We’re putting a much-deserved spotlight on our spring 2020 graduation award winners. These are the students who were to be honoured for their exceptional achievements at spring convocation. Though we couldn’t spotlight them on the convocation stage this spring, we’re thrilled to celebrate these stand-out students through special features.

Emily Wright, BSc (Honours) in Mathematics
Hometown: Hampton, NB

Emily was the winner of both a President’s Prize and Governor General’s Medal this spring. The President’s Prize is awarded to graduates whose generosity, energy and commitment enrich the university. The Governor General’s Medal is presented once per year for the highest aggregate in the final three years of a degree program (undergraduate) and the top graduating Master’s student.

Q: Why did you choose to study at MSVU?

A: “MSVU was one of the universities that recruited me to play varsity volleyball. Besides having a great volleyball team and athletics program, I wanted to make sure the university was the right fit for me. When I came for a tour, I was pleasantly surprised at how welcoming everyone was. I got a strong feeling of inclusiveness and family when I visited, and I knew it would become my home away from home. I have never regretted my decision to study here.”

Q: How have you been involved on campus during your time as an MSVU student?

A: “During my time on campus I was involved in a variety of things. I played on the MSVU women’s volleyball team for three years which kept me very busy, and I did some tutoring on the side. In my fourth year, I wanted to do more around campus, so I got involved as a Mount Mentor where I got to know a lot more about campus life and student issues. My involvement with the MSVU Student Athlete Mental Health initiative when I played volleyball opened my eyes to the need for greater mental health support and programs on campus, and that led to my position as a Peer Support Work for the Stay Connected Mental Health Project in my final year. I was a TA/marker for one of my professors, have been a student ambassador (with the Student Recruitment office), and involved with WISE Atlantic and CAGIS (organizations for women and girls in science). I found the more I became involved, the more people I met and that enriched my time at university. I have made a lot of great friends and been inspired by so many talented and giving people.”

Q. What is your favourite location on campus and why?

A. “I had two spots that I visited frequently on campus: Tim’s to get a cup of tea before heading to the library, and when I needed a moment to myself, I headed to the end corner study sections of the McCain hallways for a nice relaxing view of the basin, which changes every season.”

Q: What surprised you about MSVU (or your program)?

A: “I think the first surprise for me was how small the class sizes truly are. For me, my classes were like a close-knit family with my professors and classmates and that made for a great learning environment. We got to know each other well and I think this made the working and study relationships better. For such a small university, the students and alumni do a lot of great work on campus, around the community and around the world. It’s inspiring!”

Q: Tell us about your extra-curricular activities, both on campus or off?

A: “The first summer I decided to stay and work in Halifax, I got a part-time job off campus. When classes started again my employer was happy to work around my class and volleyball schedule. I ended up working two or three part-time jobs at one point, but I managed well. I volunteer with the Atlantic Association for Research in the Mathematical Sciences outreach program, Kiwanis International (an organization dedicated to improving the lives of children) and attended a Jack.org conference to revolutionize mental health. Besides that, I enjoy going to the gym, hiking the trails around Halifax and travelling.” Q: What was your research involvement during your time at MSVU? A: “Yes, I spent three summers working under the guidance and supervision of Mathematics professor Dr. Danielle Cox, thanks to funding from the Undergraduate Student Research Award from NSERC and the Jeanne Sauvé Research Assistantship for Women in Science. We studied a few different problems in Graph Theory and this work helped me to complete my Honours thesis in Graph Theory in December. The opportunity to do research gave me a greater insight into the world of mathematics and career opportunities, and it also helped me to prepare and present my thesis. I also had the opportunity to attend and present my research findings at various conferences throughout the Maritimes.”

Q. Is there a particular course, book, experience or event you would recommend to others?

A: “I didn’t plan to be a math major when I came to MSVU, but after taking a few math classes, I quickly realized what my passion was. I suggest never ruling out any classes too soon. Some courses outside of your program are more similar to your major than you think. My favourite classes vary a bit, all the way from calculus, probability and graph theory, to organic chemistry, anatomy and physiology and computer programming!

