By Nonna Afouxenidou

“Dad, can we drive an extra two hours to Carleton’s open house?”

Dakota Livingston Carleton University Campus

It was the leap of faith and defining moment that changed everything for Bachelor of Global and International Studies (BGINS) graduate, Dakota Livingston.

Like many who visit Carleton’s campus, the beauty of the grounds drew her in. Touring the facilities, hearing from peers, and becoming more acquainted with the city she would later come to call home were all factors that led to Dakota making the ultimate decision that would see her go on to become the recipient of Carleton’s 2023 Board of Governor’s Award for Outstanding Community Achievement.

Now four years later, Dakota crosses the stage at convocation to the applause and accolade of family, friends, and the Carleton community reminding us of the importance of taking risks and challenging what is possible.

“Carleton University and the Board of Governors prides itself in recognizing the academic and voluntary contributions of those within its community, we are honored to celebrate the remarkable achievements of Dakota Livingston. Her post-secondary career has encompassed dedication, leadership, and compassion – resulting in an impact that is nothing short of extraordinary”.

Greg Farrell, Chair, Carleton University Board of Governors

From as early as she can remember, pushing beyond her comfort zone, taking responsibility, and chasing her dreams were the values Dakota saw exemplified. As her excellence blossomed in high school, she became more involved in student leadership, discovering with it a passion for advocacy, representation, and equity. “I like to think that I have brought accessibility, understanding and compassion to my work at Carleton,” says Dakota. “You never know what someone else is going through, and a little bit of empathy can go a long way.”

“The true mark of a leader is not only revealed by how they lead but in what they inspire.”

Of the more significant milestones in Dakota’s journey is her participation on Carleton’s Senate, a role she fulfilled as President of the Carleton Academic Student Government (CASG) during the 2022-2023 academic year. Dakota’s appointment as a student representative demonstrated her unwavering dedication to amplifying student voices in decision-making spaces.

On the experience, Dakota reflects: “It was definitely not something I expected to do in my years at Carleton. My voice was often shaky when I would start speaking, and a lot of people probably did not agree with what I said, but at the end of the day, if my work benefited at least one student and helped them get through a rough period, then it was worth it.”

Seize every opportunity, embrace new experiences, and never fear rejection.”

For current or prospective students seeking greater involvement at Carleton, Dakota’s message is clear: seize every opportunity, embrace new experiences, and never fear rejection. “The worst thing that will happen is someone will tell you “no”. All you have to do is to show up and not give up.”

As the first in her family to earn a university degree in Canada, along with one of Carleton’s most prestigious student awards, Dakota’s words aren’t just advice they have served as the roadmap to her success.

Initially overwhelmed by the demands of involvement, maintaining academic excellence, and creating new friendships in an unfamiliar city, Dakota’s story is one of perseverance and the belief that through the exploration of unchartered territory, the possibilities for personal growth and meaningful connections are endless.

Dakota plans to remain in Ottawa where she will be working for Ocean Wise, a Canadian non-profit organization aimed at increasing awareness on ocean conservation and climate change.