Chimerem Amiaka (BScKin ’20, MSc ’23), a graduate student from Nigeria, drew on her lived experience to help incoming Brock international students find their footing.
It’s one of several inspirational qualities the Master of Science graduate was recognized for as one of two recipients of the Board of Trustees Spirit of Brock Medal presented during Brock University’s Faculty of Applied Health Sciences (FAHS) Convocation on Wednesday, June 14.
Also received by Bachelor of Science graduate Emily Bonisteel (BSc ’23), the medal is presented to students who best exemplify the spirit of Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock, encapsulating leadership, courage, innovation, inspiration and community involvement.
“I see this award as a culmination of my journey at Brock and all the things that I am very passionate about,” Amiaka said. “I hope this inspires other international students like me to get involved in various activities and explore what they are passionate about.”
In 2022, Amiaka was awarded the International Student Ambassador’s Award, which recognizes individuals who’ve take on innovative initiatives to improve student wellness while working closely with Brock International Services and the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre.
Her community involvement also included sharing her knowledge and experiences as a Social Issues Researcher for Future Black Female, a non-profit organization that works to empower Black girls and women between the ages of 16 and 22 to enhance their education and career path.
“Coming to Brock as an international student was not without its challenges. I struggled with navigating a new educational system while ensuring I was on top of my grades,” she said. “I became passionate about helping other international students and made it a personal mission to help others to help improve their overall experience at Brock.”
Amiaka described her time at Brock as exceptional and unexpected.
She set out to complete her undergraduate studies with the idea of heading to medical school. However, Amiaka felt she could explore her full potential at Brock, which led to completing a master’s degree instead. She will now be starting a PhD program with Brock Kinesiology Professor Craig Tokuno in September.
Amiaka’s master’s thesis explored whether a novel technology was beneficial for improving balance control.
“I’m looking to advance the novel technology used during my master’s work to translate the research currently available on balance loss in various formats that can enable impact programs aimed at reducing the risk for falls in at-risk populations,” she said.
Her volunteer experience as an undergrad at what was then the Brock-Niagara Centre for Health and Well-being exposed her to the various populations who are at high risk for falling, such as older adults or adults with diabetic neuropathies.
Bonisteel’s time at Brock has also been chock full of involvement, both in and out of the classroom.
She has amassed more than 5,000 volunteer hours in roles across the Faculty, Department of Kinesiology and Brock Sports.
She served as Liaison Volunteer with the Brock Human Anatomy Program and Lead Student Organizer for the Human Anatomy Symposium for three years, and represented her peers as both Director of Communications with the Kinesiology Students’ Association and Director of Engagement with the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences Students’ Association.
“There are a lot of hours of hard work behind the scenes that not a lot of people see, and I think this award represents the culmination of all those hours and dedication to make an impact in my community,” Bonisteel said.
After serving as Team Manager of the Brock women’s basketball team during its historic U SPORTS national silver medal winning season in 2020, Bonisteel joined the Badgers fencing team and helped the team win Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championship medals. In 2022, she was named the team’s Rookie of the Year.
Bonisteel, who is considering medical school or pursuing a PhD, said Brock changed her career aspirations. She now plans to work towards a Master of Science at the University of Alberta.
“I had no interest in research when I started, but after getting the chance to work with Brock’s professors, I fell in love with the process,” she said. “I’m looking forward to researching obesity and physical activity during pregnancy as part of my master’s in Alberta. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their guidance and support.”