You might think U of G’s top undergraduate students have no time for fun because they’re too busy studying, but they still managed to balance their academic and social lives.
Dan Recoskie admits that earning a 97-per-cent average wasn’t easy. He was one of two undergraduates to receive the Governor General’s Silver Medal for the highest average at the June convocation.
Recoskie graduated with a bachelor of science in computing and information science with a minor in math. He will begin a master’s degree in computer science at the University of Waterloo in the fall.
When he found out that he had received the award, he says, “I was pretty happy.”
Even with a heavy course load consisting mostly of computer science and math, he managed to keep his weekends relatively open, except for studying for exams. “I worked hard,” he says. “I tried to schedule my time so that I had enough time to finish everything. I didn’t want to leave stuff to the last minute.”
Besides attending classes, he worked on research projects with faculty in the School of Computer Science and presented a paper on how computers recognize the location of objects at the International Conference on Pattern Recognition Applications and Methods in February.
Recoskie advises students to stay on top of their coursework and seek help whenever they need it, as every new concept is based on previous learning. “I think it’s important not to fall behind,” he says. “If you don’t understand something, work a little harder at it and if you still don’t understand, talk to your profs or TAs. Don’t be afraid of profs. I’ve never met a prof who hasn’t enjoyed what they teach.”
Natalie Binette, also a silver medal recipient, is no stranger to winning academic awards, having graduated from high school with the top grades in her class. “I wasn’t really expecting it,” she says of the medal, “because you would think that there is always someone smarter than you with higher marks, and it’s really competitive.” She credits her 96-per-cent average in biomedical science to hard work – and to her equally hard-working boyfriend, Jeffrey Friesen.
Having a boyfriend or girlfriend in the same program could be a distraction for some students, but it proved to be an asset for Binette. She and Friesen often studied together. “He definitely helped me out,” she says. “If I didn’t understand something, chances are he did.” It comes as no surprise that his average is also in the mid-90s.
Binette’s academic advice includes, “Find something that you enjoy. There’s no point working hard at something that you don’t like. You will succeed if you really enjoy it.” She excelled at math and science in high school, she adds, so biomedical science was a good fit for her.
“I loved every minute of Guelph,” she says. “I’m so sad to leave.” Her fondest memories include participating in College Royal and entering her pet in the cat show. She also played intramural hockey and helped start the Free the Children club on campus.
Her parents are family doctors, one of her older brothers is a medical student and the other is studying aerospace engineering. She will attend medical school at the University of Western Ontario in the fall.
Receiving the Governor General’s bronze medal for the highest average in an OAC diploma program came as a surprise to Allison Dykxhoorn, a student in the equine program at Kemptville Campus. “I knew my marks were really good,” she says, “but I had no idea I had the highest mark, so I was pretty happy.”
Even though she graduated with a 92.6-per-cent average, she still maintained a social life. “I just studied really hard,” says Dykxhoorn, adding that she found it easier to study a little bit every day instead of cramming the night before an exam. “I found that I could still have fun with my friends if I just got my homework done right away. I was the person who did it when I got home after school every night so that I could spend time with my friends after.”
She volunteered with College Royal and rode in the horse show. “That was my first horse show ever, so that was a pretty big moment.” She also leased a horse on weekends and worked at a barn. Although she grew up on a dairy farm in Tillsonburg, Ont., she fell in love with horses after working on a horse farm for a year in Australia. This September, she will begin the equine production and breeding program at Olds College in Olds, Alta.
The gold medal for the top graduate student went to master of fine arts student Paul Vermeersch. Created in 1873 by Lord Dufferin, Canada’s third governor general, the awards recognize academic achievement.