The prestigious 2023 Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Award was given to Laura Devenny, ArtSci ’23, Nishana Ramsawak, PhD ’24, Samara Lijiam, ArtSci ’23, and Jane Mao, MEd ’23.
Rector Owen Crawford-Lem and a committee decided on the four after a nomination and interview process. The students will be inducted into the Tricolour Society on June 17.
“It’s fantastic to see students being engaged in the work around campus—whether it be equity work, whether it be with the University [or] whether it be with the community,” Crawford-Lem told The Journal in an interview.
Jane Mao, Med ’23
Championing equity work on campus from a student perspective, Jane Mao is the equity and diversity commissioner for the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) at Queen’s.
They’ve contributed to the Kingston community by spearheading OPIRG Kingston’s Gender-Affirming Assistance Project (GAAP) and volunteering at Roots and Wings, which educates Kingston youth on social justice issues.
Mao brought the psychology department’s name pronunciation project to life, a project reducing microaggressions associated with name pronunciation.
Working with Queen’s Black Pre-Medical Association, Mao created workshops to break down racial stereotypes and help youth regain a sense of self after the pandemic.
“We did workshops that really tried to ground youth back into their own bodies and recognizing what movement can do for their bodies and like what community can do for them, and their holistic self,” they said.
Mao looks up to the founder of Stolen By Smith, Kelly Weiling Zou, Comm ’21, and former Tricolour recipient for mobilizing change quickly and broadly.
“I see [Zou] as a truly empathetic, compassionate, reflexive person. And being in a space that was so harmful for her, she still was able to manage to find community,” Mao said.
“It doesn’t go unnoticed all of the support that I’ve had throughout the years and I’m truly really grateful and thankful for all of the people that have been here for me.”
Samara Lijiam, ArtSci ’23
Samara Lijiam is the president of Queen’s Student Alumni Association (QSAA), a former AMS Social Issues Commissioner, and an EDI Student Assistant at Queen’s Yellow House. She was nominated for the award for the Tricolour Award by a friend.
Lijiam told The Journal her time as Social Issues Commissioner was “life changing.”
“I think it was the role where I had the most impact,” she said.
“My advocacy focuses were around police presence on campus, sexual violence, and ethnical business practices. I created […] the Indigenous Initiatives Coordinator and the Gender & Sexual Diversity Assistant Manager.”
As the current President of QSAA, Lijiam said the opportunity to form relationships between students and alumni has been incredible.
Past Tricolour alumni have impacted Lijiam’s time at Queen’s, namely Ampai Thammachack, Catherine Haba, Nicole Osayande, Michaela Patterson, and Kelly Weiling Zou.
“I’m really impressed with the other winners this year,” Lijiam said.
Following graduation, she hopes to work in politics or for a non-profit and continue serving marginalized communities.
Laura Devenny, ArtSci ’23
Laura Devenny is currently the Chair of the AMS Board of Directors with past roles as the Secretary of Internal Affairs, Chief Electoral Officer, and Assembly Speaker.
One of the highlights of Devenny’s time at the AMS was last year’s Rector elections.
“When we found out that we had six candidates that were running, it felt like kind of an amalgamation of all the hard work that we put in for elections […] We had a great election that year,” she said in an interview with The Journal.
Most of Devenny’s roles have been in student government. She’s been able to use her insider knowledge to address problems and make decisions at the Board level.
“Whether it be approving new personnel restructuring, contract extensions, financial planning investments—I’ve been able to bring that perspective,” Devenny said.
Former AMS President Jared den Otter was a role model for Devenny and the main reason she stayed with the AMS during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He had such amazing, empathic leadership and understood what I needed, understood what students really wanted out of this election, and he encouraged me to keep going and keep pursuing positions within the AMS,” Devenny said.
“He believed in me—I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Devenny is grateful to have met so many people at Queen’s and has loved understanding how different systems at the AMS work.
“I’m so grateful and so happy to have met all these fantastic people.”
Nishana Ramsawak, PhD ’24
Nishana Ramsawak received the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (SGSPA) award for Leadership, Innovation and Community Engagement last September 2022 for her work in youth STEM education.
Ramsawak teaches BIPOC students science, technology, engineering, and math. When the program started in June 2020, there were 20 participants. Now, the program serves 380 participants.
At the camp, Ramsawak has helped students design water treatment labs and water filtration systems.
“We were able to design the lab and make it easy and practical and exciting and interesting for them,” Ramsawak said in an interview with The Journal.
Ramsawak was one of the first Graduate Inclusivity Fellows at Queen’s and helped promote inclusivity and diversity on campus. She worked to disseminate information to international students and make them feel at home.
Working with Kingston organizations such as Dawn House and Kingston Youth Shelter, Ramsawak organized a charity drive over Christmas in 2020.
“Nobody really takes into consideration mothers [during Christmas],” Ramsawak said.
She wants to recognize her supervisors, Sarah Jane Payne and Yves Filion, for their constant support.
“They’ve always been beside me, not behind me. And having them beside me has really allowed me to thrive,” Ramsawak said. “It wouldn’t be possible without them.”
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