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Press Release ‑ Introducing Dalhousie University’s 2024 Board of Governors' Award winners

Posted by Communications, Marketing and Creative Services on April 11, 2024 in News

Thursday, April 4, 2024 (Halifax, N.S.) - Four students from across Dalhousie University were awarded the university’s most prestigious student leadership award, the Board of Governors Award. The accomplishments of these students illustrate the many ways student leaders can inspire and ignite change.

This year's recipients — nominated by their peers in the Dal community, and chosen by a committee consisting of the president, Board members and the vice-provost student affairs — were honoured at this year's Impact Awards in late March.

Meet the 2024 Board of Governors’ Award recipients:

Eshan Arora
Fourth year, BSc in Medical Sciences (Honours)

Inclusion is the topic that’s near and dear to Eshan, who is of Indian heritage and speaks four languages (English, Hindi, Spanish and French). His extensive advocacy for and commitment to supporting students from marginalized groups within Dalhousie and beyond was recognized with this year’s President’s Award for the Advancement of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (EDIA), in addition to his Governors’ Award.

As program lead of the Dalhousie Science Scholars and Leaders Program (DSSLP) and president & founder of the DSSL Society, Eshan has helped to foster a more supportive environment for underrepresented, diverse students in STEMM studies — working to “demystify,” as he puts it, the unwritten rules and resources of academia through volunteering, community social events, and establishing a place of belonging. 

He’s been a mentor and tutor to African Nova Scotian cohort students in the Inclusive Pathways to Medical Professions (IPMP) program, as well as an advisor to Dal’s Accessibility in Course Design Task Force, and helped launch a new bursary to address gaps for band-funded Indigenous students. For his capstone project as an inaugural member of the High-Performance Student Leadership Academy, Eshan has been working with the Faculty of Science on a proposal for creating a new Certificate in Science Diversity.

What unites Eshan’s academic studies in Medical Sciences and his extracurricular projects is a passion for helping care and support those in need — a drive inspired, in no small part, by his family. His older brother, now 33, lives with a severe neurological condition from complications cause by childhood meningitis. Eshan, says the experience of watching and helping his family navigate care informs many of the activities he involves himself with. This includes co-founding the Dalhousie BforKai Chapter. Inspired by the tragic death of Acadia student Kai Matthews, BforKai advocates for meningitis B vaccination and helps educate students and others about the disease and its impacts.

Emilia Cordova, Science
Fourth year, BSc in Biology and Chemistry

As an immigrant from Ecuador arriving in a foreign country, Emilia’s student experience was significantly impacted by COVID-19. During this time, she sought out fellow Latino students to help ease the transition but had trouble finding them.

"I think when you’re an immigrant in a foreign country, you try to find your people,” she says. “It makes you feel like home. You can speak your own language. You can connect with people that know your background. You can relate to them more.”

When campus started to open back up, Emili joined the Latino and Hispanics in STEM Society as an executive and started hosting events, such as a Latino trivia night. The gatherings drew in Latino students, but also people from other places interested in learning more about Latino culture.

In her third year, Emilia was elected vice president of student life at the Dalhousie Student Union (DSU). She and her team promptly introduced a Multicultural Week where they sourced applications and granted funding to different societies to showcase their culture whether through music, dance, or cuisine. Emilia also championed orientation late-night DJ parties, attracting more than 1,200 students, and led a proposal for sanctioned homecoming activities on campus this year.

Emilia is eagerly looking forward to the summer where she will be researching artificial spider silk protein development. Next fall, Emilia will begin her PhD in Chemistry at McGill. 

Tanha Tanjila, Arts and Social Sciences
First year, Masters of Arts in International Development Studies

Tanha Tanjila was about a year-and-a-half into her undergraduate degree in finance and business at a Nova Scotia university when she felt compelled to make a change. On an exchange year in the U.S. at the time, she signed up for a course on global economics in hopes it would help answer some of the questions bouncing around her brain about inequality.

Tanha discovered a passion for a whole new field of study and ended up transferring to Dalhousie to complete her undergrad in International Development Studies (IDS).

“I think that’s the best decision I’ve ever taken in my life,” says Tanha, who is now a masters student in IDS at Dal. “In the last two and a half years of my undergrad, I saw an exponential growth in the way I perceive the world. I wake up every day happy with my studies and what I do because I feel like it’s meaningful.”

Tanha first arrived in Canada from Chittagong, Bangladesh at 19 to study. She took advantage of bridging programs such as Stay Nova Scotia and Dal’s International Student Work Experience program to build connections and develop skills she would eventually parlay into a gig as an English language studies facilitator at Dal and, later, as a language teacher with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS).

When a volunteer from the Canadian youth refugee resettlement organization WUSC spoke to her class one day about volunteer opportunities, a realization dawned on her. “I was like, ‘Oh my, I have so much support and it’s still difficult. Imagine someone who doesn’t even have that kind of support network I’m coming from.’”

She began volunteering with Dalhousie’s WUSC chapter. When COVID hit in 2020, the group went on a bit of hiatus due to international travel restrictions. Members graduated and by the time borders began to re-open, the Dal chapter’s ranks of volunteers had evaporated. Tanha helped the group rebuild, volunteering her time to train people even after she finished her BA in the fall of 2021. Following that, she went on to work for WUSC ‘s national operations, delivering in-person training to university chapters in Ontario.

Tanha has grown increasingly worried about the effects of recent changes to Canada’s immigration and refugee settlement process. Her master’s research explores how these policy shifts are making it more onerous and time consuming for resettlement organizations and private families to sponsor refugees and newcomers. Her hope is that this research could ultimately help influence policy change. 

Gaurav Arora, Medicine

Third year, Doctor of Medicine

Opportunities — and the lack thereof — are something Gaurav knew well before arriving at Dalhousie for his undergrad in biochemistry and economics in 2013 and again for medical school in 2021. Gaurav’s high school in Amherst, a rural town in Nova Scotia, didn’t have international baccalaureate (IB), advanced placement (AP), or other programs tailored towards students succeeding in university.

“I noticed in my first year that a lot of people found things easy because they had seen the material before,” he says. “That wasn’t the case for me.” 

This prompted Gaurav to seek out and share as much information as he could with others like him. 

Gaurav has taken on a variety of roles during his undergraduate studies from volunteer, co-leader, and cast member to committee member, president, co-founder, and mentor. While this community minded work is noteworthy, it is his involvement in the first three years of med school that have prompted his Board of Governors award now.

Recognizing a lack of opportunities to practice Point of Care Ultrasound (PoCUS) skills outside of the curriculum with medical equipment, Gaurav applied for and received a $5,000 QEII Foundation Grant for Student Initiatives. This funding enabled him to found and lead the Dalhousie PoCUS Club, providing an interactive and hands-on learning experience not previously available and an opportunity for interprofessional collaboration.

Gaurav’s passion for medical education and mentorship throughout his time in medical school. He has been instrumental in organizing “Ask an Upper Year Med Student” events. The events assist his classmates and those in earlier years of medical school with transitioning to the next level of their training, whether from pre-clerkship to clerkship or from clerkship to residency.

Together with his team, he has also contributed to the creation of a Clerkship Survival Guide and, most recently, the development of a fourth-year electives guide, designed to assist his peers and students transitioning into clerkship next year.

His knack for connecting with others extends to his patient care and advocacy, too. The desire to help others also shines through in his work with the Halifax Newcomer Clinic, which assists new-to-Canada patients transitioning to Nova Scotia’s health-care system.

For full profiles on each award recipient, please visit Dal News.

Media Contact:
Lindsay Dowling-Savelle
Media Relations Manager
Dalhousie University