2018 SAMRU Award Winners

Congratulations, 2018 SAMRU Award Winners!


Inspiring Culture Award

Andrea Heron

As a single mother of two children, Andrea has had to work around many challenges and barriers to get back to school. Despite these obstacles, she entered MRU in 2013 and is working towards her Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Psychology. One space where she found support was the Iniskim Centre, which in turn motivated her to offer support to others. She has also volunteered with the Calgary Board of Education and as a research assistant on projects of her own initiation. While opportunities to volunteer can be limited due to academic and parental duties, Andrea likes to invest her personal time in programs that benefit the campus and the Indigenous community whenever she can.

Beyond Disabilities Award

Zak Bowles

As a young athlete, Zak’s focus in grade school was playing hockey. During this time, his grades took a backseat and he earned the minimum he needed to graduate. Two years after high school his involvement with sports dwindled and he felt that it was time to once again hit the books. It only took a year for Zak to notice a change in how he viewed school, and he was accepted into the business program. He is now halfway through his degree and has founded Taking Strides, a club that now has 147 student volunteers and helps children with mental and physical disabilities with their physical literacy. Zak is excited about the future of the program and the impact it will have.

Gender and Sexual Diversity Award

Nathan Lawley

Nathan has been involved with the Students’ Association for the past four years, which was when he started his Bachelor of Arts program at MRU. Working in various capacities, his most recent role has been as a member of the Relationships, Identity and Sex Planning and Implementation Committee. As a member of this group, he has helped execute events such as Gender Bender, Sex Toy Bingo, Queer Book Club, and the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Nathan believes in making the campus a safer and more accountable space for students who are marginalized due to their gender or sexuality.

Deanna Cardinal Memorial Award

Wacey Little Light

Now in his second year studying ecotourism and outdoor leadership, Wacey enjoys finding ways to enrich and advance the Indigenous presence at MRU. Generation Indigenous, or Geni, is a new non-profit created by students for which Wacey helped launch the department of events, bringing a monthly speaker series called “This Is My Story” to fruition. He also volunteers regularly with the Iniskim Centre and helped with the grand opening of MRU’s Office of Academic Indigenization. Wacey will continue to be part of efforts that educate all people of the history, culture, and responsibility of living in Treaty 7, and he is proud to be part of a university that allows him to do that.

Excellence in Community Service Club Award

MRU Surf Club

The MRU Surf Club was formed in the fall of 2016. Originally created with the intention of introducing members to the sport of river surfing, it quickly became a place for like-minded people to create strong bonds and build connections. In just two years the club has served over 400 university students, donated $5,000 to a local surfing association, and helped create Calgary’s first surf festival. With the attention river surfing is garnering in the city, club members can one day look back with pride, knowing they were leaders in the development of a new sport, and reminisce over the countless memories, friendships, and experiences that helped shape their personal development.

Excellence in Membership Service Club Award

Improvination (Improv) Club

Improv is a discipline that promotes working with others, the acceptance of new ideas, and the ability to think on one’s feet. Since its inception in 2010, the Improv Club has helped its members accomplish these objectives by offering weekly workshops, monthly improv shows, and a yearly award for most improved improviser. By providing a safe environment for its members to enhance their skills, the improv club is preparing students with techniques that can be used in their everyday lives and throughout their careers.

Teaching Excellence Awards

Mike Tzanakos

Creating a successful foundation for learning requires an instructor who embodies patience, guidance, and the ability to engage and motivate students. Mike Tzanakos is an instructor at MRU who embodies these qualities and influences his students through his passion for mathematics. He ensures each student has the proper tools and skills to be successful, and his open-minded approach to learning makes him a remarkable professor. For those rekindling their relationship with education, Mike is an inspiration, and proof that with hard work, anything is possible.

Scott W. Murray

A history professor in the faculty of arts, Dr. Murray’s commitment and inspiring enthusiasm for learning does not go unnoticed. While some shy away from the high standards he expects from his students, others embrace it as they know he only wants to challenge and motivate them to be better. Specializing as a holocaust educator, Scott not only teaches this important material to his students, but also contributes to an area of scholarship that is far-reaching in our society.

Joe Anderson

As a history professor, it is important to challenge preconceived notions students have about history and make the topic interesting and thought provoking. Joe Anderson achieves this by motivating his students to employ disagreement, debate and decision-making in and out of the classroom. Joe is a teacher who will go above and beyond for his students and promotes collaboration by using techniques that help students come out of their shells. He is considered a mentor, a leader, and an exemplary educator by his peers and those he teaches.

