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Krishna Rajagopal (left) and Dr. Pinayur “Raja” Rajagopal (right) present Ryerson student Dilek Eybek (centre) with the inaugural Dagmar Rajagopal Award for Graduating Part-time Economics Students. The award is named in honour of the former Chair of the Ryerson University Economics department.
Part-time students often face particular obstacles as they pursue their post-secondary education. Many work full-time, are raising families — or sometimes both — while trying to advance their education.
Dr. Dagmar and Dr. Pinayur “Raja” Rajagopal understood these challenges from firsthand experience. That is why the new endowed $1,000 Dagmar Rajagopal Award for Graduating Part-time Economics Student was established this year. The award is named to honour the former Chair of the Ryerson University Economics department who passed away in May 2017. This award, created by Dagmar’s husband of more than 50 years, is aimed at helping students following in his wife’s footsteps.
The award was be given out for the first time at Ryerson’s October 25 Economics Awards Ceremony.
Dagmar’s life was just as interesting as her path to Ryerson.
As a young economics student in her native Germany, Dagmar Hoffmann met Raja when he was an international student from India studying at Cambridge University in the early sixties. After getting married, and a brief spell in Munich, the couple migrated with their baby son Krishna to Toronto when Raja joined York University as a math and computer science professor.
The family soon grew to include a second son, Mohan. While raising the two boys in the 1970s, Dagmar earned a master’s degree in economics by taking part-time courses at the University of Toronto. With determination and grit, she continued on her academic path all the way to a PhD.
When both sons were university age, Dagmar set a goal of finishing her PhD before her eldest son got his undergraduate physics degree (she beat him by six months).
“It boggles my mind to think of my Mum doing a PhD part-time while we were growing up,” says Krishna, now a physics professor and dean for digital learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Finishing a PhD at age 28 requires stamina. But finishing one at 47 is inconceivable to me.”
Dagmar soon joined Ryerson’s Economics department, teaching full- and part-time students, and eventually becoming the department Chair. It was a post she held until her retirement.
Dagmar left quite a mark on colleagues. Professor Thomas Barbiero remembers her well. “She had an exacting expectation from students and colleagues, but also had a large heart. It was a rare and wonderful combination,” he says.
Even after retiring from full-time teaching, Dagmar continued to assist part-time students at the G. Raymond Chang School for Continuing Education. She launched the school’s economics program, served as its academic coordinator, taught all the economics courses, and created seven different types of certificates that part-time economics students could earn.
Ann-Marie Soucy Brinsmead is currently a program director at the Chang School and one of Dagmar’s former part-time students. She fondly recalls Dagmar as a terrific mentor. “Dagmar cared deeply about people and universal access to education,” says Soucy Brinsmead.
The new award is a fitting tribute to a Ryerson professor who understood the life-changing power of part-time studies.
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