Christopher Yendt, recipient of the Dean of Graduate Studies Student Award
Christopher Yendt is a PhD student in the Department of Educational Administration, Foundations & Psychology (EAF&P), President of the University of Manitoba Graduate Students’ Association (UMGSA) and a passionate volunteer within the community. As a member of several different board of directors, Christopher has found a calling to make changes behind the scenes, “My life’s mission is to plant seeds for trees that I will never sit under,” says Yendt, “I want to create change that lets future travels find their way with a bit of shade or a place to sit as they pause on their journey.
Christopher was selected as one of the recipients of the Dean of Graduate Studies Student Achievement Award 2023. The award recognizes the outstanding academic achievement, strong leadership skills, and notable personal service of a University of Manitoba graduate student to the University, other students, and the community. “This award is wonderful because it recognizes a lot of different aspects about student involvement and the things we do. I really think that those are important to recognize just how intersectional the lives of graduate students are at our university,” he says about the importance of this award.
Christopher’s interest in student leadership and student government guided his decision to pursue his research topic exploring and understanding Queer student leadership, “my research looks at the experiences of Queer student leaders in post-secondary education and the similarities and differences that they may share more other queer leaders and leadership more broadly, trying to understand the ways in which systems either permit or disallow Queer leadership to exist, and how it continues to persist in spite of these systems,” Yendt explains. “It is really about identifying how alternate systems can be created to support queer resilience in those spaces so see queer leadership grow and succeed beyond the current contexts”.
The PhD program in the Faculty of Education offered Christopher an opportunity to work with researchers in the areas that they wanted to pursue, “It was the opportunity of a lifetime to get to work with such incredible researchers,” they remarked.
Christopher’s career as a student leader started back in 2011 while during their undergraduate studies at Brock University, throughout the years they have served in various student government positions, including their current position as President of UMGSA. “I really saw an opportunity here and a good fit to step in and provide some different perspective, background and resources on my own career and to guide the next steps of where the UMGSA can go,” says Yendt.
As President, they are responsible for ensuring that the UMGSA runs effectively and sits on the UM Board of Governors, the Senate, and chairs the Executive Committee. Their goal during his one-year term is to be able to, “create something that is strong and robust and has the capacity to be able to respond to emerging demands whatever those look like,” Yendt says. “Everything that I do here whether it is the strategic plan or organization restructure, always thinking about ways in which roles that we have right now could better serve graduate students.”
Christopher’s focus as President of UMGSA is to be “able to do things now that I know will create lasting systems so folks can come many many years later and the association will still be strong, will still have a clear purpose, will still be able to provide and support students in the areas that they need,” they explained.
The UMGSA Executive’s focus for this current term is based on four issues raised during the previous election campaign: Financial pressures, safety across UM campuses, developing a strategic plan for UMGSA, and increasing collaboration between graduate student groups.
For Christopher their commitment to community and volunteer work over the years comes from a true calling, “to get involved in doing more that behind the scenes so that we could make changes in the system that I knew would benefit someone down the road, even if they didn’t know who I was or what I did,” they said.
With over ten years’ experience within student government space, in conjunction with their involvement on different boards and committees, Christopher shares some words of wisdom for current and future UM students, “I would say get involved wherever you can, getting involvement can really will help you distinguish yourself as you move forward in your career, whether that be within academia or beyond. It lets you meet new people and learn things you never would if you remained focused solely on your academics,” Yendt said.