Receiving the President’s Medal as a awarded to a graduating student who has made an outstanding contribution to campus activities while maintaining a superior academic record means more to Katrina Bahnam than prestige.
“I’m a first-generation student,” says the newly-minted alumna, who received her political science degree during Convocation ceremonies Monday. “My parents immigrated from Iraq in hopes that my brothers and I could pursue our dreams. This medal represents their sacrifices and all that they left behind for us. And it represents all of the love and support I had along the way.
“In short, I am so, so grateful for this honour.”
In citing Bahnam for the award, provost Patti Weir called her “a shining role model for other students who seek to balance stellar academic achievements alongside leadership, community advocacy, and a high level of dedication to those in need of support around them.”
Bahnam maintained high grades and conducted research work as an Outstanding Scholar on the project “Feminizing Party Difference” with professor Cheryl Collier and “Citizen Engagement in Municipal Decision Making” with professor John Sutcliffe.
She worked as a teaching assistant and volunteered as a mentor for peers in political science and welcoming new students to campus. She has held the presidencies of the Mock Trial Association; the Society of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; and a student chapter supporting the United Way.
Her previous recognition includes the Best Buddies Friendship Award for her work with adults on the autism disorder spectrum at Harmony in Action; the Human Rights and Social Justice Award from the campus Office of Human Rights, Equity, and Accessibility; and awards of excellence and student of the year from the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance.
Bahnam says the most important this she learned is to ask for help when you need it.
“When I was entering my third year, I was diagnosed with two chronic illnesses,” she says. “It forced me to learn to ask for help along the way — with schoolwork, extracurriculars, and my mental health.”
She says asking for help made all the difference in the world.
“It reminded me I’m human and can’t do everything alone,” says Bahnam. “And importantly, it made my university experience more enjoyable and gave me time to focus on and prioritize both my physical and mental health.”
In September, she will take up her long-time dream of studying law at the University of Ottawa.