The Hub Celebrating AU’s Governor General’s medal winners

Celebrating AU’s Governor General’s medal winners

Athabasca University honours top graduate and undergraduate students  

Every year, Athabasca University (AU) awards two outstanding 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. 

Rebecca Heiser (Doctor of Education in Distance Education ’24) earned the 2024 Governor General’s Gold Medal, which is given to the top graduate student.   

Andrei Afilipoaei (Bachelor of Science ’23) earned the 2024 Governor General’s Silver Medal given to the top undergraduate student. 

2024 Gold Medal

Governor General Gold Medal Award winner, Rebecca Wiser

Rebecca Heiser (Doctor of Education in Distance Education ’24)  

📍Charlotte, North Carolina  

During her four-year journey at AU, Rebecca Heiser travelled across international borders to collaborate on research, worked with educators to advance knowledge to improve learning, and excelled academically as the top graduate student at AU. 

A distance education researcher, Heiser published three separate studies on her dissertation topic—a first at AU. Her work examined international access to quality education through open and distance learning models.  

 She chose AU for her doctorate because of the university’s long-standing reputation as an international leader in open and distance education.   

“Athabasca University was the perfect place for me to grow as a distance education researcher, providing access to international perspectives that enriched my understanding and broadened my horizons,” she said.  

The skills and knowledge gained from the program have already been put into practice. She has collaborated with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania School Studies Council at Pennsylvania State University. Her multi-year grant focused on developing sustainable quality indicators for K-12 student-centred learning. This allowed her to translate her dissertation findings into localized contexts.  

During her studies, Heiser also travelled to Athens, Greece, where she co-presented research findings and showcased her commitment to global academic exchange. 

Completing her degree at AU brought a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment.   

“It has validated years of hard work and dedication to my academic and professional growth,” said Heiser. “The learning experiences, the academic and personal challenges that I overcame, and the relationships built during my studies profoundly enriched my life, shaping me into a more confident, knowledgeable, and well-rounded individual.”  

 Reflecting on receiving the Governor General’s award, Heiser said she felt a proud sense of achievement.  

“This award is a testament not only to my efforts over the past four years but also to the incredible support and mentorship from the AU learning community, especially my supervisor. My success is shared.”  

2024 Silver Medal

Governor General Silver Medal Award winner, Andrei Afilipoaei

Andrei Afilipoaei (Bachelor of Science ’23)

📍Calgary, Alberta

What does it take to win the Governor General’s academic silver medal? For Afilipoaei, finishing 35 of his undergraduate courses with an A-plus did the trick. 

After earning a high school diploma through the now-defunct Alberta Distance Learning Centre at just 14 years old, he almost immediately started working on AU courses. To say he was successful in his efforts would be an understatement. 

Balancing a professional tennis career with online learning, first for high school and then for his Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics, wasn’t easy. But the flexibility of online learning makes it possible for someone with drive, dedication, an eye for detail, and “some good, old-fashioned elbow grease.” 

“It is a tremendous amount of hard work, often frustrating and tedious,” Afilipoaei said. “To reach high levels, you need an advanced focus on details. The difference between an A and a B is just the minor details.” 

Not content to just leave his mark on his academic transcripts, he also left his mark by co-authoring a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal with his supervisor, Dr. Gustavo Carrero. They have presented this work modelling financial bubbles—such as the famous tulip mania in the Netherlands in the 1630s, or the more recent early 2000s dot-com bubble—at several conferences. 

Afilipoaei is currently enrolled at the University of Alberta in a master of science program with a specialization in modeling, data, and predictions. 

Celebrating Convocation 2024

Read more stories about AU students and grads as part of our Convocation 2024 coverage. 

  • June 19, 2024
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