Announcing Athabasca University’s 2023 Alumni Award winners
Athabasca University (AU) alumni are transforming lives and transforming communities all around the world. We think that’s worth celebrating!
Nominations for the 2024 Alumni Awards are now open! The nomination deadline is March 29, 2024.
Each year, the university recognizes alumni who blaze trails in their respective fields and make the world a better place.
The 2023 AU Alumni Award winners are shining examples of the transformative power of education, making huge impacts in education, science, health, and the not-for-profit sector, and all of them have spoken about how AU helped them do it.
Distinguished Alumni Award—Chryssa Lazou
Chryssa Lazou (Master of Education in Open, Digital, and Distance Education ’19) still remembers how hard it was being a little Greek girl in a different country, with a different education system, and speaking a different language.
Although the time her family spent as immigrants in Germany was ultimately short-lived—she was born in Germany but her family returned to Greece when she was just seven years old—she said she continues to carry her experiences as an immigrant several decades later in her role as an educator.
“This is the reason I try to volunteer when I have immigrant students, or when we had the long-term accommodation centre here in Kavala,” she said. “I have tried to do my best to support these people.”
Rising Star Award—Dr. Michael Country
Dr. Michael Country (Bachelor of Science ’14) remembers sleeping on friends’ couches and paying for one AU course at a time, reading his university textbooks while walking to or from one of his jobs.
Fifteen years later, the 2023 AU Rising Star Award recipient is a postdoctoral fellow with the Laboratory for Hibernation Biology at RIKEN, Japan’s largest comprehensive research institution. And with his experience, which includes cutting-edge research and more than a dozen academic publications, his future looks bright.
“The only reason I’m in academia at all, the only reason I’m a scientist, is because of Athabasca University,” he said.
Volunteer Service Award—Narine Dat Sookram
Throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic, people all over the world faced all kinds of challenges. Without the support of dedicated volunteers and mental health professionals like Narine Dat Sookram, it would have been a tougher time for everyone.
Sookram (Bachelor of Professional Arts, Human Services Major ’18) said while he was able to support many people, both in a paid capacity and in doing pro bono counselling work during the pandemic, he gained as much as he gave.
“As much as it was good for those I reached out to, it was also good for me because I need to connect with people for my own mental health,” he said. “It was needed during the time of the pandemic.”
Future Alumni Award—Karli Jahn
Karli Jahn’s weight stigma research helps to shed light on society’s biases against larger bodies, and is rooted firmly in her own experiences with an eating disorder.
Now in recovery, the 2023 Athabasca University Future Alumni Award winner and Calgarian has dedicated her Master of Counselling research to this topic, with plans to soon continue this work with a PhD. The Future Alumni Award recognizes the leadership, service, and potential of a current AU student.
Her own experience with weight stigma, and how people—including family, friends, and boys she was interested in—treated her so differently when she lost significant amounts of weight due to her eating disorder, inspired this work.
Lifelong Learner Award—Louise Daley (posthumous)
Athabasca University can offer higher education to nearly anyone, anywhere, at any point in their lives.
There is no better example of a lifelong learner at AU than Louise Daley (Bachelor of Arts ’99, Bachelor of General Studies ’17). She has been posthumously awarded the inaugural Lifelong Learner Award, which recognizes an AU student who seeks to expand their knowledge and skills through continuous learning.
Tireless in her commitment to lifelong learning, she was partway through a third degree—a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies—when she had to stop for health reasons. She died in 2021 at 97 years old.