By Daniela Olariu (RSJ ’17)
Two RSJ students have won Ryerson’s Dennis Mock Student Leadership Awards.
Ben Shelley and Zena Salem received the awards last week for their outstanding voluntary extracurricular contributions to the School of Journalism and Ryerson University.
“I feel very grateful. I have been heavily involved on and off campus since first year because I really enjoy community support. The fact that my work and achievements were recognized by not just my program or faculty, but Ryerson as a whole is certainly something I didn’t see coming,” Salem said.
Salem said she couldn’t have achieved the award without the people who helped her throughout the years.
“I learned so much from other student leaders who took the time to teach, guide me and impact my leadership style,” she said.
“The Dennis Mock award will now be a great reminder to me that all the growth I experienced is thanks to people I crossed paths with, and to people who share a similar vision when it comes to wanting the betterment of student life and community engagement.”
Shelley said winning the award is a huge honour.
“I was definitely really surprised to, first off, even be nominated, then to win as well, just based on how many other amazing student leaders there are on campus. I’m very grateful, though, for sure.
He said the award highlights how much of an impact student leaders have made on campus. “It was amazing to be recognized amongst them.”
The award acknowledges and encourages student participation in university affairs. In naming the award after Dennis Mock, Ryerson recognizes his commitment to higher education. His leadership and dedication, demonstrated during his 28 years at the University, are qualities embodied in students chosen to receive this award – students committed to “making a difference.”
Throughout her undergrad years, Salem took on various extracurricular activities within the school and university, such as being the Vice-President of Equity for the Journalism Course Union (JCU), participating in the tri-mentoring program and holding different positions within the Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge, the Egyptian Students’ Association at Ryerson (ESA), McCLung’s Magazine, the Orphan Sponsorship Program, the African Students’ Association at Ryerson and more.
Shelley was also part of the JCU, two years as a representative and last year as the president. He also spent a year as a residence council member with Housing and Residence Life.
He strove to build a greater connection with students in the program and worked to facilitate communication between students and faculty.
Salem said she’s made a difference by choosing to set equity, inclusion and diversity as a basis for everything she does.
“People from marginalized communities lack representation and their work is always undermined. In journalism, I always wanted to see more racialized people thrive and get their views and voices out there,” she said.
“As for my non-journalistic achievements, I would like to credit all the racialized people for pushing my leadership, which led to many changes and accomplishing things I didn’t think I would ever be brave enough to take on.”
After graduation, Shelley is returning home to Ottawa and taking the summer to freelance and launch his own blog/website. He wants to pursue sports journalism full-time.
Salem wants to be a news anchor who brings forward stories that are often overlooked.
“I hope to always empower and extend my understanding and knowledge on marginalized communities in every way possible, while simultaneously giving them a fair platform to share their stories.”