06/26/17

Growing into a face of UBC

The University of British Columbia (UBC) has two main campuses which offer similar quality of education, but different programs and environment. Every year, prospective students from all over the world find themselves able to choose if they want to join UBC, and the campus they want to spend the next few years at. In January 2016, I received information from the MasterCard Foundation leadership offering me my first shot at being part of that important decision. I had already been part of shaping the UBC student experience as part of the jumpstart program. Joining the International Student Initiative (ISI) as a student ambassador seemed like an opportunity to be involved with prospective students throughout the year as part of the University. I picked interest in the posting and in the March of 2016, I was selected to join the student ambassador team.

I had had to give tours before, as a Jumpstart orientation leader, and I had enjoyed sharing my stories about different parts of the university. Having to give tours as part of the ISI program felt like a chance to expand this experience in several ways. The tours I would give would be longer, the participants more diverse and the content more precise. Every day I would go to Brock hall would be a new chance to reflect on my experiences and meet new people.

Joining this team was a big step for me; it was my first time to take on a job during the school term. At this crucial step in my professional learning curve, I had to grow to cater to more than just my academics. Becoming a student ambassador was the perfect choice for this development because as a work-learn position under the university, there was a lot of support in successfully balancing work and classroom commitments. My colleagues and employers have been very supportive in my efforts to become better for this job, and my career. There have been a lot of opportunities for professional development through the meetings and retreats. I have learnt to express myself better, to speak in public more coherently, and be more considerate of individuals within groups. Often, I find myself inspired by the glimmer in the eyes of the participants when I deliver a tour impeccably. Furthermore, the ambassador adventures and informational sessions are creatively crafted to exhibit UBC as the dynamic place it is. Because of this, I am aware of what happens around me at UBC, why it happens, and what it means to the people who call the university home. Certainly, it has given this university a lot more meaning to me. In as much as the program is highly professional, some of the people I work with have grown to become my friends. Whether it is through covering my shifts when I could not make them or having personal conversations outside work, my colleagues have made this team feel like my community. As I move into my fourth and final year, I am excited to keep growing as an ambassador.

08/23/16

A tale of two commissioners

My first contribution in the faculty of science started with a momentous email in the June of 2015. This is when I was chosen by the Vice president Administration as one of two Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) clubs commissioners for the 2015-2016 academic year. To me, growing my UBC experience was strongly supplemented by growing within my faculty and this was an opportunity to grow at the pace that would support me without overwhelming my capabilities. The clubs commissioner role gave me unique opportunities to build my personal network and also support cooperation. As a clubs commissioner, I was supposed to ensure that science clubs got access to resources offered by the Science Undergraduate Society, and collaborations between the clubs were supported.

2015 Clubs orientation.

In August 2015, I co-organized the 2015 clubs orientation. This was meant to introduce the club presidents to the Clubs commission, inform them about resources through the Science Undergraduate Society, and instigate relationships between the clubs. With the reliable support of the VP administration and the co-clubs commissioner, the 2015 clubs orientation remains high up in my personal list of achievements in event organization.

The retreat.

In the spirit of team building, the Science Undergraduate Society organizes an annual retreat for all councillors, executives and associate executives. This year, I was lucky to join the SUS retreat to Hope BC. In addition to a change of pace, this weekend was a great opportunity to meet all the SUS student leaders and learn skills relevant to leadership within the SUS. Minor, yet entirely new to me was the nature of the meeting system of the SUS and AMS councils. It still impresses me as an effective way to conduct meetings involving large numbers of people quickly and efficiently. To me, the SUS retreat remains as one of the displays of UBC’s investment into building team cohesion and increasing capacity.

Science Students Appreciation Dinner.
With Ho Yi (left), the second clubs commissioner.

With Ho Yi (left), my fellow clubs commissioner.

Each academic year, the clubs commission organizes the end of year club presidents’ dinner to celebrate a year of achievement and collaboration. This year (2016) however, the clubs commission, with the support of other SUS executives, organized the Science Students Appreciation dinner. The first of its kind, the appreciation dinner was an expansion from the clubs dinner. This was intended to expand recognition from clubs exclusively to science all science students. Students were recognized for outstanding leadership, club activities and a vote was allowed for the “people’s choice” club – which the Undergraduate Research Opportunities (URO) scooped.

In addition to being a great opportunity to share scrumptious Greek food while listening to live music, this was my first opportunity to co-MC to a large group.

Indeed, being part of the Science Undergraduate Society as a clubs commissioner has been instrumental in my leadership journey and I look forward to getting involved within the faculty of science again in the future.

05/25/16

Jumpstart 2015: The vantage point

Vantage point.

I am often asked about my favourite experience at UBC; by now I have figured that it is no coincidence that my mind flashes back to the August in the summer of 2015. Not only do I remember it as a very rejuvenating experience, I recall it to be high up on my list of the most “efficient” periods of my UBC life. August is the time when the first groups of new students arrive at UBC through the jumpstart orientations program. Having failed to make it in time for my own jumpstart in my first year, I was strongly motivated to support other new international students in ways that I was not lucky enough to experience. This is an opportunity that was proffered to me when I was chosen to be an orientations leader (O.L) for the 2015 Jumpstart orientations program.

