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David Atem

Marsha Hanen Award for Excellence in Creating Community Awareness


David Atem

4-yr BA, ACPPA

The challenges David Mabior Atem has faced seem unimaginable. A former South Sudanese child soldier, Atem arrived in Canada as a war refugee, and on UWinnipeg’s campus in 2003 to pursue a bachelor of arts. He completed his studies in 2007, and was one of the first three child soldiers to obtain a university degree in Canada.

Currently, Atem is a tireless Academic Advisor/Immigrant Access Advisor at The University of Winnipeg. He is known among students for his empathy and problem-solving skills, which help new students adjust to university life. He is particularly respected for his reasoned views and pragmatic approaches among all who meet him. Atem is known around campus for his commitment to community and for assisting new Canadians. 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 believes that creating an “open door policy” is an effective way to break down barriers for newcomers who are struggling to navigate the post-secondary institutional environment.

He is also a strong proponent of the University. Soon after graduating, Atem was commissioned by former UWinnipeg President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Lloyd Axworthy to undertake an educational assessment of African communities in Manitoba Inc. (ACOMI). With Atem’s recommendations and initiative, an African community educational bursary was created through UWinnipeg’s Opportunity Fund. This fund helps students of African descent attend UWinnipeg and its Collegiate, by easing their financial burden and improving access.

Atem’s devotion to his roots has inspired him to champion solutions to South Sudan’s political problems, while raising Canadian public awareness of the issues facing his homeland.

He is a member of the Winnipeg Rotary Club and serves on its world service committee. He encouraged the club to undertake a significant humanitarian project in Africa.

The University of Winnipeg is honoured to present David Mabior Atem with the Marsha Hanen Award for Excellence in Creating Community Awareness, for his continued work and commitment as a peace ambassador on our campus, within his community and beyond. He has made remarkable contributions to his alma mater and to the broader community.