Social change to saving lives, Chancellor's Awardees make a difference

Three photos lined left to right: Jenna Andersen Gilbride (left), Cheryl-Lynn Townsin and Chase Cuckovich.

They came to Royal Roads University to further their careers, create social change and save lives. In pursuit of those goals, 13 graduates have received the university’s top academic honour.

The Royal Roads University?Chancellor’s Award?is presented to graduates who have achieved the highest academic excellence in their program. This set of awards honours students in the programs that designate Spring Convocation as their main ceremony. The award is a medal graduates can wear on Convocation Day and treasure for years to come.

“As Chancellor, I applaud each and every one of these graduates for their hard work and determination, and for their significant accomplishments,” says Royal Roads Chancellor and Chair of the Board of Governors?Nelson Chan. “I can’t wait to celebrate their achievements with them at our virtual Convocation on June 18.”

School of Leadership Studies

Cheryl-Lynn Townsin, while pursuing her?Master of Arts in Global Leadership, had to do it while grieving the death of her six-year-old daughter Lexi to a rare disease.

Townsin now wants to help advance research to develop an effective treatment or a cure for Blau syndrome, in Lexi's honour.

She has been a member of the Royal Roads staff since 2004 and is currently a student engagement coordinator. She reduced her work schedule to part-time when her daughter started experiencing health challenges as an infant, to meet her demanding medical needs.

“I dedicated my time to medical research to find her diagnosis,” Townsin says.

She helped start the Cure Blau Syndrome Foundation, to fund research for an effective treatment and a cure.

Around the same time, Road Roads launched the?Master of Arts in Global Leadership. Townsin was half way through the program when Lexi died suddenly due to Blau syndrome, just before her seventh birthday.

“At first, the idea of finishing this program felt impossible,” Townsin says. “But with the support and encouragement of the faculty and staff at Royal Roads, I shifted the focus of my capstone project to something that would give me a sense of purpose to carry on. I created a documentary film, sharing Lexi’s tragic story, with the hope that it will help others in the rare disease community.”

Townsin found the capstone process to be a source of healing, a place to document some of the many struggles she faced as a parent losing a child to a rare disease and share the stories of other families on similar journeys.

The most difficult part for Townsin in grieving for Lexi was finding her death may have been preventable with some simple changes to her health care plan.

“We witnessed so many opportunities for the system to better-serve complex health conditions and the need for leadership in the rare disease community,” she says.

Townsin continues to share Lexi's story with the hope that it could prevent future deaths.

“I hope that, in the future, I will be able to do more to implement the learnings from my MA in Global Leadership, not only in my career at Royal Roads, but also to advance research for rare diseases,” she says.

School of Communication and Culture

Deanna Morin, a former communications director, received the Chancellor's Award for her achievements in the?Master of Arts in Intercultural and International Communication?program.

Morin says she was motivated to further her education at Royal Roads by a desire to create lasting social change.

“I chose RRU specifically for this program because, through it, I could gain insight and understanding into intercultural communication issues, theories, and strategies that would challenge my biases and expand my cross-cultural competencies,” she says.

“Culture is omnipresent, and its study, crucial. Globalization and the proliferation of new media technologies necessitate effective intercultural and international communication because of the resulting tensions and the power differentials they expose.”

As human connectivity increases, so does the awareness of injustice, inequity and cross-cultural conflict, she adds.

“Building and fostering new cultural spaces and eradicating injustice may be lofty goals, but settling for less is to deny human worth, and I refuse to do that.”

Morin was surprised to receive the Chancellor’s Award and credits her peers as much of the coursework was team-based.

She is also receiving the?Founder’s Award?for her leadership qualities and commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.

“I will continue to challenge biases, build and foster empathy, invite collaboration, and co-create new cultural spaces where welcome,” she says.

School of Business

Before beginning his studies in the?Bachelor of Business Administration in Business and Sustainability program, Chase Cuckovich spent four summers fighting wildfires in BC. He was also a ski patroller, the manager of a coffee distributor, and a volunteer with the Langford Fire Rescue. His goal was to have a career in professional fire service.

More recently, he started working at the Capital Regional District, in the Integrated Water Services department. While doing emergency response and disaster management up in the greater Victoria watershed Cuckovic choose RRU to further his career.

“My future plans will be continuing to pursue a career in the fire service and the education that I have achieved from the university will help allow me to excel in this field,” he says.

“With the critical thinking skills and the nuanced problem-solving approach I have learned throughout my time at Royal Roads, I will be able think quickly in rapidly changing environments, which is an essential skill for a first responder to have.”

School of Tourism and Hospitality Management

Jenna Andersen Gilbride, a Nunatsiavut Inuk woman from the Inuit community of Makkovik, Labrador, received the Chancellor's Award for her work in the?Masters of Arts in Tourism Management?program.

“In my large family, I will be one of the first to receive a graduate degree, one of many things my father is extremely proud of,” says Andersen Gilbride, whose father and eight uncles and aunts survived residential school.

Andersen Gilbride, who gave birth while pursuing her degree, works as a visitor experience manager with the Torngat Mountains National Park/Parks Canada. Her capstone project at Royal Roads was titled?Path to Resilience - Indigenous Tourism Recovery Post COVID-19.

“As a born and raised Inuk from northern Labrador, with a passion for northern tourism development and a heart for the environment, my future goal is to promote the region as a tourism destination while celebrating and preserving Labrador Inuit culture and heritage, while fostering local economic growth in my home region of Nunatsiavut,” she says.

“I will also always advocate for Indigenous rights in any situation, and be willing to share my knowledge to the world.”

Other Chancellor's Award 2021 recipients:

  • Tina Chestnut, MA/MSc in Environmental Management
  • Ye Hee (Leona) Ahn, MA in Human Security and Peacebuilding
  • Emily Seggie, MA in Conflict Management
  • Sara Lussow, MA in Disaster and Emergency Management
  • Mirjam van der Ros, MA in Environmental Education and Communication
  • Susan Rochefort, MBA in Executive Management
  • Kemal Tunador, Master of Global Management
  • Anusa Sivalingam, MA Justice
  • Diane Wilmann, MA Leadership