The Macdonald Gold Key Award is given annually to those students who show exceptional leadership and excellence in the promotion and development of extracurricular activities which benefit the Macdonald community as a whole. Selection is also based on the extent and effectiveness of their involvement, the leadership they have shown, their ability to work with peers, and the continuity of their initiatives. The Award competition is open to all students who are currently registered and have studied at Macdonald Campus for a period of at least one year, and who are in good academic standing.
From 1983 to 2021, the Gold Key was awarded by the Macdonald Branch of the McGill Alumni Association. In 2021, the program was integrated into the faculty to ensure the continued recognition of student leadership on campus. The Recognition Event for the Gold Key Recipients is financially supported by the Macdonald Stewart Foundation.
This year, four recipients of the Award have been selected in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the enrichment of student life at Macdonald Campus.
2023 Gold Key Award Recipients
The Gold Key Award Selection Committee extends warm congratulations and sincere appreciation to the Award Recipients for 2023:
U2, Bioresource Engineering
“It is very rewarding to contribute to the positive changes happening in our community. Even though it can be challenging, the experience gained and the life-long learnings are invaluable. I highly recommend getting involved in any way you can on Macdonald Campus and further enrich our community, guided by your interests.” - Arthur Bégin
Arthur has been a leader in the monumental effort to re-open the Ceilidh Restaurant and Bar, a key resource and venue for the Macdonald community, after it was closed for two years due to the pandemic. The Macdonald Campus Student Society (MCSS) Business Operations Committee, which Arthur now heads as VP Business Operations, had very little framework on which to build and essentially had to start the process from “scratch”.
Arthur has shown excellent management abilities and worked long hours to ensure not only the successful and sustainable re-launch of these operations, but the re-introduction of in-person activities for students to be able to socialize, and the use of the Ceilidh as a study space during the exam period.
The Ceilidh, “run for students, by students,” now features regular opening hours, five days a week, with a tasty (and responsible!) menu of offerings, and has once again begun to host special events for the Macdonald community. Arthur shares: “These two openings have had a great positive impact on the Macdonald Campus community, especially considering the current food sourcing situation for students living on campus. Bringing back and planning social events at the Ceilidh gave a place for students to break routine and celebrate, which is very important for a sustainable work-study-life balance.”
Arthur holds a previous Bachelor’s degree from Université Laval, where he studied business, real estate, and sustainable development.
U3, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences: Honours Life Sciences Major
“Your university life is what you make of it; do not feel shy to participate in things. Mac is a place to be, and Mac frosh is the best frosh! Go to events, get out of your room, go to the Ceilidh! We have such a unique community that you will never feel left alone. As an international student one of my biggest fears were language and trying to understand this culture, believe me you will find your niche and maybe lifelong friends.” - Defne Helvacioglu
Since fall 2021, Defne has given much of her time and passion to support new and returning Macdonald Campus undergraduate students, particularly those who are international, so they have the best experience possible. Her involvement with the Macdonald community through the MCSS has been extensive. Among her many contributions: She has organized and led hybrid frosh events coming back from the pandemic and coordinated the Mac side of inter-faculty freshman orientation, helping to integrate Macdonald students to both campuses.
She has also organized a first-ever Mac Campus Graduation Ball for students, coordinated MCSS elections, managed their communications and social media, and represented students on issues concerning the shuttle bus. She has also been a vital player in the re-opening of the Ceilidh Restaurant and Bar, with the goal to ensure the accessibility of food and a study space to students on campus, and the sustainability of these operations.
Defne is currently the president of the Macdonald Campus Student Society where she enthusiastically leads a committee of nine executives and is the liaison between the undergraduate student body and the faculty’s administration. In addition to the many contributions previously mentioned, she is also proud, as MCSS President, to have “initiated committees to work with the MCSS student body as a whole, so that students know their rights and we have a better communication channel with them, and [this will] encourage students to take a role in student governance.”
