How have you been a leader at the University of Calgary? What qualities do all good student leaders possess?
It has been a privilege to attend the University of Calgary for the last 3 years and I am now in my final year of university. This institution has empowered me to achieve the challenging task of pursuing my own passions, while remaining an active leader in the community. My work has been a part of my everyday life at the university. I believe leadership has many qualities and can be demonstrated in many dimensions. Strong leadership isn't something faked; it is a philosophy one takes starting in the classroom at 8am. In the classroom, I've consistently demonstrated the willingness to work with my peers, lead discussions, and assume responsibility and delegate work on projects. Out of the classroom I was involved in various Students' Union clubs (Model UN and Debate) , learn from my seniors and mentors; eventually taking on their positions as the years passed.
Off campus I found opportunities in the high school community as a coach and a mentor. While at first these may seem like leadership that does not impact the university, I strongly believe being active off campus is critical in the role of as an ambassador of the university, demonstrating the integrity and excellence the university has shown me. This philosophy has always been on my mind as I've travelled to other institutions as a student of the University of Calgary for conferences (McGill Model UN), or with an exchange program (Korea University), I have always felt proud to be a U of C undergraduate. My leadership at the university was not something that suddenly appeared in front of me. Any accomplishments or services to my community has been a collection of work experiences accumulated over the years. Leadership does not come in a day. It is built and developed with dedication, patience, time and experience. And the best part is that I can always continue to grow and improve as a leader.
Just within our school amongst the undergraduate students we see an immense diversity in personalities and leadership. There are leaders in every Faculty, who all come with a diverse set of experiences and skills. Amongst these leaders, some stand out as being truly outstanding and they distinguish themselves with a number of characteristics. The great leaders have a vision to which they are dedicated and passionate about. They use their drive in creative ways and maintain a sense of humour and optimism even in tough situations. A great student leader shows integrity and humility to his peers and acknowledges them as equals. They make decisions which are fair and they make them with assertiveness. And last but not least, the modern student leader is open minded and forward thinking; they are dedicated to both the local and global community.
How have you been involved in the community during your university career?
Like many first year students, I remember the week of orientation being a complete overload of information. I was swamped by the number of brochures we received, the PowerPoint presentations we sat through and the sheer number of important emails we were encouraged to remember. Looking back now, the university was empowering me to be an active student in the community starting on day one. Although many of those brochures ended up in the recycling, I did not miss out on opportunities to participate at the university. In first year I began to develop a strong connection between the university and the local high school community. Through participation in organizing high school debate and model UN events, I played an important role in servicing the local community. Many of these high school students were interested in post secondary education and through these events got to experience our campus and learn from the undergraduates at our campus.
From this role I transitioned into an orientation leader, once again an ambassador of our university. In this role I was able to welcome the new members to our community and demonstrate to them what an exciting choice they had made. The official title only lasted for a week, but I've always seen it as a duty to welcome new/visiting students and to make them feel welcome. I fulfilled this role again as I participated in the vibrant clubs community on our campus. The Students' Union and the university pride itself on the number of clubs we have on our campus and the immense culture and community that has developed around them. My major contributions were to the Model UN Team and the University of Calgary Debate Society (UCDS). Although these were small sized clubs we've always been able to recruit a variety of new students and represent the U of C at the collegiate level. I became a leader in my 3rd year as VP External for UCDS and was able to further learn about the SU, and the great support it gives to the university's club community.
At our university, the excellent out of classroom community is paired with a strong academic one. In this academic community I have also strived to go a step further than the classroom and fully partake in its offerings. I took advantage of the Markin Undergraduate Research Program and presented my work to members of my department, I participated in the SU s undergraduate research symposium and presented to both peers and professors. I took a step outside of our university and joined the global community of exchange students by attending Korea University's summer exchange program. Along with 5 other University of Calgary students, together we represented our school in an international undergraduate community.
Finally in my last year I am taking on the role in the SU as a proud elected official for the Faculty of Science. This role in particular has allowed me to take the lessons I've learned from the previous years and use it to improve the quality of our community. I've been active in participating in various committees and advocating for students and working towards improving the quality of student life.
How have you balanced school with your other commitments on campus and in the community?
I was fortunate to attend a high school which was very supportive of extracurricular activities both at the school and in the community. It was here I learned valuable lessons on balancing academic achievement with extracurricular involvement.
