Valedictorian and silver medallist

Nahanni Fellenz's high grades accompanied leadership roles in OUTlaw

Helen Metella - 22 July 2021

As the valedictorian for the Class of ‘21 at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law during a socially isolated pandemic year, Nahanni Fellenz decided to approach her role differently.

Although she’d been elected by her classmates to address their virtual graduation, she opened up the valedictory speech to all the other candidates. Each contributed sections that were packaged alongside hers in the pre-recorded message.

“Pre-recording gave us the opportunity to re-imagine the traditional valedictorian speech, which turned being online into something positive,” says Fellenz, who is also the 2021 recipient of the George Bligh O’Connor Silver Medal in Law.

Practising inclusivity and outreach is a hallmark of Fellenz’s three years as a law student. She was a member of the OUTlaw student group each year, serving as vice-president in 2L and president in 3L.

“I definitely think I’ve come out of law school with a deeper understanding and passion for social justice issues. I think it’s so important to keep that perspective as we enter such a privileged profession.”

In addition to OUTlaw, Fellenz served on the Alberta Law Review as an editor, and a member of its peer review and social media committees. She performed in the Law Show dance group for two years, mooted in the Dean’s Cup round during her first year, played intramural soccer and worked as a research assistant for Professor Shannon O’Byrne. A practicum at a mental health court and her volunteer experience at the Canadian Mental Health Association Crisis Line and Suicide Hotline opened her eyes to the possibility of putting to work her undergrad studies in psychology during her future law career.

Juggling those activities while achieving high grades was a function of having learned how to read and quickly summarize scientific papers for psychology courses, thoroughly discussing coursework with classmates, and maintaining friends outside of law school to keep her grounded.

“You’re always slightly behind,” she says. “Keeping busy motivated me to not procrastinate or over-analyze my work.”

This summer, she’s enrolled in the Law Society of Alberta’s Accelerated PREP course for articling and will start articles in September with DLA Piper in Edmonton.