May 30, 2022

Class of 2022: Meet our spring 2022 President’s Award winners

Inspiring graduates recognized for academic achievement, leadership and contributions to community

The University of Calgary is pleased to announce the spring 2022 recipients of the President’s Award for Excellence in Student Leadership. The award was established in 2008 to recognize exceptional graduating students who have a record of outstanding academic achievement, leadership and significant contributions to our community.

Helena Cherniak-Kennedy

Helena Cherniak-Kennedy

Helena Cherniak-Kennedy

Helena Cherniak-Kennedy

Combined Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Science (Honours)

Helena Cherniak-Kennedy is an advocate for empowering women in STEM and finance.

She held various leadership roles with Women in Science and Engineering and, as a founding executive of the UCalgary Chapter of the Association for Women in Math, organized events such as Sonia Kovalevsky Day, which encouraged high school girls to pursue math. Cherniak-Kennedy was also co-president of the UpLIFTED student executive, which is part of Scotiabank’s UpLIFTED Women in Finance Development program. Through this volunteer work, she organized an interactive workshop to help female students prepare for finance interviews.

She also co-created the Motivate(her) podcast, which features women succeeding in male-dominated industries to bring together a community of women and inspire students to feel unbounded in choosing a career.

Cherniak-Kennedy pursued her academic skillset with passion. She competed in several case competitions nationally for her faculty and finished first in 2021. She gained financial experience with the Calgary Portfolio Management Trust, a student-run investment fund and was a pro bono consultant for the student-run University of Calgary Consulting Association.

Additionally, she was co-chair of the Chancellor’s Ambassadors Club, a teaching assistant in multiple courses, a research assistant, and undertook her honours thesis in mathematical finance.

Cherniak-Kennedy will be starting her career as an investment banking analyst at J.P. Morgan.

Chaten Jessel

Chaten Jessel

Laura Wan

Chaten Jessel

Bachelor of Science (Honours)

Chaten Jessel worked diligently throughout his degree to make the university a better place for students whilst achieving high academic performance including having two first-authored, peer-reviewed publications in top journals in the field of pharmacogenomics, as well as a prestigious invitation to present his work at the annual meeting of the Pharmacogenomics Global Research Network.

As the Students’ Union Faculty of Science representative, Jessel took part in 19 different provincial, university, Faculty of Science and Students’ Union committees, and led many impactful initiatives.

One such initiative was his advocacy for open education resources — free alternatives to textbooks. He helped create the $500,000 Open Education Resource Fund and a related librarian position — now permanently staffed. This initiative was a major contributing factor to Jessel being awarded a prestigious 3M student fellowship.

Jessel also worked with other university departments to create Pre-Pathways to Education for Indigenous Students in Southern Alberta. The project addressed issues that Indigenous learners can face in remote settings and made it possible for over 160 Indigenous students to take pre-requisite classes not available in their communities.

Jessel also contributed to many student clubs with his time and energy. With the Neuroscience Students Association, he created a virtual meet-up. With the Run for Little Ones, he helped raise $37,000 for the Alberta Children’s Hospital. With the TEDx Club, he helped create a space where students could practise public speaking. He also founded a student-led advocacy body in the Faculty of Science. The club’s first event aimed to help students find academic research placements.

He was also an orientation leader and helped implement equity, diversity and inclusiveness bias training into orientation programming. As a peer helper for the Leadership on Demand program, he planned and facilitated workshops on leadership skills.

Jessel hopes to continue working for the betterment of others as he moves on to the next stage of his life.

Shaelene Standing

Shaelene Standing

Shaelene Standing

Shaelene Standing

Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours)
Biomedical Sciences

In remarkable fashion, Shaelene Standing’s unique passions and experiences enriched the university community.

Through the UC Dance Company, an SU club she founded, Standing taught dance to hundreds of students, organized performances at DINOS athletic games and fundraised for causes.

Additionally, diagnosed with juvenile glaucoma in her left eye as a child, Standing reflected on her own impairments and used those experiences to become a role model for youth through dance. Her thoughtful accommodations as a volunteer dance teacher for the Alberta Sports and Recreation Association for the Blind and Kids Cancer Care made it possible for youth who may have medical barriers to learn dance.

Contributions to the dance community aside, Standing also represented students on the Bachelor of Health Sciences Student-Faculty Liaison Committee, the Future Alumni Network and the Medicine Alumni Advisory Council. She was a member of UCalgary’s Scholars Academy, where she took the opportunity to learn web design, a skill she used many times over — as a volunteer for the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta, in support of an online toolkit warning of the dangers of vaping, and on a website she designed to promote homemade masks that she made for vulnerable groups.

Standing has also been deeply involved in numerous research projects including a study about retinal cell renewal as part of an honour’s thesis. She has a passion for clinical-based research and volunteered with eight research projects throughout her degree.

Standing will attend medical school at UOttawa as part of their 2026 cohort and will also continue research on clinical treatment assessments for the paediatric population.