Graduate Student Award of Merit

About The Award

At least four awards, each in the amount of $4,000, will be awarded annually to the women graduate students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the university or general community while maintaining exemplary academic records.


Women registered in Master’s or PhD programs at any Member Institution of Universities Canada within a designated region are eligible to be nominated. Regions and number of awards are defined as follows, and eligibility shall rotate among them: ​

  • Western Provinces (2024) – 4 awards
  • Quebec (2025) – 4 awards
  • Atlantic Provinces (2026) – 4 awards
  • Ontario (2027) – 5 awards


1. Outstanding academic performance.

2. Evidence of leadership, including but not limited to such things as:

  • executive positions in student organizations
  • participation on committees (student committees and university committees)
  • organization of special events, conferences, etc.
  • involvement in advocacy groups
  • involvement in volunteer organizations, within the campus setting and/or in the general community.


Each university in the designated region may nominate, through the Dean of Graduate Studies or her/his delegate, one person for the award. The Dean shall also be responsible for the appointment of a nominating committee for the award and for providing the Selection Committee with all necessary documentation in support of the nomination, including:

  • biographical data*
  • curriculum vitae
  • academic records
  • three letters of reference

The deadline for submission of nominations:  January 19, 2024.

The Selection Committee shall be the elected members of the Executive Committee (or its delegates), excluding those from the region from which the award recipients will be selected.

Nominations for the 2024 competition (Western Provinces) must be sent via electronic mail to:

SWAAC President
Dr. Donna Kotsopoulos
Western University
Email to:

If you have any questions about the award or require further information please contact Megha Ajmani, SWAAC Registrar and Treasurer at
*biographical information usually includes information about former and current studies,  areas of interest, research, publications, other awards, interests outside the university, and community or volunteer work.  It’s usually in a narrative form, about 1-2 pages in length, and is an opportunity for the nominee to tell the adjudication committee some things about herself, and to explain at greater length her background/interests/passions/ambitions/volunteer work.

Recent Award Recipients

Liza-Anastasia DiCecco (she/her)

A 4th year Ph.D. Candidate in Materials Engineering in the lab of Dr. Kathryn Grandfield at McMaster University. Her doctoral research focuses on understanding the mechanisms behind biomineralization processes, fundamental to the repair of hard tissues like bone and understanding diseases like osteoporosis, by using and developing advanced electron microscopy (EM) methods. Liza has established herself as an emerging leader in the EM field, where she is one of the few researchers in Canada innovating liquid EM tools to visualize real-time dynamic reactions in native hydrated environments. She holds the NSERC Vanier Scholarship, the most prestigious Canadian doctoral award, and is the current Student Representative of the Microscopical Society of Canada, where she advocates for microscopy trainee-centred opportunities nationally.

Outside of the lab, Liza actively gives back to her academic community through volunteerism in mentorship programs, outreach activities, and McMaster’s Women in Science and Engineering team. She has led activities that promote STEM activities to broad audiences and is an advocate for inclusivity and accessibility within STEM fields. She also has a passion for teaching and has been involved in pedagogical research striving to make materials science education more fun through gamification. Outside McMaster, others know Liza by the name ‘Micro’ through her past involvement with the Hammer City Roller Derby (HCRD) non-profit athletic organization. While she was a Board of Directors member and leader of HCRD’s Juniors program, Liza strived to promote a positive, inclusive space for athleticism for all people.

Liza is honoured to be recognized by the 2023 Senior Women Academic Administrators of Canada Graduate Award of Merit and thanks the selection committee for this recognition. She aims someday to join Canada’s next generation of academic women leaders and to elevate unrepresented people within her field, as her mentors have done for herself.

Olivia Giovannetti

A PhD. Candidate studying in the field of Reproduction and Developmental Sciences at Queen’s University. Her thesis work focuses on characterizing the anatomy and microenvironment of the cervix, and how this delicate balance within the reproductive tract can be affected by electrocautery procedures to excise precancerous tissues. Her research experiences are diverse and expansive as she has created a mixed-methods research group to assess knowledge translation and symptomatic outcomes related to various urogynecological procedures. The nature of her research has fostered meaningful collaborations and she received two funding grants from the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH).

Olivia has published twelve peer-reviewed journal articles and has five more in the application process. As an ebullient communicator, Olivia has been invited to speak as a symposium presenter at ISSWSH and has delivered several oral presentations regarding her research. Throughout her graduate career, Olivia has been highly involved in the supervision and mentorship of students. She has also prioritized involvement in course development and instruction, and recently received a Principal’s Impact Award to create a new team-based undergraduate research course.

