Celebrating AU’s 2023 Governor General’s medal winners
Athabasca University honours 2 stellar 2023 graduates with the Governor General’s Gold and Silver Medals for their outstanding academic achievement
Every year, Athabasca University (AU) awards 2 exemplary students with the Governor General’s Academic Gold and Silver Medals.
The medals are awarded annually to outstanding scholars at Canadian universities, colleges, and high schools. Students who achieve the highest average are eligible.
Michelle Monkman (Master of Nursing ’23) earned the 2023 Governor General’s Gold Medal, which is given to the top graduate student.
Denys Pushenko (Bachelor of Arts ’23) earned the 2023 Governor General’s Silver Medal given to the top undergraduate student.
2023 Gold Medal
Michelle Monkman (Master of Nursing ’23)
Michelle Monkman is a First Nations registered nurse from Kinosao Sipi Cree Nation who has spent her career serving Indigenous populations working in urban and rural Manitoba. She currently lives in Brandon, Man. as a program lead for SE Health’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis program team.
Monkman finished her Master of Nursing, with a leadership focus, in August 2022. She spent her time in graduate school strengthening her capacity to advance Indigenous health and promote cultural safety.
“I don’t think that I thought something like that was possible for me,” said Monkman. “I feel proud as a First Nations woman to be representing my nation. This was part of my whole desire to want to go to school. I wanted to be a role model to other Indigenous people and show that it’s possible. Winning the gold medal is just the icing on the cake.”
In her everyday work, Monkman remains committed to advancing Indigenous health equity and health system transformation. She achieves this by educating health-care providers to meet the health needs of Indigenous Peoples more effectively and by co-developing community health service solutions for Indigenous communities across Canada.
Monkman’s proudest achievement is her family. She has 4 children and a grandson.
2023 Silver Medal
Denys Pushenko (Bachelor of Arts, ’23)
Denys Pushenko is a nurse and a researcher with the Neuro International Collaboration. He was born and raised in Kyiv, Ukraine, until making Canada his home in 2011.
He lived and worked in Ontario until June 2022, before moving to Quebec and settling there with his family, who arrived in Canada last year after fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Pushenko has an extensive post-secondary education. He earned a nursing diploma with honours from Sheridan College in 2013, an honours bachelor of science with high distinction from University of Toronto in 2020, and now, a Bachelor of Arts from AU.
“Getting recognized for all the hard work, commitment, and long hours spent studying and preparing for the exams felt incredible,” Pushenko said. “Finally, I get to appreciate the help and guidance provided by my family, friends, and instructors,” he said.
“Overall, the moment I found out about winning the Governor General’s Silver Medal was filled with emotions that will serve as a motivation for me to continue pursuing further opportunities that lie ahead.”
Throughout his nursing career, Pushenko has worked in long-term care, home health care, and community and public health. He even worked in the film industry performing COVID-19 testing for cast and crew members of numerous Netflix shows filmed in Ontario. He enjoys the fulfilment that comes from serving others.
For the past 6 years he has volunteered with Erindale College Special Response Team—a University of Toronto division of St. John Ambulance He served as an on-campus responder, then divisional training officer, and now as special operations officer.
Pushenko plans to continue his journey in the health-care field. He aspires to become a physician and make a positive impact on the treatment of neurological disorders in children and adolescents.
Congratulations to the 2023 Governor General’s Gold and Silver Medal winners for their incredible academic achievements and dedication to improving the lives of the people and communities around them!
Celebrating Convocation 2023
Read more stories about AU students and grads as part of our Convocation 2023 coverage.