Alexis N. Peters “Dr. P”

Teaching out of the Sociology department, Alexis Peters – or Dr. P, as her students have so kindly nicknamed her – goes above and beyond, teaching in a way that engages students and keeps them coming back to her classes. Some of the ways she does this is by using inclusive language, brilliant humour, and content relevant to all. From extended office hours, to staying late after class, to her approachable demeanour, she helps her students feel empowered and valuable. Alexis is making the world a better place through her efforts in and out of the classroom, something that does not go unnoticed by her students, past and present.


Champion Awards

James Robertson

James has supported the MRU campus community for over 25 years. A lawyer by profession, James started his relationship with SAMRU by offering a free legal clinic through the Peer Support Centre, helping hundreds of students with free legal advice in that time. He also served as Chief Returning Officer for the Representation Executive Council elections, Annual General Meetings and many referenda and plebiscites over several years. During most of this time James also sat on the SAMRU Advisory Board, whose function is to guide the Student Governing Board in their decision making process. James has always supported SAMRU’s mission and vision, and his integrity and commitment truly make SAMRU an organization that serves and represents students to help them succeed.

Stacey Wood

As a nursing instructor, Stacey Wood goes Above and beyond to improve the education and Experience of her students. By utilizing her wisdom and educational background, she enriches and enhances learning and encourages others to consider all aspects of patient care. She is non-judgmental, approachable, and empathetic, and addresses the stereotypes and stigmas attached to psychiatric nursing with those she is teaching. Stacey is a registered nurse with six years of psychiatric experience and has a master’s degree in nursing with a focus on teaching.


Open Education Champion Awards

Dr. Pamini Thangarajah

Dr. Pamini Thangarajah is an associate professor in the department of mathematics and computing. She joined the MRU open educational resource (OER) community of practice, which many of her students supported, as it meant they didn’t have to buy a textbook for the course. Pamini has also demonstrated her support of this program by presenting a talk during the SAMRU initiative, MRU OER Days. She is a strong advocate for OER, and recognition of her work will help assist continued effort towards creation of future open educational resources.

Dr. Erika Smith

Erika Smith has been a constant champion for open education and open pedagogies and has demonstrated her support for open educational resources (OER) in several ways. She presented a talk on the “top 5 open education myths” and co-hosted a booth during MRU OER Days, completed an oer grant-funded initiative, and has been a co-facilitator of the MRU faculty community of practice. Erika’s dedicated efforts have increased awareness and opportunities for professors to learn about open educational resources, and to integrate them into their classrooms. She is an assistant professor and faculty development consultant in the Academic Development Centre.

Cari Merkley

As an MRU associate professor and librarian, Cari Merkley has been a constant advocate for open educational resources (OER) at MRU. Having organized numerous events for MRU OER Days such as the OER Petting Zoo and Lightning Talks, she has also provided extensive support and feedback for the OER initiative. In addition to her work on campus, Cari has supported open education as the previous editor in chief of an open access publication. She works diligently to support undergraduate students and faculty in the departments of Nursing, Midwifery, General Education, and in the Academic Development Centre.


Citizenship Awards

Kendra Shores

Kendra is a fourth year Honour Roll student enrolled in the Business Administration program. She is also heavily involved with Enactus MRU, a student club that explores ways to improve the world through social entrepreneurship. As the past vice president and current president, Kendra has already contributed over 1,500 volunteer and work hours, providing mentorship and leadership to her fellow peers. As Kendra reflects on her time at MRU, she is forever grateful for her experience with Enactus. She remains excited about continuing her involvement as an alumnus and to providing ongoing mentorship and inspiration to future MRU teams.

Vivian Ly

At the age of 12, Vivian volunteered at the Mustard Seed and discovered she had a passion for helping others. Over the years she has accumulated thousands of volunteer hours with organizations such as the Kerby Centre, Between Friends, Kids Cancer Care, and the Alberta Children’s Hospital. In the summer of 2017 she even co-founded a charity dedicated to students in Vietnam who wish to learn English. Although this nursing student’s volunteer activities have changed over the years, Vivian still focuses on what she enjoys most: helping others who are embarking on a personal journey of recovery.

Nicole Chowanetz

In addition to being a mother of five children, Nicole volunteers her time to many different causes and is working her way through a sociology degree. She is a part of the Harry G. Schaefer Mentorship Program and a member of SAMRU’s Ski and Snowboard Club. A great deal of Nicole’s schedule is also dedicated to volunteering her time outside of school. She runs her own family day home and volunteers at Colonel Belcher’s Care West Residence, where she facilitates visits with the day home children and the elderly. Nicole hopes her successes will prove to her children that a little hard work goes a long way.