Kitsilano

With my learning community at Kitsilano.

My roles were centered on co-facilitating orientation for new international students through academic, social and holistic immersion programs. Under the supervision of senior Jumpstart staff, I was part of a closely knit team of over fifty orientations leaders in Totem Park (and over 100 in all residences). My experiences could have easily been limited to the (“job”) roles described above – not to say that they were not cardinal – but there were so many unforeseen pieces of being an orientation leader. There was something exhilarating about being in a position to contribute to the lives of other students here at UBC. I always knew I wanted to find a vantage point to be a positive part of other people’s stories and the jumpstart program turned out to be perfect for this. The connections that I made with the faculty fellows and first year students within my learning community also supported me to grow in leadership and interpersonal relations. Despite following a model for professional relationships, some of these students have turned out to be friends that I have kept in touch with even beyond the two week period.

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-With Cindy Shan, my partner O.L.

Closer to my heart however were the experiences I had with other orientation leaders. Having spent a slightly longer time training and meeting daily with this highly motivated group of individuals, I developed very supportive social and professional relationships with many of my colleagues. Since Jumpstart was my first involvement in student development, I was conscious of the fact that I would need support along the way. The sense of community that the team cultivated transcended the support I expected and augmented the energy and impact that I had during the program (and that the program had on me). In many ways, I stepped out of my comfort zone and I still recognize this as a turning point in several aspects of my character and ways of relating to other people. The program required a lot of time and energy, yet also gave a lot of exuberance in return so it was possible to keep

squad

With my O.L squad.

going on from early mornings to late nights. This was to lead to the “Jumpstart hangover” after the three weeks but it was worth every bit of the effort that was put into it. In this same spirit, I developed a good partnership with my Learning community partner (orientation leader) and together we took a step beyond our assigned times to ensure that our learning community created bonds that would last beyond. To this day, I am glad to see students from my learning community that keep in touch and support each other even beyond their first year. It is this “seed” of cohesion that drew me into this role of building community – and spawns the feelings of accomplishment that I attach to my experiences.

 

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With learning community at Beaty Biodiversity museum

My August experience was perhaps a salient personal reflection of efficiency because I was involved in a few other capacities around campus. In this spate of progress, I was accepted into my first role in research at the Chan Yeung Center for Occupational and Environmental respiratory Disease, and also co-organized the 2015 clubs orientation for the Science Undergraduate Society (as the 2015-2016 Clubs Commissioner). I would like to think that I was fairly successful in all the capacities I was involved in at the time. Being part of a warm community in Jumpstart, a driven collaborative network in the Science Undergraduate Society and fundamental scientific (clinical) research merges into one salient memory that has been irrevocably etched in my mind.

I have taken the few past months to reflect on these fast-paced but momentous three weeks of my life. As much I recognize many things that I could have done better (and/or that the program could have done better), I believe these were an amazingly well put 3 weeks that epitomize the highlights of my life at UBC.

 

 

06/1/15

A venture on the outside.

Date: January -April 2015

Education?

My first contribution to the community outside the university was a largely unforeseen professional venture; it was a task in which I had neither prior exposure nor interest. During my second term, I actively participated in the English language tutoring service at Love your Neighbour (LYN) community center as a volunteer. Under supervision, I was tasked to prepare English language studying materials for students mostly at high school level. This was with out a few challenges: it was a weekly commitment, and I had to avail study materials to all tutors on time – a crucial role in the program.

The supportive community went a long way in inspiring my continued contribution to the role – the establishment had a well established system to augment the volunteers in their respective roles. Soon, it became an activity I looked forward to, every week. I had always had interest in writing and the English language, and hence having an outlet for my passions through supporting the education of other students with in the community opened up a new personal interest for me. I was utterly surprised.

There was a lot to reap in terms of skills and experience. I acquired interpersonal skills, from both working with the other volunteers, and the students. In time, I became more proficient in communicating with learners. Since much of my duties were focused on paper work, I acquired documentation and organizational skills which I believe could be particularly useful in any office setting.  Given the close nature of the members of the community center, I often had contact with other members out of the tutor program. I soon got to learn about their contributions to communities world wide, including parts of Africa. I was particularly fascinated about the organization’s ability to successfully operate overseas projects because I believe this information could be crucial for me in my efforts to contribute to communities around the world, and at home, in Uganda.

Though skeptical in the beginning, this activity turned out to be one of my pivotal experiences during my first year at UBC. I have learnt and intend to diversify my skill set and involvements in the future because,as it turns out, career development is not linear. Overall,being involved with an international organization aimed at creating change for the underprivileged will forever be an experience that I am proud to have been a part of.

January 25th: The multicultural day.

With Amaitum Eddie(left) at the multicultural day.

On behalf of Uganda,with Amaitum Eddie(left), at the multicultural day.

