May 30, 2024

Class of 2024: Meet our spring 2024 President’s Award recipients

Inspiring graduates recognized for academic achievement, leadership, and contributions to community

The ɫ is pleased to announce the spring 2024 recipients of the President’s Award for Excellence in Student Leadership. The award was established in 2008 to recognize exceptional graduating students who have a record of outstanding leadership and academic achievement, and who have made significant contributions to our community.

Semhar Abraha, Juris Doctor

A woman sits on a bench holding a book

Semhar Abraha

Shellard Photography

Semhar Abraha embodies the spirit of the President’s Award through her academic excellence, leadership and unwavering commitment to social justice. 

Abraha completed her undergraduate and law degrees in just six years, setting an impressive record for academic achievement. During this time, she maintained a high level of academic excellence, earning a spot on the Dean’s List and securing various awards.

Throughout her university journey, Abraha held numerous leadership positions within the Students’ Union (SU), the Faculty of Arts, and at the institutional level advocating for equity and diversity.

Notably, she established the Violet King Engaged Award (funded by Students’ Union Quality Money and the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion). Violet King was the first Black woman to become a lawyer in Canada, and the award in her name opens doors for many talented scholars who have been historically underrepresented. Additionally, Abraha advocated and secured funding for various Open Education Resources projects.

She also co-founded and continues to serve as the co-chair of the African Studies Task Force, which was successful in advocating for enhanced funding for a substantial expansion of the African Studies program in the Faculty of Arts, increasing course offerings from two to 10. Additionally, she played a lead role in hosting a visit to UCalgary by the former President of Ghana, the Right Hon. John Mohama Dramani.

Abraha’s involvement with the Innovation Internship Program, which develops innovative solutions to justice issues, led her to partner with Ackah Immigration Law. Supported by Abraha’s leadership, they developed an intake process for clients, many whom are immigrants seeking to establish themselves as startup entrepreneurs in Canada. 

As a law student, Abraha has continued her leadership journey by participating in the Julius Alexander Isaac Moot competition, serving as vice-president mentorship for ɫ chapter of the Black Law Students Association, and as a volunteer case worker with the Student Legal Assistance Program. 

She has also won multiple awards, including the Jason Lang Scholarship, the Foundation for Natural Resources and Energy Law Scholarship, the Olivier Le Jeune Advocacy Scholarship and the ICON Fasken Scholarship, and a Youth Achievement Award from the Calgary Black Chambers.

Connor Hass, Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Exercise & Health Physiology)

A headshot of a young man wearing a suit

Connor Hass

Connor Hass demonstrated leadership in medical/simulation education, contributed to the development and enhancement of co-curricular activities on campus, and showed an exceptional commitment to volunteerism. These contributions make him an ideal recipient of the President’s Award.

Hass contributed locally, provincially, and internationally to medical education and simulation through his roles with ɫ Student Medical Response (SMR) team, and with the Rural and Remote (RnR) Resuscitation Simulation program.

Hass co-developed simulation curricula to prepare event medical teams for emergencies. At UCalgary, he facilitated 15 medical simulation sessions for students and health-care professionals who volunteer at public events. Provincially, he facilitated on-site simulations to prepare health-care personnel for medical emergencies that may happen at electronic dance music festivals. Internationally, he has shared his research and simulation curriculum designs at conferences.

To say Hass was a dedicated volunteer is an understatement. He committed more than 250 hours of volunteering at 26 local events as a community medical responder, spent more than 900 hours volunteering with the SMR team, and took on various other roles with the groups he supported.

Hass also kickstarted the certification process for earning the International University Sports Federation (FISU) Healthy Campus Gold Label through his NSERC Brain Create Summer Studentship Award. This process resulted in UCalgary receiving the first Healthy Campus Label awarded to a Canadian university. He also worked with fellow students to successfully advocate for more locker room space for the Dinos women’s teams.

Hass achieved a perfect 4.0 GPA in his undergraduate kinesiology career. He was involved in several research projects including studies on concussion, congenital heart disease, exercise-induced hyperthermia, and three additional projects that involved the design and evaluation of medical simulation curricula.

He is thrilled to begin medical school this July at the Cumming School of Medicine.

Robyn Paul, PhD (Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering)

A woman with long hair and glasses smiles at the camera

Robyn Paul

Shellard Photography

Dr. Robyn Paul’s dedication to enhancing the quality of the student experience, her outstanding leadership, and her many contributions as an academic and advocate, make her an exemplary recipient for the President’s Award.

Paul’s contributions have been many and multi-faceted, from advocacy and organizing events to building community and providing educational leadership. Her work includes the co-development and implementation of the first-year engineering mental wellness program, which led to the engineering Certificate in Personal Community and Mental Well-Being, and facilitating collaborative learning spaces in electrical engineering.

She has been engaged in activism in engineering, including advocating for an updated and more inclusive engineering . On the research side, she fostered a community of practice among her peers through the Engineering Education Students’ Society, an organization she co-founded.

Paul’s work always ensures the voices of students are heard, especially those of marginalized and LGBTQ2S+ identities. She championed underrepresented identities on multiple committees, and the Gender and Sexuality Alliance of the Graduate Students’ Association.

Paul’s academic and professional excellence is evident through her many publications, awards, and distinctions. She published six journal articles, three book chapters, and approximately 40 conference publications (half as first author). She also received provincial and national recognition for her research through the Alberta Innovates (Technology) Award and the NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship-Doctoral.

Other notable achievements include winning the Graduate Students Association (GSA) Citizenship Award (twice) and the GSA Leadership Award, and being named on four ɫ Teaching Awards. Paul has also been nationally recognized for her work through the Canadian Engineering Education Association Student Award and the Silver Anniversary Graduate Fellowship.

Paul has joined the Schulich School of Engineering as an assistant professor in the new Sustainable Systems Engineering program. She is looking forward to being part of fostering a program and culture, here at UCalgary, that teaches engineering graduates to approach technical problems more holistically and regeneratively, with social and environmental justice values at the forefront of their engineering designs.

Read more inspiring stories about the accomplishments and journeys of the 

Graduates, as you prepare to transition away from student life, we'd like to also welcome you into the UCalgary alumni community.  the programs, benefits and services available exclusively to UCalgary grads, and be sure to keep in touch. 

Sign up for UToday

Sign up for UToday

Delivered to your inbox — a daily roundup of news and events from across the ɫ's 14 faculties and dozens of units

Thank you for your submission.