Since arriving in Winnipeg from the war-torn country of South Sudan, David Atem has made an impact on the lives of countless immigrant students at The University of Winnipeg. For his work as a passionate academic advisor and tireless community supporter, Atem has received Menno Simons College’s (MSC) 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Award.
When he graduated from MSC’s International Development Studies program in 2007, Atem became one of the first former South Sudanese child soldiers to graduate from a Canadian university. His personal experiences as a war refugee, along with his passion for humanitarian issues, have made him an indispensable resource for student newcomers transitioning into Canadian culture.
Atem credits his education at MSC — which is a college of Canadian Mennonite University affiliated with The University of Winnipeg — for making his own transition easier.
“I would like to attest that MSC was a stepping stone for me socially and academically,” he said, during his acceptance speech for the award in June 2017. ” When I approached professors and staff for the first time they sounded like they already know me. There is nothing more important than to feel welcomed and accepted especially in the case of immigrant and refugee students that come from different cultures.”
The MSC Distinguished Alumnus Award was created in 2015 to honour graduates who exemplify the goals and values of the college in their life and work.
Prior to his career in academic advising at UWinnipeg, Atem worked at Service Canada where he helped develop programs and policies related to newcomer communities in Manitoba. As an advisor, he is passionate about the success of the students he works with.
“Academic advisors are problem solvers to help students’ focus on their academic journey,” said Atem. “In every meeting, we build trust, explore opportunities and create a sense of belonging which allows students to discover and achieve. In every meeting we discuss and coach students as a preparation for them to take up the challenges of the 21st century.”
Atem is featured in UWinnipeg’s Impact 50 project and is a past recipient of the Marsha Hanen Award for Excellence in Creating Community Awareness for his dedication to community building.