Mount Allison student Oorja Gonepavaram receives 2022 3M National Student Fellowship Award
SACKVILLE, NB — Mount Allison University Arts and Commerce student Oorja Gonepavaram is the recipient of a 2022 3M National Student Fellowship Award. The student awards, only ten in Canada, were announced on April 26 by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE).
“I am honoured to have this opportunity and look forward to connecting with the other fellows and educators in the STLHE network,” says Gonepavaram. “Equity, diversity, and inclusion have always been important to me and I am excited to work and study further in this area as a 3M National Student Fellow.”
Gonepavaram is a fourth-year Bachelor of Arts student majoring in Commerce with minors in economics, Japanese studies, and religious studies. In February, she spoke at the University of California Riverside’s 2022 Conference on Queer and Transgender Studies in Religion. She was the only undergraduate student ever to present at the international event.
“Oorja is an outstanding student and community member at Mount Allison, advocating for and participating in many initiatives to build diversity, equity, and inclusion on our campus,” says Mount Allison University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Jean-Paul Boudreau. “On behalf of the entire University community I would like to congratulate her on this well-deserved honour and look forward to seeing what is next.”
As a 3M National Student Fellow, Gonepavaram will collaborate on a project with other recipients and present their ideas at the annual STLHE National Conference in Ottawa this June. She plans to pursue graduate school following Mount Allison.
“Our project will look at methods to transform post-secondary education in Canada, so it is more equitable, inclusive, and diverse,” says Gonepavaram. “As an international student coming from India, I understand some of the social and academic challenges students can face. In every experience and opportunity, I’ve aimed to increase my knowledge and understanding of other cultures and learn to be more sensitive towards them. I am excited to work with the other Fellows in this area and take part in the upcoming STLHE conference. I think it will be a wonderful learning opportunity.”
Throughout her degree, Gonepavaram has worked as a teachers’ assistant and tutor in many areas including economics, commerce, and religious studies. She also worked for the English Academic Bridging (EAB) program in the University’s Student Life office, which assists students whose first language is not English in their transition to university studies. Outside the classroom, Gonepavaram volunteered with the International Orientation committee as a team leader and mentor; was a conversation partner with the MASSIE program, which welcomes students from Japan to campus each year for an intensive English semester; and volunteered with MOSAIC, a student club devoted to celebrating and raising awareness around multiculturalism on campus.
In the fall of 2020, she was awarded the JEA Crake Scholarship awarded by the Crake Foundation at Mount Allison. This scholarship recognizes students studying in the humanities who have excelled in academics.
In addition to her studies and extracurricular activities, Gonepavaram is writing and illustrating her own children’s book titled As You Are, which addresses the complex intersection of Buddhism and the queer community. Still in process, the book project aims to increase acceptance of the Rainbow community within the Buddhist community by showing how Buddhist virtues of human rights and loving compassion go against homophobia. She hopes to publish the book in the future.
While Gonepavaram has given back to and served as an advocate in her community throughout her degree, she credits many individuals at Mount Allison for supporting her endeavours on campus.
“There are many people at Mount Allison who have supported and encouraged me throughout my degree,” she says. “I would like to thank in particular professors Dr. Susie Andrews (religious studies), Dr. Dani Dempsey (religious studies), Dr. Rosemary Polegato (Commerce) and Adam Christie (Student Life) for their encouragement throughout the Fellowship process.”
Adam Christie, Mount Allison’s director of student life and international services says Oorja’s commitment to diversity and inclusion has been influential across campus and in the wider community.
“Oorja has been a key driver and momentum-builder behind so many efforts and initiatives to create a more socially-conscious, culturally-aware, inclusive campus and community,” says Christie.
The 3M National Student Fellowship honours up to ten full-time diploma and undergraduate students at Canadian post-secondary institutions who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in their lives at their post-secondary institution. These students embrace a vision of education that enhances their academic experience and beyond.
STLHE is a diverse and vibrant community of educators, including college and university faculty, educational developers, administrators, national award-winning teachers, special interest groups and students (https://www.stlhe.ca/)