By Brandon Gillet
Karim Dahel has been on campus carefully following a strategic plan. The goals: two integrated degrees and a 10.0 cumulative grade point average (CGPA). He has met all three objectives, and is graduating with degrees in electrical engineering (BASc CO-OP) and computing technology (BSc), with the highest possible CGPA.
But along the way, he has also found time to spend countless hours helping others with their studies, and to create and run a student competition on high-level strategic thinking.
Born in Montreal, Dahel moved to Ottawa at age 8. After arriving at uOttawa, he set to work developing a plan to meet his grade-point target. He took into account factors such as class schedule, level of difficulty, professor, and assignment and exam timetable as he devised an optimal course sequence for himself.
Maintaining a 10.0 was challenging, especially at the start. “Even though it didn’t look good at first, I didn’t give up,” Dahel said. “I took it one semester at a time and when I was finished, I thought: Wow, I actually did it.” The Faculty of Engineering is awarding him a University Gold Medal for his achievement.
Balancing study and leisure was difficult, but important, he said. He usually found ways to take a break from his studies — swimming, for example, and going out for sushi with friends to celebrate the end of term. He enjoyed volunteering with the Foot Patrol in his first few years on campus, as a way of meeting students from other disciplines while helping out.
He also devoted long hours to tutoring students, mainly in an Engineering statistics and probability class, for two years as a volunteer and two semesters as a TA. That experience led him to create and fund a competition based on the course, with the support of his faculty. Thirty students participated in the demanding two-part challenge, with four taking home $1,000 prizes.
The faculty then offered him a volunteer position at the Shannon Exhibitions in April, where he ran strategy games in honour of the 100th birthday of the “father of the information age” Claude Shannon.
After meeting the challenges he set himself, how does Dahel sum up the secret to his success? Really knowing the material was key, he said. “I focused not only on solving many problems, but also making sure I had a solid understanding of the fundamental theory involved.”
Dahel is still reviewing his career options, but plans to stay involved with the Faculty of Engineering. He would like to organize an event during 101 Week and foresees a series of games that challenge students to think about “the strategy that gives them the best chance of winning.”
He would also like to return to the faculty in the fall as a volunteer student coach, helping another student with similar academic aspirations quickly adapt to university life.
“I would like to thank those who have helped me along the way, including faculty members and fellow engineering students,” Dahel said. “My years on campus have allowed me to develop and grow, not only on an academic level but on a personal level as well. Thanks to the University of Ottawa, I have acquired the knowledge and the skills that will position me for success in life and in my career.”