Meet our Medal Recipients of the Spring 2020 Convocation

Posted on Friday, June 19, 2020

A woman in a graduation gown

Samantha Stanzel 

Gold medal recipient

The University Gold Medal for the highest standing in the honours bachelor program in the Faculty of Engineering was awarded to Samantha Stanzel. 

Samantha has always had an interest in engineering. She has always found the combination of math and science-driven problem-solving appealing.  

“I would be lying if I said I was 100% certain of Chemical Engineering as a career path when I first started my undergraduate degree, something I’m sure most students can relate to […] In the end, I’m glad I chose to pursue Chemical Engineering, specifically owing to both an array of diverse employment opportunities and the ability to use theoretical and practical experience to solve problems,” said Samantha.   

Throughout her studies, she surrounded herself with a great group of classmates. They would encourage each other to succeed and collaborated on projects together. Her friends really pushed her to think critically and allowed her to excel in a team environment. Samantha’s professors also had a positive impact on her success and would offer academic and career-related support whenever needed. 

 “The most important contributors, however, were my family. Their moral support was only superseded by their constant reminders that every day is a good day to laugh,” she shared. 

Samantha’s most memorable moments at uOttawa happened outside of the classroom. First, throughout her program, she was presented with many opportunities to extend her knowledge. Then, through the CO-OP program, she got to travel across the country for various placements and apply the theory she had learned and put it into practice. Moreover, Samantha enjoyed the capstone Plant Design project in her fourth year. According to her, it “was a unique way to culminate four years’ worth of hard work, while offering the opportunity to present our project at a national competition.” 

Samantha revealed that balancing her workload and her social life was challenging: 

“Early on, I realized the importance of making time to do things and spend time with people outside of the academic environment. With good time management, I was able to have some semblance of normalcy, but this is something that I’m still always working on.”  

Finally, Samantha shared a few words of advice to those considering pursuing their studies in engineering: 

“You have to be ready to put in the work, but the opportunities that stem from the engineering programs and the connections that you’ll make along the way are definitely worth it in the end. Also, carry the curiosity that attracted you to the program throughout your degree – don’t be afraid to ask questions and take the initiative to research topics that interest you.” 

A woman wearing a graduation hat and cape

Eleni Sabourin 

Silver medal recipient 

The University Silver Medal for the second-highest standing in the honours bachelor programs in the Faculty of Engineering was awarded to Eleni Sabourin 

Eleni was studying in a different program before she decided to change into the Mechanical Engineering program.  

“I felt like I was sitting idly by in a field that I didn’t really enjoy, while amazing things were being accomplished, and huge strides were being made in the fields of technology and engineering. I decided that I wanted to be a part of it. I’ve always been curious about how things work and had a knack for math and science, so Mechanical Engineering seemed like a good fit,” shared Eleni. 

Her parents had a significant impact on her academic success, and she believes that they influenced her passion for science.  

“Their constant support allowed me to dedicate myself to my studies and gradually learn to be confident in my abilities, as I constantly doubted myself in the beginning,” she said. 

The friends she’s made at uOttawa were also a great help. When facing difficult challenges or situations, it helped to know that she wasn’t alone. Moreover, Eleni’s friends at uOttawa helped her when facing challenges. “It helps to know you’re not alone”, said Eleni. In the Mechanical Engineering program, she enjoyed being surrounded by classmates that were always willing to help each other.  

“If I was ever stuck on a problem or something I didn’t understand, there was always a student, sometimes a perfect stranger, that would give me tips or advice to help me get through it. This feeling of community rather than competition made the whole experience more enjoyable,” she shared. 

As someone who puts a lot of pressure on herself, Eleni did face a few challenges during her studies. She revealed that anxiety affected her in many forms: from a lack of motivation to feeling like she didn’t deserve to be in her program.  

She shared her insight: “I wasn’t taking enough time to do things outside of school and to take care of my mental health, which is extremely important. I still struggle with this sometimes, but I am slowly learning that my mental health should come first.” 

Finally, Eleni shared some advice to someone considering studying in engineering:  

“Engineering is hard work, and it will take a lot of getting used to, but hard work does pay off in the long run. I think the best piece of advice I have is to work hard, start from day one, but never work to the point of making yourself sick or burnt out. Ask for help if you’re struggling. There will always be someone there to get you through it.” 

A woman smiling

Shanel Gauthier

Silver medal recipient 

The University Silver Medal for the second-highest standing in the honours bachelor programs in the Faculty of Engineering was awarded to Shanel Gauthier. 

Shanel initially aspired to pursue a career in science and she studied natural sciences in college. She then decided to pursue a double bachelor’s in biotechnology at the University of Ottawa. 

“During my first year, I was exposed to the programming language ‘C’. From that moment, I knew my journey belonged to the software engineering world. Thus, I decided to continue my studies in Software Engineering at the University of Ottawa, and it was the best decision I have ever taken,” said Shanel.  

Shanel was glad she chose to change her program to Software Engineering.“It was a better fit for me, and that’s why it was easy to dedicate a lot of time to the lessons while having fun studying.”, she shared. 

Throughout her studies, Shanel set clear goals, which motivated her to work hard. She surrounded herself with good people who encouraged her to strive for success, including her family and the staff at the University of Ottawa. Also, she reveals that the staff made her studies at uOttawa very memorable. 

 “Among the undergraduate studies office employees, I had the chance to meet an employee, Melanie Sarrazin, who gave me a lot of help and support. Whenever I had a question, she was always available and happy to help me. I also met passionate and very competent professors who gave me the desire to invest myself 100% in the courses,” revealed Shanel. 

Her professors encouraged her to pursue a master’s degree, which she is glad she decided to do so. 

When switching into Software Engineering, Shanel noticed that there were far fewer women in the program, which was slightly challenging for her, but she revealed that she quickly found her place. 

Finally, Shanel would like to share a few words of advice to anyone considering pursuing their studies in engineering:  

“The advice I would give is to take the CO-OP option. It’s the perfect opportunity to network and gain industry experience. I would recommend doing each CO-OP in a different organization. This way, we can see what we like and what we don’t like and start growing our professional network.” 

She also added the following: “Because I had the desire to understand the material that was taught, this pushed me to see the professors during office hours. I must admit that it really helped me as they are there to help us. They were always very happy to see us.” 

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