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High school dropout wins gold at U of W

Future math professor receives double honour

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SHONDA Gosselin took an unusual route to being the top student at the University of Winnipeg -- high school dropout, a diploma through adult education, then a university dropout and finally the outstanding student on campus.

Yesterday, the future mathematics professor and researcher received the Governor General's silver medal for highest standing in an undergraduate degree, along with the gold medals as U of W's top student in both honours math and honours science.

Gosselin is among 840 students who received a record 917 degrees. Because 77 students got two degrees in integrated courses, the actual number of grads is just below the record 859 graduates in 2001, and well above last year's 753.

It's been a long and hard road for 33-year-old Gosselin, whose perseverance could inspire other dropouts to return to school and succeed.

"I graduated from high school when I was 23, from the Winnipeg Adult Education Centre. I was a high school dropout. I took another 10 years to finish my undergraduate degree," said Gosselin, who had earlier dropped out of St. Norbert Collegiate in Grade 10.

"I hadn't been a very good student that year, my attendance was poor. There were problems -- high school is difficult," she said, declining to elaborate other than to say she always did well academically: "It wasn't about grades."

At Winnipeg Adult Education Centre, Gosselin was awarded the Governor-General's medal for the top marks among Grade 12 graduates.

Gosselin later enrolled at the University of Western Ontario in London, but was forced to leave university to work full-time. "Money was tight -- I ended up working full-time again," she said.

Finally, in 2000, she settled in at U of W.

Students with the top marks tend to come from a handful of academic high schools around Winnipeg. "The strong students, most of them are straight from high school," Gosselin said.

"I put a lot more effort into it than if I'd done it before" when she was younger, said Gosselin, who plans to go to the University of Waterloo for her master's and Ph.D.

Her mathematics research focuses on combinatoric and graph theory. In layman's terms, Gosselin said, "The field is useful in industry for minimizing cost and optimizing production."

And like many silver-medal winners, Gosselin said that her perfect record of A-plus marks was undone by an A this spring in a course in health, healing and spirituality -- a mark most students would be happy to take.

"I haven't got my report card yet. It was perfect before this term, but I got an A," she said with a chuckle.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 2, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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