Dean Rhonda McEwen, award-winning student Esme Newling, and Vice-President and Principal Alexandra Gillespie

UTM Medals & Merit

Carla DeMarco

Esme Kate Newling spent a good portion of her time as an undergraduate immersed in her studies of ancient cultures and thinking through the way of life for primitive civilizations. However, make no mistake: she is a thoroughly modern student, employing new technological advances to analyze soil samples and presenting fresh perspectives on ancient societies from differently abled people and various lived experiences.   

For her efforts within the Department of Historical Studies, in June she was recognized with the UTM Founder’s Gold Medal, which is awarded to the outstanding graduating student at UTM who has demonstrated excellence in their academic work.

“Esme’s scholarship is amazing and relevant in its engagement with the ancient data through the lens of modern theories and approaches,” stated the nominators in Historical Studies.

“Her study of Greek and Latin, and also of the ancient cultures from the Latin West to the Eastern Mediterranean and Egypt, goes hand in hand with a remarkable breadth of experience in interdisciplinary research and archaeological methods.”

Newling, who started out at UTM majoring in Forensic Science, incorporates her proficiency in scientific analysis with her aptitude for ancient languages. Over the course of her undergraduate work in historical studies, she completed an independent research project that involved the analysis of soil samples from ancient Cyprus and Crete and she presented her findings at the Young Investigator Symposium at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History held at the Harvard Research Centre in October 2020. In addition, Newling has also published in the UTM undergraduate journal Prandium and received Historical Studies’ Classical Civilizations Merit Award in 2021.

The Founder’s Gold Medal also considers personal achievements and Newling is exceptional on this front, too: in 2020, she was awarded the Canadian Hearing Services National Scholarship for deaf and hard of hearing students and has been an advocate for thinking through challenges faced by people with a range of abilities. Aside from her academic achievements, she has participated in many extra-curricular activities on campus, elevating student life at UTM. 

This is part of the suite of UTM Graduation Awards that are given out annually.

All of the 2022 award recipients were recognized at an in-person ceremony presided over by Vice-President and Principal Alex Gillespie and Dean Rhonda McEwen earlier in June.

The other graduating awards include the Governor General’s Silver Medal, which was awarded to UTM Biology student Rachel Stubits (read the full profile on her academic success), as well as the E.A. Robinson Medals, which are awarded to the top graduating students in each of the following categories: part-time studies, humanities, sciences, and social sciences.

The recipients of the E.A. Robinson Medals at UTM include the following:

  • E.A. Robinson Medal: Part-Time was awarded to Rose Antonio (Institute of Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology), who started with the Bridging Program at Woodworth College in 2007 and began her part-time studies at UTM in 2008, completing a Major in Professional Writing & Communication and Minors in Italian and in Canadian Studies. Antonio was commended for her strong academic performance and her perseverance in completing this array of programs with such success.
  • E.A. Robinson Medal: Humanities was awarded to Rina Walia (Department of English and Drama), who completed a double major in English and Theatre, Drama & Performance Studies. Walia was recognized for “rendering readings of complex works of literature in clear and sophisticated prose.” She also garnered a competitive Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canada Graduate Research Scholarship and will start graduate studies in the Department of English at U of T in the fall.
  • E.A. Robinson Medal: Sciences was awarded to Naaz Sibia (Mathematical & Computational Sciences) for her academic achievements in Computer Science, working on “four distinct research projects as part of independent research courses, all of which are designed to help students learn.” Over Sibia’s five years in the department, she served as a Teaching Assistant for seven different Computer Science courses, as well as being awarded NSERC funds in 2021 and a Mathematical and Computational Science Research Award in 2022.
  • E.A. Robinson Medal: Social Sciences was awarded to Jehuda Tjahjadi (Anthropology) for his broad range of accomplishments in the department and beyond. Over the course of his undergraduate studies, Tjahjadi earned a Jackman Scholar Award and was a University of Toronto Scholar. He published an essay in UTM’s Young Anthropology journal and also wrote for the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboration. Additionally, he tutored elementary and high school students, including students with learning disabilities, in mathematics and contributed key character art and story development to a short film, “Evolution of Vietnamese Entertainment,” which won the Most Creative Performance Award at the 23rd annual IGNITE cultural show.

“We could not be prouder of this exceptional line-up of award-winning students,” said Professor Rhonda McEwen, UTM’s vice-principal, academic and dean.

“They exemplify the tremendous range of academic endeavours found on the UofT Mississauga campus, while expanding out to take their scholarly and personal pursuits to the next level of excellence. You should all take great pride in your accomplishments and the creativity and dedication you have all demonstrated during your undergraduate studies.”