Perhaps one of the unique features of this involvement was the community’s response to people of different cultural background. Most of the staff were always interested in learning about experiences of people from different parts of the world, which I found very exhilarating because I had an opportunity to share stories of my heritage and nation. This was a platform to paint a picture of a country and continent so often misconceived. I also got the chance to learn about other cultures.

 

More importantly, I was invited to organize a cultural representation for my country, Uganda, on the multicultural day event held on 25th January. This was the first time the event was being held and people from different cultures were tasked to design posters, art, and food sample for guests. With the aid of the Ugandan colleague, I designed the poster for Uganda, prepared food samples and gave guests insights into Ugandan culture and society.

Representing Uganda in Vancouver.

Representing Uganda in Vancouver.

There was a lot to learn from the various cultures and generally, how to live as a global citizen in a world with such a large diversity of cultures. Personally, I had always had the belief that “every person from a different culture is a window into a uniquely different way of life”, and as such, had always held interactions within multicultural societies in high regard. This mostly explains why this will always be a memorable contribution for me.

It is from this experience that I derived the reflection: “Being an ambassador even for the smallest cause goes a long way in building a momentous image.”

05/11/15

Multidisciplinary Undergraduate research conference 2015

Date : November 2014 – 21st March 2015 

The first undergraduate research experience.

A few months after my application for mentor-ship under the Undergraduate Research Opportunities (URO), a REX program, I was selected by Jennifer Guthrie, a PhD student in the faculty of health sciences and also a researcher at British Columbia Center for disease Research (BCCDC). The objective of the research experience was to conduct and present research under professional supervision, in order to develop and refine research skills.

I was tasked to conduct literature research on Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) techniques, contact tracing and surveillance, and how all these could be integrated to improve public health in Canada. I worked with two other mentees, with my individual focus being contact tracing, surveillance, and the implications of our review-type presentation on the public health system here in Canada.

Prior to my involvement in this research, I had conducted literature reviews for two of my courses for the first term and thus had some experience on research. However, doing research on techniques and content I had never been exposed to back in Africa, so much that I could present this information at a conference with a strong state of knowledge, was an initial challenge. In all honesty, I was afraid of cases where I had to answer questions on the details of the process of whole genome sequencing. Having a good mentor went along way in alleviating these feelings of inadequacy. With continued support and guidance from Jennifer Guthrie through out research and poster design, I was able to compile all my research and inculcate it into a poster that I would co-present with two other students from the faculty of science. Being able to do this well was tremendously inspiring – I was involved in research in something I had personal interest in, and my research could contribute, or at least serve to reinforce a greater cause.

The conference.

This experience was as much about the process of research as it was about poster design and presentation. A week Prior to the conference, I co-presented the research to Dr. Jennifer Gardy at the BCCDC, Dr. Gardy’s feedback was instrumental to polishing our work since she is one of the most prominent figures in public health in British Columbia. On 21st March 2015, we presented the poster to guests at the Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference (MURC).

With Julio Lailano and  Jennifer Guthrie at the MURC

With Julio Lailano and Jennifer Guthrie at the MURC.

This experience has been particularly rewarding in terms of my career development. Working with a professional researcher enabled me develop better research methodology, review skills, critical thinking, poster design and professional presentation. More importantly, this gave me insight into the public health sector here in Canada; the disease control techniques, grant applications, shortcomings and potential areas of improvement for more effective disease control. Overall, I found this experience very rewarding.

The knowledge accrued thereby is vital to my development as an aspiring research scientist and hopefully, medical doctor in the future. The methodology of the research process is a set of skills I intend to use through out my career and the details on public health techniques I learnt could go a long way to improve disease control in my own community in Africa.

 

05/11/15

Global Lounge Impact lab.

Date : 15th November.

I actively participated in discussions on project implementation and intercultural alliances. Investigated the implementation of a clean-water project under the supervision of the “Engineers with out borders” ; identifying the shortcomings and successes of the project. Discussed with club leaders on how to create a culturally inclusive society and how to deal with salient differences in values.

Investigating the clean water project.

Investigating the clean water project.

As the inventor of the HYDRA 256 artificially intelligent dam concept, I was particularly intrigued by the work of the engineers with out borders in Africa, and the implementation of clean water projects in Africa. The robotics prototype I invented in 2013 was closely related to the project we investigated; they both had the intention of delivering clean water to remote communities and studying this project during the impact lab exposed various unforeseen challenges and resolutions that could be useful if I can garner support to further develop the concept I invented. I was triggered to think more critically before and during project implementation.

I also found the intercultural relations workshop useful in reinforcing the idea I have always had whenever I meet people who are culturally different from me – that every person/ culture has a story behind it that you could yield new important ideas and customs that I could in turn inculcate into my personal set of values.

Sharing during the intercultural relations work shop

Sharing during the intercultural relations work shop

Needless to say, this work shop gave me momentous insights on how to relate to people of different cultures, (and global citizenship) and details on the process of project implementation. These are both vital for my future intentions to live and work both in and out of my country, and implement community projects.