Exceptional student leaders honoured with Governors' Awards

Rebekah Oomen, Sarah Bouchard, Chris Saulnier and Duane MacLeod

- March 29, 2012

Left to right: Duane MacLeod, Sarah Bouchard, Chancellor Fred Fountain, Rebekah Oomen, Christopher Saulnier. (Nick Pearce photo)
Left to right: Duane MacLeod, Sarah Bouchard, Chancellor Fred Fountain, Rebekah Oomen, Christopher Saulnier. (Nick Pearce photo)

They are the students who work long hours, keep up their good grades and have lots of school spirit.

The Governors’ Award is the top prize given to students who demonstrate exceptional leadership and community service. This year Rebekah Oomen, Sarah Bouchard, Christopher Saulnier and Duane MacLeod were honoured with the Governors’ Award at the first annual Dalhousie Impact Awards.

Read also: Glitter and gold at the 2012 Student Impact Awards

In a short period of time, second-year biology master’s student Rebekah Oomen has become one of the top student leaders on campus. Ms. Oomen came to Dal in January 2011 and quickly got involved in her department, volunteering with the Dr. Patrick Lett Biology Graduate Student Symposium. She then became President of the Biology Organization of Graduate Students (BOGS), co-coordinator of the student symposium and the Graduate Student Senator for the Dalhousie Student Union.

She currently works on 23 different committees and organizations.

“I wanted to push myself,” says Ms. Oomen. “I’ve never been president of anything before. I’m not comfortable speaking in public so I wanted to get the practice and get new leadership skills.”

BOGS regularly holds events every week, from seminars to “Bioween.” This year BOGS held the inaugural Graduate Student Retreat as an orientation event for incoming graduate students.

“My goal is to bring students together,” says Ms. Oomen. “Biology students tend to be really focused on our research. I want students to step out of the lab and socialize. It helps to give people a different perspective.”

Stepping up

Sarah Bouchard certainly understands the value of stepping up to a challenge. The fifth-year political science and religious studies major supports her fellow students through peer mentorship. In 2009, she helped the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in their Peer Partnership program and was named the 2011 Outstanding Peer Advisor.

Ms. Bouchard has also been active in the DSU. She was an o-week leader in 2009, off-campus leader director in 2010 and currently serves as vice-president academic and external. She made a big impact on Dal by co-directing the ‘Dalifornia’ video in 2010.

Fellow DSU executive member Chris Saulnier joined Ms. Bouchard at the awards podium. As two-time DSU President, Mr. Saulnier has made a significant contribution to Dal, helping establish, among other things, the DSU Department of Leadership.

Building connections with Yarmouth students

The final recipient this year, Duane MacLeod, might not be a familiar face to Dal students in Halifax, but he's had a crucial impact on student life in Yarmouth at Dal’s School of Nursing.

“When I first started [in Yarmouth], orientation was like starting a new job,” says Mr. MacLeod, who earned his Bachelor of Education degree in 2002 from Kingswood University. “We didn’t have the usual activities. We had a mini-presentation and started classes the next day.”

Mr. MacLeod set out to bring Dal school spirit to Yarmouth, even though he is a busy father of three young boys. In his first year, he started off small by getting Dal agendas to Yarmouth. Soon he was working with other students to start the Yarmouth-Dalhousie University Nursing School society (Y-DUNS) and join the Canadian Nursing Students Association.

“We wanted to build up school spirit,” says Mr. MacLeod. “We’re Dal students and we should be more connected to Dal.”

In his second year, Mr. MacLeod became Y-DUNS' first President. He helped run the first o-week in Yarmouth, plan the Nursing Ball and helped students raise $3,000 for the Nova Scotia Autism Society.

“Nursing students care about people and want to contribute,” says Mr. MacLeod. “We want to be known more in the community.”

While this year’s Governors’ Award recipients differ in their interests and goals, they all have one thing in common - a commitment to making Dal a better place.

“Your university career is about more than a degree,” says Mr. MacLeod. “It’s about your experience and leaving a legacy.” 


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