Janet Minji Jones

A PhD candidate in Applied Philosophy at the University of Waterloo. In 2020, she was named a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar. Her research interests include feminist epistemology, social metaphysics, and solidarity. Inspired by her volunteer work in the community, she specifically works on topics related to drug addiction, harm reduction, and relational ethics. Janet’s doctoral research looks at the way the stigma attached to addiction is constructed and maintained by public policies. She hopes to offer a structural approach to ending stigma.

Outside of academia, Janet is a devoted addictions advocate, volunteering with a therapeutic community for years and, more recently, serving on the Board for the Porchlight Counselling and Addiction Services. In the past, she has also served on the board for the Community Research Ethics Office and as the Diversity Officer for the Canadian Bioethics Society. For fun, Janet likes to cook and eat Korean fusion foods, go trail running, and hang out with her family and friends. This year she hopes to run a 50K race!

Janet is honoured to have been selected as a recipient of a SWAAC Graduate Student Award of Merit. She has been inspired by many women leaders in her life, and she hopes to share that inspiration with others through her research and advocacy.

Effie Sapuridis

A PhD Candidate in Media Studies at Western University. Her doctoral research explores digital storytelling on new media platforms such as TikTok, the importance of storytelling and, especially, telling many stories from varied perspectives—her dissertation emphasizes the danger of the single story, even in fictional worlds. It focuses on the moment of crisis which occurs—and which necessitates storytelling as a countermeasure—when recognition is withheld, or when identity is erased. Engaging in a feminist close reading of TikTok videos, this project explores the restorying of identity that occurs in these videos, via the content and dialogue, but also via negotiated uses of the physical body. This performance and the networks being build within and across platforms allows for a “collaborative construction” of a new, or rebuilt, storyworld. This project engages an interdisciplinary framework informed by digital humanities, intersectional feminism, ethics of care, and fan and platform studies. She holds a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship Award for this research.

Effie has had the privilege of serving the Western University community across a variety of roles ranging from departmental to university-wide representative bodies. She consciously practice equity and care across all university leadership positions and community activism; as a PhD representative within her home faculty, she collaborated with colleagues to advocate for increased graduate student funding, co-founded a mentorship program for incoming graduate students, and sat on various committees to ensure graduate student voices were hear. As University Senator and Vice President Student Services for the Society of Graduate Students, she advocated for increased graduate student representation, and improved services particularly in the realms of mental health and gender-based violence. In addition to her work within formalized advocacy spaces on campus, she has also co-led the charge to change Western’s campus culture from a grassroots activism standpoint. Following the violence on campus in September 2021, she co-organized an 8,000+ person walkout and subsequently co-founded the Safe Campus Coalition, a registered not-for-profit in Ontario. In June 2022, Effie began her tenure as a member of the university’s Board of Governors after running on a platform focused on community, collaboration, and equity.

Effie is honoured and humbled to be a recipient of the SWAAC Graduate Student Award of Merit. She feels inspired by the incredible women leaders that make up SWAAC and can’t wait to count herself among their number.

Kanishka Sikri

A writer and scholar researching violability: the practice that marks certain lives, bodies, and lands to the possibility of violence. Kanishka is formally trained as an International Development Specialist from the University of Toronto, and they are currently a PhD Candidate at York University speculating on the ways violence becomes synonymous with and inhabits the lifetimes of Black, Brown, and Indigenous women in Canada and the world. Kanishka founded Lottet (lets open that third eye together), a consulting firm that works with community, corporate, and government clients around the many faces and forms of violence, from its racialized arm to its gendered leg to its ecological face and its epistemic shape. Through Lottet, Kanishka has provided subject matter expertise and led consulting on projects like the National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence with YWCA Canada and Framework for Transformative Human-Rights Based Organizational Change with OCAD University. Kanishka is also a speaker and facilitator with clients like the United Nations, SPARC, and the Aga Khan Foundation. Kanishka is honoured to be recognized through the Senior Women Academic Administrators of Canada Graduate Award of Merit. They hope to engage a lifetime project that does not just duel and battle, but betray violence, revoke it, call for its surrender so that we can intimately imagine our futures without it. View her website:

1137 Western Rd, London Ontario N6G 1G7.

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