PhD Candidate, Food Science and Agricultural Chemistry
Graduate Supervisors: S. George, S. Karboune
“Through my experience as a volunteer/executive member, to being a president, I have made new friends, learned about making big decisions, organizational skills, and the list goes on. Think about the impact you can make in one's life or to the world. It's not only about the commitment and responsibilities. Learning and contributing together with the community is what makes our Mac Community as a whole.” - Estee Ngew
Estee cares deeply about the Macdonald Community and improving the student experience on campus. Since early 2020, she has been the proud president of Mac Happy Belly, a volunteer club that promotes sustainability by gathering food from grocery stores that has been deemed imperfect or “slightly past due”. This food, which would otherwise be discarded by the grocery stores, is instead offered to students for free. Using this food, Estee also leads the Happy Belly team in the preparation of free and tasty hot meals for all students.
Estee shares, “With cooking and serving sessions mostly every week, seeing students enjoying the sessions and the food shows the spirit crafted not only by myself, but by the Mac Community as a whole.” While the club’s activities were on “pause” during the pandemic, to keep the conversation on sustainability going, Estee launched a virtual Listen and Learn talk series, connecting industry professionals with students by having them share their knowledge about sustainability-related topics.
In the role of Public Relations Officer for the Macdonald Campus Graduate Students’ Society (MCGSS) since fall 2022, Estee has worked to connect graduate students across Macdonald Campus by organizing social events such a special Holiday Breakfast, and by keeping them informed through social media and the publication of the weekly MCGSS newsletter. Estee is also a past member of the McGill Food Science Association where she managed communications and organized events both on and off campus, to expose current Food Science students to additional knowledge and skills.
Estee completed her BSc in Food Science at McGill University (Macdonald Campus) in 2018. Following this, she began her MSc in Food Science at McGill and fast-tracked to a PhD program in 2022.
PhD Candidate, Human Nutrition
Graduate Supervisors: A.-S. Brazeau, T. Peters
“Being involved might seem daunting or complicated at first, but you get to meet so many amazing people along the way that help you figure it out; and in turn you get to do the same with other students and that in itself can be very rewarding.” - Meryem Talbo
Meryem has been an exceptionally active and engaged member of the Macdonald and McGill communities since she began her undergraduate studies in 2013. The list of volunteer positions is long: McGill Happy Feet, The Frugal Scholar, Voici une journée McGill, McGill Open House, McGill CaPS, Student Wellness Advisory Board Committee, and three years with the Macdonald Campus Yearbook Committee. She has also been involved at the departmental level, having created a newsletter highlighting work being done by Human Nutrition grad students, as well as creating a virtual workspace for grad students during the pandemic.
She currently volunteers for Let’s Talk Science, an outreach organization where she and other Macdonald grad students engage youth from the Greater Montreal area in STEM activities. Meryem is also currently the Managing Editor (Print) for the McGill Journal of Medicine, where she helps in the promotion of the journal and issues calls for submissions and has organized workshops for grad students about how to publish in journals. As Vice-President for MCGSS since 2021, Meryem has re-vamped the Society’s web page, helped managed communications, and launched the first ever MCGSS newsletter for Mac grad students.
Meryem shares, “Developing a newsletter to highlight the amazing work our department is doing and implementing that idea on the larger Macdonald campus scale were my two highlights because they allowed me to create a communication channel between students and create opportunities to share the work being done by the students and highlighting the talent Mac has.”
Meryem has also coordinated MCGSS events, including mental health workshops, bagel breakfasts, and fall and winter graduate orientation. She also helped to organize and moderate a Town Hall in winter 2023 which gave a valuable opportunity for Macdonald Campus graduate students to ask questions, voice concerns, and give feedback to the faculty’s administration.
Meryem completed her BSc in Nutritional Sciences (Major Dietetics) in 2016 and her MSc Applied in Human Nutrition in 2018, both at McGill University (Macdonald Campus). She went on to begin her PhD program in Human Nutrition in 2019.