Dr. Agnes Coutinho receives community service award

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From students to graduates to faculty, many people in the University of Guelph-Humber community have fond memories of attending their first science meet.

Since the free science festival for all ages – which celebrates the wonders of the study of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) – began in Guelph-Humber in 2017 , Science Rendezvous has impacted and unified the academic community across all years and all fields of study.

There are recent graduates like Alyssa Alcantara, who was a student volunteer last year and took the opportunity to develop her marketing, organizational and communication skills. There are also current kinesiology students like Angel Do, who said her work as a Science Rendezvous organizer, presenter and national representative has given her invaluable leadership experience and confidence. And there are also teachers like kinesiology program director Dr. Leslie Auger, who has fond memories of bringing his children and parents to enjoy Science Rendezvous over the years.

Stories like this are what Dr. Agnes Coutinho, Associate Director of the Kinesiology Program, had in mind when she was originally inspired to host the first science meet in Guelph-Humber.

Having first experienced the student-run science festival as a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, Dr Coutinho thought the community-focused event would be a perfect fit for Guelph-Humber.

“I saw this as a great opportunity to leverage the learning that takes place in the classroom at the University of Guelph-Humber and share it with the wider community, while giving our students the opportunity to grow and develop professionally, personally and academically,” Dr Coutinho recalled.

Science Rendezvous has since become an annual tradition in Guelph-Humber.

For Dr. Coutinho’s contributions to the event – as well as her other efforts to enrich the lives of Guelph-Humber students and the wider community as well – Dr. Coutinho was recently presented with the Community Service Award at the small 2022 Humber College President’s Luncheon.

Full steam ahead

In the years since Guelph-Humber first hosted the event, it has grown steadily. Each year, large groups of student volunteers from all programs volunteer their time to create live presentations, tackle event promotion and guide visitors through the range of activities and exhibits to all ages, who covered everything from DNA and brain function to criminology, fitness, neuroscience, nutrition and anatomy.

As the popularity of the event grew, relationships were formed with a variety of partner organizations willing to get involved, including Let’s Get Together, Toronto Public Library, Astronomy in Action and Team of Robotics from North Albion Collegiate Institute.

Along the way, Dr. Coutinho was thrilled to see that Science Rendezvous not only helped create these new connections with the wider community, but also helped students collaborate across different programs and years of study.

“Science Rendezvous blurs the lines between specialty areas and compels students to come together for a common goal,” said Dr. Coutinho. “That way it mimics the real world. Because once you’re in the field, you very rarely work alongside other people who specialize in the same field as you.

Not only does Science Rendezvous provide opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration, it is also a student-led event that allows Guelph-Humber student volunteers to help manage the publicity, promotion and organization of the Science Rendezvous. event, as well as live presentations.

“Dr. Coutinho prioritizes building a level of trust in student leaders. As a volunteer, presenter, and National Science Rendezvous representative, that trust has found a special way to build trust in my abilities,” said Angel Do, a kinesiology student.

“Just as Science Rendezvous had a ripple effect for me, I’m sure it has had a ripple effect for so many others.”

The community beyond the campus

Science Rendezvous is just one example of how Dr. Coutinho has sought to connect Guelph-Humber with the wider community.

In 2018, Guelph-Humber opened to host three days of volunteer training and Indigenous cultural safety training for 300 volunteers at the Masters Indigenous Games, where students then volunteered to provide fitness assessments. physical and health information. With the help of Dr. Coutinho, Guelph-Humber also recently hosted representatives from the Indigenous Diabetes Health Circle to give talks, and the university also collaborated with the National Indigenous Diabetes Association to provide travel grants to athletes. participating in the North American Indigenous Games.

“Agnès is an incredible leader. She has a passion for mentoring students, uplifting them and allowing them to see their true potential. She is extremely caring and an excellent teacher. She extends her teaching beyond the classroom to individual interactions with students and in particular with the various groups of students at the university. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and students who engage in conversations or initiatives with her get so much out of each experience, Dr. Auger said.

Dr. Coutinho’s desire to give back to the community goes beyond the events she helps organize in Guelph-Humber. For years, she has also served on the board of directors of several non-profit organizations, including the National Indigenous Diabetes Association and the Indigenous Diabetes Health Circle, and has previously consulted as the Director of Health for Urban Poling Inc.

She gives her time to these causes simply because “it’s the right thing to do,” she says.

“I think it’s my responsibility to make sure we set an example for our students,” said Dr Coutinho. “I’m incredibly lucky that this sense of responsibility also fits so well into my personal goals and lifestyle.”

To that end, Dr. Coutinho hopes Guelph-Humber students will also find initiatives and causes they can contribute to and are passionate about.

“Our entire university community is working to ensure that our students have a more holistic learning experience – it’s not just about the classroom,” Dr Coutinho said.

“I would really encourage students to find something meaningful and contribute to it because it will open doors for you, help you see things in a different way, and ultimately help you grow. ”

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