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Jean L. Polfus, winner of the Governor General’s Gold Medal for outstanding achievement at the graduate level.

Jean L. Polfus, winner of the Governor General’s Gold Medal for outstanding achievement at the graduate level.

Academic medalists 2017: Students creating pathways for change

June 5, 2017 — 

Launched in 1873 to encourage academic excellence across the nation, the Governor General’s academic medals have become the most prestigious award for outstanding achievements that Canadian students can receive.

This year, the Governor General’s Gold Medal for outstanding achievement at the graduate level will be awarded to Jean L. Polfus.

Originally from Wisconsin, Polfus graduated summa cum laude in environmental and evolutionary biology from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, an Ivy League university, and received a Master of Science in wildlife biology from the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana.

Her doctoral research at the Natural Resources Institute in the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources, focused on caribou variation through an analysis of population genetics and the relationships that people establish within complex biocultural systems, specifically the Dene communities of the Sahtú Region of the Northwest Territories. She currently lives in Tulı́t’a, a small, Dene and Métis fly-in community about 600 km northwest of Yellowknife, with her husband and seven-month-old son.

Three other Governor General’s medals are being awarded this spring: Mario Phaneuf, will receive a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (Electrical) and the Silver Medal for outstanding achievement at the undergraduate level; Brian Archibald, School of Agriculture, received the Bronze Medal for highest standing in the two-year diploma program in agriculture; and Jasmine Bonefant, School of Dental Hygiene, will receive the Bronze Medal for the highest standing in a two-year diploma program other than agriculture.

In addition to the Governor General’s awards, 17 University Gold Medals are also awarded for highest standing in an undergraduate faculty, school or college.

While these medals are awarded for academic achievement, the recipients are highly successful in- and outside the classroom, and credit the extracurricular and research activities as well as their coursework as being highly influential to their future plans.

Danielle Fenn will be the recipient of the University Gold Medal in Fine Arts. She credits her time at the University of Manitoba with teaching her to lead through action, how to speak her mind and how to be critical without being cruel. During her studies, Fenn participated in research where she focused on the theme of enhancing devalued persons and voices through art or art analysis. Outside of the classroom, Fenn is a member of the Children Rising Skownan Mentorship Program.

Deborah Chan will receive the University Gold Medal in Nursing. Throughout her four years at the University, Chan has been a thoroughly engaged student having in her first year of studies, co-founded Active Minds, a student-led group that seeks to change the conversation about mental health on campus. She was also elected as an associate delegate to the Canadian Nursing Student Association. For two summers at the Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg, she assisted in the Canadian Health Infant Longitudinal Development study birth cohort that explores how early life exposures affect the development of chronic diseases.

University Gold Medal recipients, 2017

Agricultural and Food Sciences: William Pallister

Architecture: Jason Wall

Art: Danielle Fenn

Arts: Emily Gerbrandt

I.H. Asper School of Business: Stephen Busilla

Dentistry: Ryan Howard

Education: Ashley Brekelmans

Engineering: Mario Phaneuf

Kinesiology and Recreation Management: Jenna Hnatiuk

Law: Danielle Dubois

Music: Gregory Lewis

Nursing: Deborah Chan

Pharmacy: Erika Hartel

Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources: David Moore

Science: Aryan Riahi

Social Work: Richelle Ready

Universitaire de Saint Boniface: Eileen Swiderek

More details on Spring Convocation can be found here.


Each session of Convocation will be streamed online. Follow #umanitoba2017 on Twitter and Instagram.

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