Committed Learner Awards

Toluwanimi Okunola

In January of 2016 Toluwanimi got on a plane and flew to Canada to pursue a higher education. Leaving behind everything and everyone she had known in her life, she was alone in a strange new country. Now in her second year of the social work program, the experience has been amazing despite struggling to afford the costs of tuition as an international student. Working city wide – without a car – and sometimes functioning with only a few hours of sleep, Tolu has persevered and exceeded her own expectations, making the Dean’s Honour Roll last semester. Despite all she has been through, Toluwanimi is undeterred in her pursuit of her education and a better tomorrow.

Mohsen Esmaeili

Originally from Iran, Mohsen immigrated to Canada five years ago and has experienced many challenges along the way. Learning French and English, going back to school, and facing financial concerns are some of the issues Mohsen has had to overcome. He is aware, however, that not many have this opportunity to start over, and so feelings of gratitude motivate him to give back by tutoring his fellow peers and volunteering with seniors. Mohsen is in his second year of the Bachelor of Business Administration program.


Bronze Awards

Wengelawit Kebede

In her fourth year, Wengel will be graduating soon with a Bachelor of Business Administration with bittersweet feelings. While excited for the next adventure in her life, the impact MRU has had on her has forever changed the way she views herself and the world in an utmost positive way. Serving on the VP Academic Advisory Council, working as a peer social justice educator, and participating as a member of the African Caribbean Club, Wengel has had enriching experiences while in school. Being involved on campus has been critical to her postsecondary experience, and she feels it is her duty to pass along her knowledge and experiences to lift those around her.


Carolyn Ly

Soon after Carolyn entered post-secondary, she realized she was unprepared for what university entailed. The lack of information she had motivated her to create a mentorship program at her former high school, which she has been organizing for almost two years. Back at MRU, Carolyn serves as the vice-president of the Student Society of Science and Technology. Bringing together science and social justice issues is something she is passionate about, and she helps organize events to focus attention on these two topics. By adding her voice to areas lacking information, Carolyn believes she is shaping a new environment that will better include and look after all people.


Silver Awards

Kayla Pearen

Kayla is passionate about being involved in her community, both in and out of university. As a third year psychology student, she belongs to the Psychology Student Society through SAMRU, is the club president for the Behavioural Sciences Undergraduate Journal, volunteers for the Psychology Research Symposium, and is a learning peer through Student Learning Services. Outside of campus, Kayla volunteers at Hospice Calgary and holds two jobs, one with Repsol Sport Centre and the other at the YMCA. Kayla is accustomed to working this hard, as she has held two jobs, volunteered, and kept up with school since grade eleven.

Alexandra Daignault

Alexandra is in her last year of Honours English, pursuing a minor in Indigenous Studies, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In addition to her schooling, she is also committed to philanthropy and volunteerism. She dedicates her time to numerous causes, including acting as a student representative on the MRU Student Changemaking Council and as vice president for the Film & English Student Society. In 2017 Alexandra also started a small tea company to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women. During her time at Mount Royal, she has discovered that is it difficult for one student to be outstanding when surrounded by so many that shine brightly.


Gold Award

Vanessa Boila

In 2016 Vanessa’s life changed when she made a daunting leap from full time teacher to full time student. Now studying psychology, she has been able to celebrate numerous academic accomplishments while helping others and passing on acquired skills and knowledge. Countless hours have been spent within the MRU community as a peer mental health leader, research assistant, and as a psychology student representative. Off campus Vanessa has dedicated over 400 hours to the Distress Centre, acting as a crisis volunteer. Next year will be her last at MRU, and Vanessa is excited for more personal growth opportunities that await on the path ahead.


Outstanding Student of the Year

Diana Kurila

Diana is in her third year of an education degree, and during that time has been able to volunteer, work as a high school chemistry tutor, and maintain marks to achieve the President’s Honour Roll each year. She serves with SAMRU on the VP Student Life Committee, is a third year classroom representative for the Education Undergraduate Society, and works with Stepping Up, an initiative to end dating violence. She is currently planning a workshop about healthy relationships with the Calgary Women’s Emergency shelter. As well, she started volunteering for Students On Sustainability in January of 2018, Where she creates a safe space for children to learn about sustainability and climate change. With all that she does, Diana is still excited for what is to come in her leadership roles.