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A legacy handed down

Engineering students mark Dec. 6 with awards honouring École Polytechnique victims

- December 8, 2017

The recipients of the first Take Back December 6th Sisterhood Awards. (Bruce Bottomley photos)
The recipients of the first Take Back December 6th Sisterhood Awards. (Bruce Bottomley photos)

On December 6, 1989, a gunman at École Polytechnique in Montreal took the lives of 14 women, 13 of them students, the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history. The shooter explicitly targeted women, making his anti-feminist intentions clear.

Only one of the 14 Dalhousie Engineering students honoured at a candlelight vigil Wednesday afternoon was even alive 28 years ago when those horrific events took place. But the legacy of that tragic day lives in — not just in the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, but in those women and girls who continue to pursue studies in engineering and other fields in which they’ve historically been a minority.

Wednesday’s vigil, hosted by the Women in Engineering Society, connected past and present with the launch of the Take Back December 6th Engineering Sisterhood Awards. Sponsored by the Faculty of Engineering, the awards celebrate undergraduate students in Engineering who are role models not only to their peers but for girls in elementary, middle and high school. Each of the 14 awards is presented in honour of one of the victims of the École Polytechnique tragedy.

Read more: Remembrance and action

(Bruce Bottomley photos)

Take Back December 6th Engineering Sisterhood 2017

Meet the inaugural 14 members of the Take Back December 6th Engineering Sisterhood, and the École Polytechnique victims their awards recognize.

Florance Park, age 23, a senior Industrial Engineering student, has been nominated by her department for her work as president of the Industrial Engineering Student Society.  She is also the founder and facilitator for the Maker League at Discovery Centre, which introduces children ages 9-12 to core engineering skills, such as 3D modelling and coding.  In her spare time, Flo has acted in several productions with the Dalhousie Theatre Society. Her award is in honour of Anne-Marie Edward, Chemical Engineering student.


Morgan Robinson, age 23, a senior year Environmental Engineering student, was nominated by her department for her leadership roles as president as well as VP social of the Environmental Engineering Society. Morgan is also actively involved in promoting the engineering discipline and providing mentorship through the Go Eng Girl event and various faculty open house activities. She is also an avid coach for local young female hockey and softball teams. Her award is in honour of Annie Turcotte, Materials Engineering student.


Gabriella San Thiago, age 22, a senior Civil Engineering student, was nominated by her department for her leadership roles as President of the civil engineering society and vice=president of the student chapter of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers. Gabriella is also actively involved in the student team for the national concrete canoe competition and a passionate organizer as the co-chair for the first student-run conference “Building a Greener Future.” Her award is in honour of Geneviève Bergeron, Civil Engineering student.


Jane Ouillette, age 23, is a senior Mechanical Engineering student nominated by the Engineering Math Department.  She is a vibrant, dynamic, and self-driven do-er. She was the [resident of the Dalhousie Chapter of Engineers without Borders from May 2015 to January 2016, an organization with the goal 'to invest in people and their potential to build a more equitable world'. She now leads the chapter's policy and advocacy initiatives, working to build a Development Finance Institute with support for youth and female entrepreneurs at its core. She also has a 100 ton Captains License and is a certified whitewater canoe guide. From her professor and nominator, "She strives to be the change she wants to see in the world, her future successes will reward us all." Her award is in honour of Nathalie Croteau, Mechanical Engineering student.

Bintou Kaira, age 24, a senior Chemical Engineering student, has been nominated by the Department of Process Engineering & Applied Science. Bintou arrived here from Gambia as a scholarship student (the Renewable Slaight Family Foundation Scholarship) and has an impressive record of service inside Dalhousie and in the wider community. She has worked for the Imhotep’s Legacy Academy, first as a mentor and then as a program manager. She has been on the executive of the Dalhousie African Student Society for the past three years and is now its President. Bintou has also served on the executive of DUES and has been a member of the Dalhousie Medical Campus Response Team for the past three years. Bintou has received recognition for her exceptional commitment to service and her demonstrated leadership through two awards she has received this year: The Dalhousie Board of Governors’ Award (given to five Dal students in 2017) and the 3M National Student Fellowship (given to ten Canadian university students). Her award is in honour of Annie St-Arneault, Mechanical Engineering student.

Nayani Jensen, age 22, is a Mechanical Engineering co-op student from Halifax who is also an author, a playwright, a musician, an environmental researcher and a community volunteer. Nayani, Dalhousie's 91st Rhodes Scholar, won the Young Adult Novel Prize in the 2014 Atlantic Writing Competition with the first draft of her novel. She has also played violin with the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra and the Dalhousie Symphony Orchestra. She is also has an avid interest in environmental issues with her senior design project being a man-powered vegetation shredder that aims to help Common Roots Urban Farm compost waste material faster and much of her co-op experience has involved environmental applications. Her award is in honour of Maryse Laganière, who was the budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department.

