Alumnus, Academic Advisor
When David Atem walked across the stage to receive his BA in international studies in 2007, he made history at The University of Winnipeg. He was the first South Sudanese child soldier to graduate and he would go on to help hundreds more students like him as an academic advisor.
Atem faced incredible challenges in his young life. After being caught in a conflict that killed 2.5 million people and displaced millions more, he arrived in Canada as a war refugee and began the long task of learning to navigate a new world.
Atem is a tireless academic advisor who takes pride in helping new immigrant students. He is known for his empathy and problem-solving skills, which help new students adjust to university life. A model of hard work and dedication, he often gives up his lunchtime to accommodate students who cannot attend regular appointments due to work or family-related issues.
Atem is also known for his commitment to community and for assisting new Canadians beyond UWinnipeg’s campus. With Atem’s initiative, an African community educational bursary was created through UWinnipeg’s Opportunity Fund. This fund continues to help students of African descent attend UWinnipeg and its Collegiate, by easing their financial burden and improving access.
Atem is a change-maker: he helps students find a sense of belonging through his academic advising efforts. He is also a big believer in the power of community. After accepting the Marsha Hanen Award for Excellence in Creating Community Awareness at UWinnipeg’s 2014 autumn convocation, he spoke of community as a “human bank” where citizens live and grow, and where students who become doctors, engineers, dentists, peacemakers, accountants/bankers, businessmen/women, teachers, and other leaders, come from. He encourages undergraduate and graduate students to be part of their surrounding environment, whether they are on campus or in the community —to enhance their understanding and networking.
Atem is a recognized educator in the affairs of community and homeland of South Sudan, including areas of public policy, social justice, community economic development, peace and reconciliation, human rights, peace-building and state-building.
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