council.
Her contributions have primarily been in academic development and institutional structures, and some of her current work centres around program closure policy and the establishment of departmental curriculum committees.
“It was the most incredible experiential learning opportunity that a politics student could have — actually writing, developing, and passing (hopefully) policies that meant a lot to portions of your community,” she said.
“Hopefully, the kind of recognition that myself and the other people are getting this year from the award inspires other people to get involved, because I always say there’s a lot of ways you can effect change at Queen’s, and a lot of ways you can build your community.”
Digvijay Mehra, ArtSci ’14 Mehra is the first ever re-elected President of the Queen’s International Affairs Association (QIAA) and previously served on the Model UN team’s executive.
Under his leadership, QIAA has successfully grown to one of the largest clubs within the AMS.
He is the founder of Effective Altruists at Queen’s and has also been involved in the Queen’s University Liberal Association and the Queen’s South Asian Association (QSAA).
Mehra said his most important contribution was spearheading QSAA’s Holi Colourfest, a celebration of the festival of colours.
“I’ve really kind of lobbied for more club autonomy, for the AMS to really take the clubs community more seriously and give it the resources and respect that it deserves,” he said.
“As a result of my being recognized for this award, it’s almost as if the clubs community is being recognized.”
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