The most important lesson was that you could always find other amazing individuals who are just as passionate as you. And when you become comfortable with sharing leadership and the work, everything becomes easier. This applies to both academic work and extracurricular commitments. In the strive towards academic achievement, studying and working alone is an incredibly difficult task. In the classroom we learn complex issues and theories, and even more complex solutions. We are asked to memorize passages, names, dates, terminology and not only in our own language but in French, German, or sometimes even Latin. Just as the professionals in the work field collaborate with others to achieve their goals, finding great peers to share the burden of learning has been a crucial key to finding balance. To this end I have some of the brightest students at this school as friends and peers.
The same applies to when I am out in the community. This campus is full of student leaders and an amazing variety of talent. And to aid these student leaders the university and the SU both invest immense resources to fund and support them in their activities. Their support ensures that the burden of carrying out an event or participating in volunteer work becomes much easier. The load I have to carry is lightened by the numerous peers and the institution which help me carry them. The support of my peers, smart organization and passion for the work I do have been the pillars on which I have found balance.
University is what you make it, so how have you been making the most of your university career?
When I initially started University, the title of undergraduate seemed daunting. I would have to spend four years with this title before I could get out into the 'real' world or at least pursue a career in the medical field. But now that I look back, the title of undergraduate is an immense privilege and one that I will never have again once I graduate. Many people say being an undergraduate is restrictive and the things you can do are limited. Often times it is difficult to do research, or to go to academic conferences. People don't give you the same respect they do to a graduate or a PhD student. However these comments fail to recognize the amazing student life that is granted through being an undergraduate.
I've tried to live out the 'truly undergraduate' life and I've been seeking experiences that are limited to undergraduates only. I would say I have been wildly successful in creating a unique and vibrant undergraduate experience here at the University of Calgary. Some of the highlights of this journey include participating in amazing SU events such as BSD and Thursden, or using our great facilities like the university library or recreational squash courts, I’ve enjoyed many warm afternoons on campus, usually lounging in front of the prairie chicken. There are so many wonderful nooks and crannies at our school, in addition to unique services and opportunities, all it took was some time to look around and find them.
In addition to spending some memorable moments on campus, I took advantage of our fantastic exchange office and its programs to go abroad in the summer; I participated in undergraduate research with support and funding from an undergraduate award. I've become a part of an undergraduate technology conference organized purely by undergraduates, attended numerous speakers our university has hosted such as Nobel prize laureate Paul Nurse and world renown chemist Chad Mirkin. And last but not least I took up a unique minor in Nanoscience while pursuing a solid Biological Science major. All these experiences have been a core part of my undergraduate career and each have highlighted the dynamic opportunities available at the U of C as an undergraduate.
Class Ambassadors are permanent representatives of their graduating class. What is the role of University of Calgary alumni in the community and how will you represent the university to alumni and future alumni?
Recently I was introduced to a unique way of looking at the university and its students. A university is a company and its products are its graduates. At the beginning of the year it takes in a large number of new students (raw material) and over the period of four years the university invests countless resources to build, refine and polish the student into a graduate (the finished product). The quality of its graduates then determines the success of the university in the future. The better the quality of its graduates the more people are drawn towards the university.
If this is the case, then our university has a great future ahead of it. There is no short of fine alumni from our school and the University of Calgary's reputation has been growing at a rapid pace. As we walk the road to our 50th anniversary, we are set to become one of the top five research universities in Canada. Although I move on from this institution as an alumnus, my contribution to the university’s legacy will not stop. As an alumnus to this amazing institution, our work will be to show the world, the quality of the universities' product. Our work and reputation as we become full citizens of the world is to uphold our universities' name and be a hallmark citizen.
Like any company the quality of the product determines the company’ s sustainability. It is no different for a university. The qualities of its alumni are essential in the long term sustainability of the institution. Our work therefore is to foster the university's growth by applying the lessons we learned inside and outside the classroom and use it to better our communities and society. It is our work to leave behind a proud heritage where ever we go. And if anyone asks where we learned to be mature adults, to be leaders, to be innovators, we can proudly say the University of Calgary.
As I go out into the world as an alumnus I will proudly wear the badge of a U of C graduate and use the lessons I learned here, be it in lectures, in lab, in the library or out and about in the community, to enhance other people's lives. As a permanent representative to the U of C my work and commitment to my community will be a measure of our institutions capabilities. But beyond being a model citizen, I feel there are two important duties which I will value the most. First is to take our university s reputation to the global scene. This university has set its eyes high to be a leading institution in Canada, and being a recognized symbol of Calgary’s growing international role. As an alumnus I have the opportunity to travel and spread the University of Calgary’s prestige, to be an ambassador of our institutions goals. Within this role comes the second goal, which is to encourage our young generation to pursue post-secondary education. I want to demonstrate to the future generation the opportunities available at the University of Calgary and further persuade them to develop their future careers in Calgary.