Megan Behrens, age 28, a senior Electrical and Computer Engineering student, was nominated by her department.  Megan was a part of the Dalhousie ROV team that competed at the International event at NASA in Houston, Texas, where she received the MVP award for her technical knowledge and leadership.  Megan continues to be a TA in Engineering Math, and enjoys time being outdoors with her family and her dog. Her award is in honour of Michèle Richard, Materials engineering student.


Jacqueline Otterbein, age 21, is a fourth year Environmental Engineering student nominated by the Women in Engineering Society. She has been part of of WiE and was Co-Chair for this year’s Go-Eng Girl Event in November. The event invites high school girls to Dalhousie for a day to provide them with information on what engineering is, and lets them participate in a design project. She is also the current Chapter Leader for the Dalhousie Engineering Global Brigades Society. Every Year 15-20 engineering students travel to Honduras to help design and build a water distribution system for a community that does not have access to clean drinking water. She was a volunteer on this trip last May, and is now helping the next group of students fundraiser and organized for this years trip. Her award is in honour of Maud Haviernick, Materials Engineering student.

Kirsti Mason, age 22, is a senior Environmental Engineering student heavily involved with the sport of ringette. She was nominated by the Women in Engineering (WiE) Student Society. Kirsti has created the Rise Ringette Camp which is available throughout the Maritimes. Apart from her camp, Kirsti is involved with various ringette programs across Nova Scotia such as the U12 enrichment program and the RingStart program. RingStart is a program based out of Halifax targeted towards encouraging females between the ages of 5-10 to keep active by trying a new sport; ringette.  Kirsti is currently the VP athletics for the environmental engineering society, a member of the Women in Engineering Society and a centre for the Atlantic Attack who competes in the National Ringette League. During her time at Acadia University, Kirsti was President of the Acadia Engineering Society and Acadia Ringette Club. Her award is in honour of Anne-Marie Lemay, Mechanical Engineering student.

Ainsley Walsh, age 23, a senior Chemical Engineering student, was nominated by the Women in Engineering (WiE) Society. Ainsley has proven to be a dedicated volunteer both inside and outside of school.  She is the current President of the Chemical Engineering Society and has held VP positions on the Go Eng Girl committee for the past two years.  Outside of school, she has volunteered with the APEGNB Soap Box Derby, the Johnny Miles Festival, Tim Hortons Camp Day and the Terry Fox Run. Her award is in honour of Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, nursing student.

Peggy Boyd, age 22, a senior Materials Engineering student, was nominated by the Dalhousie Undergraduate Engineering Student Society (DUES). Peggy has been a dedicated member of the Dalhousie Women in Engineering Society since her first week at Dal.  Her first semester she was tasked with doubling the 30 registrations for Go Eng Girl and wound up increasing them to 75!  The following year she took on the role of President for the fall semester, doubling the number of girls sent to conference and helping the Go Eng Girl committee keep its high enrolment rate. She once again took on the role of President for the 2017 Fall semester, sending 12 members to Texas for the Women in Engineering Conference and is very proud of the Go Eng Girl’s very successful event for the 2017 season. Since 2010, she has been a member of Techsploration, a not-for-profit group that exposes high school girls to careers in trades, technology and sciences.  Throughout her time with them, she has evolved from student, to alumni, to volunteer and soon to role model.  Peggy has been dedicated to school outreach and to making sure that all girls are aware of the career option of a life in sciences and that they keep all doors open. Her award is in honour of Hélène Colgan, Mechanical Engineering student.

Maddie Smith, age 23, a senior Chemical Engineering student, was nominated by the Dalhousie Undergraduate Engineering Student Society.  Maddie is a former program leader at the Boys and Girls Club in Dartmouth where she motivated and encouraged a group of young students to participate in a variety of educational and physical activities to improve their mental and physical well-being. As a member of WIE at Dal she helped coordinate and plan events aimed at encouraging female high school students to pursue a degree in engineering. As part of her involvement with the overall engineering student body at Dal, Maddie sat on the student advisory committee to raise concerns of undergraduate engineering students during biweekly meetings with the Associate Dean. She is also an avid hockey and soccer player. Her award is in honour of Barbara Daigneault, Mechanical Engineering student.

Nicola Jones, age 23, a senior Electrical Engineering student, was nominated by the Women in Engineering Society.  Nicola volunteers at the library of the local Alliance Francaise and she is an active member of Dalhousie Gearheads. Her award is in honour of Sonia Pelletier, Mechanical Engineering student.






Heather MacKnight, age 23, a senior Industrial Engineering student, was nominated by the Women in Engineering Student Society.  Heather is an avid volunteer in the Industrial Engineering department. She served as class representative her 3rd and 4th years, and is currently the VP Communications for the society. In 2016-17 she served on the Executive Team for the IISE Conference as Co-VP Social. Outside of school volunteering, Heather has given generously of her time to organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Feed Nova Scotia, Hope Cottage, Armbrae Academy and FUNdamentals Special Olympics. She greatly enjoys being involved in her community, and in giving back to the organizations she is passionate about. Her award is in honour of Maryse Leclair, Materials Engineering student.


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