I would also suggest that you get involved around campus if you can. You don’t have to be involved in everything, but find something that you enjoy and lend a hand – it’s so rewarding. While volunteering and working around campus, I met a lot of other students, faculty and staff, and learned a lot about different courses and programs offered at the Mount. That helped me figure out what courses I could take as electives. Keeping an open mind when choosing electives can introduce you to things you had no idea you’d enjoy. So, I encourage everyone to participate in events on campus and to share your talent and ideas – you never know what could come of it.”

Q: What class, professor, project or learning activity has held the most meaning for you? Why?

A: “Although the math department is small, it is mighty! I owe a special thank you to Dr. Danielle Cox who opened my eyes to math and the opportunities it can provide. Danielle always inspired and guided me to do my best. Dr. Tina Harriott also deserves my gratitude for supporting me and offering her guidance on many occasions. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of professors throughout my degree – they supported me through some tough times and course material.

I have a passion for helping people, so being fortunate to attend a university that provides so many opportunities to make a difference has really opened my eyes and filled my heart. Being a part of so many conversations and events to make MSVU and Halifax a better environment for all students has been really exciting and very rewarding.”

Q: If you could share just one piece of advice with your pre-MSVU self, what would it be?

A: “I would tell myself that the time spent at university is one of great change and growth and the person you were when you started will not be the same person when you graduate. And that’s all part of the process. University is as much about learning what you do like as it is about learning what you don’t like. It’s ok to change courses, majors or direction. It’s your path to follow and it never has to be linear. Embrace the changes and the growth.”

Q: Tell us about a favorite MSVU memory.

A: “It’s hard to pick just one! But one of my favorite memories is emceeing open campus day and early advising day. I always enjoyed sharing the great things about MSVU with prospective and incoming students – the things you only really learn about once you get to campus. I wanted students to know that this university may be small, but great things come in small packages. So many young students believe that larger campuses will give them a bigger and better experience but, for me, it is the small and intimate university setting that makes it much more fun and enjoyable. Sometimes it’s better to be a little fish in a little pond rather than a little fish in a big pond.”

Q: No doubt wrapping up your degree in the middle of a pandemic was not how you’d envisioned it. Tell us what that experience was like. What did you learn about yourself through this process?

A: “The pandemic and closure of the university was harder than I anticipated. There was a lot of uncertainty around classes, exams and grades at first that was rather stressful. And my summer plans to travel around Europe for a few weeks were quickly squashed. But the biggest disappointment for me was the cancellation of convocation. Like so many others, I have worked hard over the past few years and was looking forward to walking across the stage to receive my degree and share my achievement with family and friends. I am hopeful that our convocation can take place in the Fall and that it will be better than ever. MSVU has sent us a cute graduation box to acknowledge our accomplishments until we can finally cross the stage, so Iam grateful for that.

Through all of this, I was reminded not to take things or people for granted and to appreciate the simple pleasures in life. Sunny mornings on the deck with a cup of tea, afternoon walks on a nature trail and getting mail and packages have now become my favourite things. I needed this time to slow down and enjoy some “me” time – I have been going steady for a few years and I needed some time to just be still and be mindful of what a great life I have.”

Q: What’s next for you?

A: “Next is my master’s degree in Actuarial Mathematics at Concordia University under the guidance of Dr. Mélina Mailhot. I was looking forward to experiencing life in Montreal, but with the current situation and Concordia’s decision to keep classes online, I will remain in Halifax until things settle down. I am hoping it won’t be too long before I can make my way to Montreal and finally take my dream graduation trip to Europe. My time at MSVU has given me the confidence to be a little fish in a big pond now.”

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A: “Being part of the MSVU family has helped me grow both personally and professionally, and I have learned that I enjoy keeping doors and options open – you never know what could come along. Each new adventure helps me learn a little more about myself – what I like and what I don’t like. So, I haven’t thought ahead to 10 years from now and mapped a plan to get there. I have more studying to do and I know that that will open more doors and options for me and that’s the exciting part. But I do know that I want to be as happy as I am now and successful and doing work that will help others in some way. I’m hopeful that the road stretched out before me will be as good as, if not better than, the road I just traveled.”