Badgers Give Back: Grad students get boost through new collaborative award

Note: This story is one in a series of articles highlighting the culture of philanthropy that Brock was built upon and continues to grow among faculty, staff and the greater Brock community today. By showcasing the University community’s commitment to the success of its students and the institution, Brock hopes to share the lasting impact of giving.

Upon her arrival as Brock’s Dean of Graduate Studies in 2020, Suzanne Curtin knew her relationship with then-President of the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), Christopher Yendt (BA ’15, BEd ’15, BEd ’20, MEd ’21), would be a special one.

With a joint mission to create and promote partnerships and opportunities for Brock’s graduate student body, Curtin and Yendt quickly teamed up in pursuit of providing the best graduate experience to Brock students. While her introduction to Yendt was a quick and obvious one, for Curtin — new to the University and Niagara, and amidst lockdowns — opportunities to meet and engage with other people and places across the community were limited.

“Chris was great from the get-go,” said Curtin. “He offered his time and expertise to show me around campus and our community, introduce me where he could and provide me with the valuable history of graduate education at Brock. It was evident what a great example of outstanding leadership he is, and the level of commitment he has for the student body at Brock was like nothing I had ever seen.”

For Yendt, Curtin’s clear investment in understanding graduate student life drove the partnership. He fondly recalls the organic conversation and level of collaboration they had from the beginning.

Earlier this year, the pair’s natural collaboration progressed into what they would call a “lightbulb moment.” In one of the many conversations they’ve shared about their independent desires to support graduate students, the idea arose to once again join forces and create a unique award for students that rewards collaboration and leadership in the graduate community and beyond.

The Suzanne Curtin-Christopher Yendt Graduate Collaboration Award will provide $1,000 to one graduate student annually in the Winter Term.

Speaking to his continuous desire to support Brock as a student, and now as a four-time graduate, Yendt references his life mission to “plant seeds for trees he will never sit under and cultivate gardens he’ll never enjoy.”

“It’s a bit of a family ethos for me, we like to make change where we can and contribute to the success of others,” said Yendt. “As a recipient of a few awards during my time, and as a peer of others who are lucky enough to say the same, I see the impact they can have on your educational journey.”

Overseeing the holistic graduate experience at Brock, Curtin says she remains inspired by the “amazing students, their hard work and true passion for the institution.”

“I’m fortunate enough to have this great job at this great University and be constantly surrounded by students and colleagues, like Chris, who believe in it as much as I do,” she said. “It’s proven that the only way to accomplish great things is together. I really want this award to embody that and recognize how wonderful a working relationship can be with all levels of this Faculty.”

On the long list of things the two agree on is a strong belief that the university experience of all students should be of many dimensions. Their hope in creating this unique award, which celebrates an individual’s dedication to drive collaboration, leadership and partnership in the academic and broader community, is to shine a spotlight and encourage students to become their multi-dimensional and well-rounded selves.

The partnership between Curtin and Yendt will remain a strong testament to the force that is created when members of the Brock community come together to support the next generation of students and a fulsome and involved Brock experience.

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