By Anna Maria Moubayed
Every year, Ryerson University recognizes students who have displayed exceptional academic work and contributed significantly to their communities. They will not be recognized in this article.
Outside of this minority of exceptional students, the rest of the student body has shown an understandable amount of fragility and indetermination in a time marked by constant change and turmoil. Although these students did not win any awards, Ryerson is nevertheless proud to recognize their mediocrity.
“These students are simply demonstrating a natural response to pursuing their learning goals in a pandemic. They’re not doing anything exceptional because the exceptional times are doing a number on them,” said Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi. “But that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve recognition, too.”
Alma Almond, a second-year nursing student hailing from southwestern Ontario, has had a love for knowledge since she was in elementary school, when she first started watching Jeopardy!
The game show motivated her to hold on to that love in university, where she now reads the complete introduction and conclusion of all assigned academic readings, rather than just the first and last sentences.
Almond, who is not one of the recipients of the Josette M. Billich nursing award because she only does the bare minimum, said she found a sense of belonging when she realized she could join her tutorials from the exact same spot where she watches Jeopardy—her bed!
“When I’m participating in my tutorial, it’s almost like I’m actually playing Jeopardy, except I’m losing money,” said Almond.
“They’re not doing anything exceptional because the exceptional times are doing a number on them”
Shushi Carey, who was not the recipient of the Dr. Marie Bountrogianni psychology award, is also focused on safely getting through this pandemic.
Carey, now a second-year psychology student, moved to Toronto from Calgary for her first year in 2020. She said the never-ending hell of dealing with changing pandemic restrictions and lockdowns in Ontario have shaped who she is today, for the worse.
“I’ve been trying my best to stay positive but it’s just so hard to focus at online school,” she said. “Sometimes all I think about is how tall my classmates are in real life since I’ve never seen their legs.”
To help her focus on her studies, she’s come up with a system to keep her motivated and on task. Carey always opens at least one shopping site on her computer while logging on for her lectures or doing homework. Each time she gets a task done, she buys something off her shopping cart.
Her favourite website is Amazon, where she often purchases her go-to: fake cacti.
“I’m still learning psychology, but I know for sure online shopping is what keeps me on track,” she said.
Carey also said she is committed to sharing her newfound knowledge with her peers to help them with their studies by posting Instagram Reels of her weekly shopping hauls.
Oliver Dugan, a first-year architecture student at Ryerson University, was not eligible to apply for the Marilynn Booth award this year. He logs into his online classes from different coffee shops.
“Going to these places gives me a nice background, which in turn gives me the confidence to turn my camera on,” he said.
“I also like to think it gives people at home a little boost,” he continued. “So they can be like: ‘Hey? Where’s this guy sitting now?’ It’s the little things that build community.”
His choice to turn his camera on during online classes has helped boost many professors’ morale and productivity.
“It’s really refreshing to not be talking to myself all the time,” said David Adva, a philosophy professor at Ryerson University. “I also spotted a new coffee grinder behind him during week two, which is now on my Amazon wishlist.”
Though Dugan has been a big help to professors and teacher’s assistants, he often finds himself alone in his commitment.
“Nobody else seems to be confident enough to do it, and I understand that, but it’s time we set our differences aside, be a little selfless and focus on finding nice backgrounds for online meetings,” he said.
Greg Kirkla, a second-year business student, is passing all of his courses with average grades and is working toward continuing the semester the same way. He does not have any outstanding achievements.
“My grades, they’re not too much and they’re not too little. They’re just right; exactly where I want them to be,” he said.
His average grades will guarantee him his parents’ tolerance, without any disappointments or high expectations.
“My motto is: just live, love, laugh and enjoy the economy,” he said.