Spirit of Brock winners lead to serve

Faculty of Social Sciences graduates Annilea Purser (BA ’23) and Haley Myatt (MA ’23) received Board of Trustees Spirit of Brock medals during the University’s 113th Convocation on Monday, June 12 for their leadership and inspiring community contributions.

Purser, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Indigenous Studies, says the Brock community has shaped her as a leader and a citizen.

“I entered university feeling unsure about myself and what the future would hold for me, but very early on in my first year I learned just how much the Brock community cares about students and of the many opportunities that are available for students to make a difference,” she says. “At Brock, I’ve been able to realize that when you feel safe, welcomed and accepted within an academic institution, you feel comfortable starting conversations with people about your aspirations and how you can achieve them.”

For Purser, those aspirations included working with colleagues from Brock to reimagine her non-profit organization in 2020. She founded The BookWorm Initiative, which is meant to benefit vulnerable youth, as a high school student in 2017.

The Bookworm Initiative provided more than 7,000 books to unhoused youths between 2017 and 2022 and purchased schoolbooks for remote communities in Uganda whose learning was disrupted by the pandemic.

Purser says her time at Brock and in the local community — with the Brock Leaders Citizenship Society, international student mentoring, Brock’s Collegiate Leadership Competition Team, The Brock Press, Upcycle for Change and the Town of Grimsby — helped her build the support network she needed to reimagine her non-profit.

She also deepened her commitment to equity within education as a student, researcher and research assistant at Brock. Purser’s honours thesis, which examines First Nations self-determined education policy, was influenced by the educational experiences of Indigenous colleagues she met while serving as an inclusion facilitator at the Students Commission of Canada’s national youth conference.

A man in an academic gown stands beside young woman wearing a graduation gown and a medal.

Brock University Board of Trustee member Gary Comerford (left) presented Haley Myatt with the graduate Spirit of Brock medal during Convocation on Monday, June 12.

Myatt’s thesis was also inspired by service to others.

Her involvement in post-secondary student government over the past 12 years led her to devote her Master of Arts in Child and Youth Studies research to student leadership in Atlantic Canadian high schools, research for which she received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship Award.

When she wasn’t researching or writing about leadership, Myatt served in multiple roles with Brock’s Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), including as President/CEO, Vice-President, Communications and Advancement and both Director and inaugural Chair on the GSA Board.

In these roles, she helped guide the GSA to its largest voter turnout in back-to-back years, secured greater funding for the Food First program and assisted in developing a graduate certificate program on equity, diversity and inclusion in partnership with Brock Human Rights and Equity.

Myatt also sat on Brock University’s Senate, Board of Trustees and various advisory and adjudication committees. She was a graduate student mentor with the Faculty of Graduate Studies, a member of Brock’s Collegiate Leadership Competition team and a volunteer with the Brock Student Leadership Summit.

In recognition of her multiple leadership roles, Myatt received the Barb Daly Excellence and Student Leadership Award and the Suzanne Curtin – Christopher Yendt Graduate Collaboration Award from Brock.

For Myatt, the Spirit of Brock Medal is a “beautiful bookend” to this chapter of her life.

“I truly believe I could only learn what I did at Brock; I don’t think I would be the leader I am today anywhere else,” she says. “I have the greatest gratitude and appreciation for the Brock community, all the grad students and the Faculty of Graduate Studies for supporting and pushing me to be the best I could be for Brock.”

Dean Ingrid Makus says she is inspired by the community-minded spirit shown by both Myatt and Purser.

“Haley and Annilea used their time at Brock to challenge themselves, to build on their foundations and to expand their sphere of influence in a positive and meaningful way,” says Makus. “Their impact on the Brock community is the result of years of dedication, open-mindedness and courage, and we are delighted to see their remarkable achievements recognized with the Spirit of Brock medal.”

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