Inaugurated at the University of Lethbridge's Spring 2003 Convocation, School of Graduate Studies Medals of Merit are awarded to graduating students from each degree program for excellence in their studies. Graduating with a Master's of Counselling and majoring in applied psychology, Sydney Gelineau-Olay (MC '24) is now a recipient of this prestigious award!

I have learned that I am capable and can strive for the seemingly impossible while respecting my needs and limits.

A trailblazer in her field, Sydney's academic career includes an exceptional 150-page project to advance the rights of 2SLGBTQIA+ therapy clients, multiple conference presentations and writing a textbook chapter. Sydney assures that while her accomplishments are the result of "a tremendous amount of hard work and luck" she would not have achieved these feats without her peers.

"I view this recognition as a nod to the academic development that could have only occurred in the community of incredibly bright, kind and talented individuals with whom I had the great fortune of surrounding myself with throughout my time at ULethbridge," she says. "Personally, I see this award as an acknowledgement of the growth that occurred through the support of my peers, loved ones and the incredible mentors who supported me along the way. This recognition is a true honour—one I never could have anticipated in my journey."

Sydney's fondest university memories recall pouring over ethics for hours alongside her fellow classmates and rejoicing upon shared feelings of joy and relief after successes throughout the program.

A principle Sydney has maintained throughout her academic journey is learning to appreciate feedback and seizing every opportunity to learn as a member of a community of practice, rather than attempting to do so individually. Sydney continually reflects on those who have guided throughout her studies and shaped her experience.

I owe immense gratitude to Dr. Dawn McBride, my project supervisor, who provided a wealth of wisdom, the impact of which continues to penetrate my professional philosophy. I am inspired by her ability to advocate for students and clients alike. Similarly, Dr. Blythe Shephard, my committee member, has been such an impactful and supportive presence since my admission interview and continues to be so to this date. My graduate assistantship supervisors, Dr. Lorraine Beaudin and Dr. Sharon Pelech, were also very generous with their support and mentorship throughout all three years. Finally, my cohort has had a profound influence, shaping my overall memory of this experience towards a joint sense of achievement rather than its small moments of tumult and strain.

While Sydney has her sights set on becoming a registered psychotherapist, she is already putting her skills to use as a clinical counsellor. Her current role sees her support refugees and immigrants from equity-deserving communities.

As I conclude this program, I remain committed to and passionate about social justice. I intend to continue my efforts to address issues related to marginalization, ethics and trauma through my clinical work, and possibly pursue a PhD in the future.
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