The power of purpose

Marianna Sukhu paddles a canoe on a beautiful, clear lake while on a recreationa
Marianna Sukhu paddles a canoe on a beautiful, clear lake while on a recreational trip.
After moving to Waterloo, navigating the pandemic, completing five co-op terms, becoming a sorority chapter founder, earning her bachelor’s degree and deciding on a career, Marianna Sukhu, who is graduating from Recreation and Sport Business, says the lasting relationships she’s made are what helped her through it all.

"Not everyone has the privilege of having somebody, or a group of people, that share their same values," Sukhu says. "I have met people at Waterloo who actively push me towards my goals, which makes all the difference."

From her sorority sisters to her co-op supervisors, Sukhu says surrounding herself with people who appreciate her and advocate for her success has helped her through the highs and lows of the last five years.

"I will always preach to go where you’re wanted," she says.

After her first co-op in a corporate setting, Sukhu wanted something different and sought out an opportunity within her home faculty, where she stayed for the remainder of her co-op terms.

She explored different interests and skills, with her first term as a course and tech support assistant, her second term as a marketing recruitment and event associate and finishing off with an eight-month term as the alumni advancement assistant.

"My degree has provided me with a lot more than I ever anticipated," Sukhu says. "I don’t think I would have seen this amount of growth at another university, genuinely. I’m so grateful for everything that’s happened over the last five years."

Sister support

Taking care of her mental and physical health has always been a priority to Sukhu, which drew her towards recreation when deciding on a field of study.

While cooped up at home during the pandemic in her second year, Sukhu says her academic performance was slipping, and she felt an immense need to see people and to be close to her friends.

"I need to be able to touch my friends and say ’hey, here’s a high five,’" she says. "Being isolated was so hard, and the virtual aspects didn’t make it any easier."

That’s why Sukhu connected with 22 other women from the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College, who all came together to form a new local chapter of Kappa Beta Gamma International Sorority called the Beta Epsilon Chapter, with the hope of connecting women in the same location during the pandemic.

"Being in a sorority, I get a sense of community, knowing that if I’m having a bad day or if I’m having a good day, I can text or call any one of my sisters."

In addition to becoming a chapter founder, Sukhu became the public relations officer, risk management officer, chapter president and now serves as chief compliance officer of the Canadian Division of Kappa Beta Gamma.

"I remember being met with so much positivity," Sukhu says. "It caught me by surprise because I had a negative connotation of what a sorority was."

Care for your community

Her chapter works with the Kitchener-Waterloo Child Witness Centre, which provides support, education and advocacy for children, youth and their families throughout the criminal justice process.

"They provide legal aid and care to children that come from difficult family home situations and a lot of us, myself included, can resonate with that," Sukhu says.

Sukhu has also assisted in many community fundraisers in support of local organizations such as SickKids, the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

But her involvement in the sorority, and her desire to serve the Waterloo community, won’t end when she crosses the stage at convocation.

Sukhu plans to pursue a career as a police officer with the Waterloo Regional Police Service.

"I was dreading telling my mom about it because, as a Black woman pursuing a career in policing, your morals and your safety are often questioned," Sukhu says.

But Sukhu’s mom lit up with pride when she revealed her career plans.

"My mom’s acceptance was all’I needed to hear," she says.

But before applying for police training, Sukhu plans to work as a personal trainer to gain some professional work experience. Throughout her degree, Sukhu always made time for her fitness passions, which brought her joy and helped her with her mental and physical health; she even took up bodybuilding recreationally.

"I think who I was five years ago is drastically different, thanks to the opportunities that the University of Waterloo has provided me with," Sukhu says. "I want to take the time to hone my skills and make sure that I’m prepared to take on the responsibilities ahead of me."

Sukhu joins approximately 577 other Faculty of Health students who will cross the stage this spring at the University’s 128th convocation ceremony.
Jenna Braun