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“Community, growth, and achievement.” TMU Gold Medal Award winner, Nikki van Oirschot, reflects on her undergraduate experience

Nikki van Oirschot is the 2023 TMU Gold Medal Recipient from the Faculty of Arts. The Gold Medal is the university’s highest academic honour and is awarded to one student from each faculty in recognition of their academic excellence and outstanding community involvement.
July 06, 2023
Mohamed Lachemi awarding Nikki van Oirschot the Gold Medal Award, standing side-by-side and smiling.
“My personal mantra is to always strive for growth and improvement, both personally and professionally, and to never lose sight of goals. There is no dream too big and no hurdle too impossible to overcome: if you can dream it, you can do it.” - Nikki van Oirschot

TMU President Mohamed Lachemi and Nikki van Oirschot.

Photo by Alyssa K. Faoro

At the Faculty or Arts convocation held in early June, Nikki a recent graduate from the Public Administration and Governance Program, in partnership with the First Nations Technical Institute (external link, opens in new window) , received TMU's highest honour, the Gold Medal Award. In addition to her stellar academic performance, Nikki worked tirelessly to support her peers, community, the Caldwell First Nation, the wider Anishnaabek Nation, and other First Nations across Canada. She served on university program committees, developed community economic growth initiatives, was an elected representative, and a mother.

While at TMU, Nikki was honoured with the David Crombie Achievement Award for her outstanding academic achievements, the Caroline Wheeler Award, which recognized her contributions to the program, support for her fellow students, commitment to her studies, and involvement in the TMU community. Nikki also received the First Nations Technical Institute Student Leadership Award for her contributions to the student community through culture, peer support, and class participation.

Nikki van Oirschot walking the convocation stage towards Mohamed Lachemi
“My proudest accomplishment is winning the Gold Medal at TMU. It represents years of hard work and dedication to my education, and I am incredibly proud to have achieved this recognition for my efforts. There were times that I wanted to give up, but in those moments, I reminded myself that hard times are only temporary and I pushed through them.” - Nikki van Oirschot

Nikki van Oirschot walks the stage to be awarded the Gold Medal by TMU President Mohamed Lachemi.

Photo by Sam Dano

What does winning this award mean to you?

Winning this award means so much to me. It validates the hard work and dedication I put into my studies and community, and gives me a sense of accomplishment and pride. It also motivates me to continue striving for excellence in my future endeavours.

What is the biggest lesson you learned during your time at TMU?

The biggest lesson I learned during my time at TMU is the importance of perseverance and resilience. There were times when things got tough and I felt like giving up, but I learned to push through the challenges that life sometimes throws at us and keep moving towards my goals.

What is your favourite memory at TMU?

My favourite memory of my time at TMU is the sense of community and support that I felt from my fellow students, FNTI, and instructors. I always felt like I had a team of people cheering me on and supporting me through the ups and downs of my education. When you're in school and trying to balance a professional life and a family, it can be difficult.

What advice would you give to an undergraduate student?

My advice to an undergraduate student would be to always keep your goals in mind, and to stay focused on the things that matter most to you. It's important to work hard, but also to take care of yourself and find a balance that works for you. Reach out for help when you need it, and don't be afraid to put yourself first. For me, this meant making my education a priority over other things at times.