10 student stories that inspired us in 2019

U of A students showed their class this year with excellence under pressure, resilience in the face of adversity and ingenious ideas.


1. Widower’s search for cancer cure takes surprising turn

After losing his wife to a rare type of ovarian cancer 10 years ago, Powel Crosley vowed to cure the disease. Now, after graduating with a master’s in oncology at age 66, he could be on the cusp of a breakthrough in treating it. 

2. U of A law students win international moot court competition

Arguing a simulated case in human rights, a U of A team went undefeated in the Commonwealth’s most prestigious moot court competition and became only the fourth Canadian team to win it all since 1983. 

3. PhD studies pay off for most graduates, new study shows

Four in five PhD students have a job lined up before they graduate, according to a labour market study that shows the long hours, gruelling revisions and looming deadlines end up paying off.

4. Former ICU nurse heads to Supreme Court clerkship after excelling under pressures of law school, motherhood

Gina Murray was three days away from delivering her second child as she hustled to get in her application for a clerkship with the Supreme Court of Canada. Then her life became even more intense. But she says her shift work as an intensive care nurse prepared her for all of it.

5. Student-created website and map shows U of A campus through Indigenous eyes

Robin Howse’s walking map and website show the U of A’s north campus in an Indigenous light—helping people reimagine it as a place that had a name and a history long before it was a university.

6. U of A students look to cut plastic waste with hemp-based feminine hygiene products

Combining business savvy and environmental consciousness, student-led startup Hempact aims to keep feminine hygiene products out of landfills by making a hemp-based version that biodegrades in just six months. 

7. How a ‘required to withdraw’ turned one student’s fortunes around

Levi Gordian wasn’t surprised when he found himself on the brink of leaving university. But he ended up surprising himself by earning straight As and a degree in Native studies. “I’ve always had this potential, I just couldn’t focus on it,” he said. “Now that I can, I’m excited to see what I can do.”

8. Champion pole vaulter set to reach new heights after beating cancer three times

After beating testicular cancer three times in as many years, Spencer Allen came to the U of A, where he helped the Golden Bears win Canada West gold in 2018 with a record pole vault. “It provided me with different perspectives," he said. "I don’t know where I’d be in life if I hadn’t gone through it.”

9. U of A opens free year-round outdoor gym

The U of A’s newest fitness facility—five exercise stations that accommodate multiple exercises and are accessible to everyone for free at all hours—was the brainchild of students who proposed the idea of developing a fitness park to address issues related to wellness on campus.

10. Retired federal judge goes back to university to tackle next challenge

Leonard Mandamin may have retired from the Federal Court last August, but at age 75, he wasn’t ready to stop learning. Now, as he studies for a master’s in Native studies, he’s taking up the next challenge in an esteemed career devoted to promoting Indigenous restorative justice.