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.


The presidential pit stop 2017


With Dr. Santa Ono (center back), the student ambassador team and one of the award winners (center front).

This year, I was selected to attend the annual leadership recognition event at the Robert H. Lee alumni center. Much like last year, I found myself surrounded by a remarkable congregation of outstanding UBC students. However, my involvements since then have drastically changed. My on-campus involvements have shifted from student society (Science Undergraduate Society) and orientations (Jumpstart), to representing UBC as a student ambassador. Akin to my role of representing student clubs as part of the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) clubs commission, my work as a student ambassador with the International Student Initiative proffers an opportunity to represent the university to prospective students. In a way, the nature of my involvements has not changed much but only evolved in form. And regardless of this nature, it has all been driven by my enthusiasm to serve a community that has been fundamental to my personal development. It is this enthusiasm that Dr. Santa Ono, the UBC president and host of the event, encouraged in student leaders that day. This encouragement culminated with the conferring of a special book Injustice to all attendees. This was a token to complement the noble motivations behind the contributions for which we were being recognized. Outstanding students, one of whom was a fellow student ambassador, were also conferred special awards for their achievements.

This event was my second invitation to a breakfast hosted by the UBC president in the 2016/2017 academic year. Although it did not offer as much opportunity for direct dialogue Dr. Santa Ono, there was more to take from the larger group of student leaders. This day was an opportunity to enjoy overdue conversations with over-achievers from all over campus in the company of scrumptious finger-food and live music


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.


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.


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.


-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


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.



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.




Breakfast with the president

Today April 4th…

Today is an amazing day, a day of gratitude and reflection. Today, I stop for a moment to take a look at the road unwound behind me. Two years ago, I joined this amazing university as a first year student. I was introduced to the concept of constant engagement in leadership by the MasterCard Foundation leadership development activities. Then, I could neither see how to start my journey of leadership, nor how to transcend my previous personal capabilities in this foreign system.

With the MCF team at Sage Bistro

With the MCF team at Sage Bistro

Today, I stand among a group of leaders recognized by the President and Vice chancellor of UBC, Martha Piper. Nominated to attend by Jolanta Lekich and Yuko Lee (a science international student advisor), I am greeted with a sumptuous breakfast at Sage Bistro and an important message of encouragement from reputable UBC staff. In a way, this is the kind of revitalization I need occasionally on this journey. It has been easy to lose track of the impact I have had in my communities, right from my first involvement in my house council in Kwakiutl house down to the Science Undergraduate Society where I have been a clubs commissioner for the past academic year.  These are simply the bounds (chronologically) of the examples of roles I have taken on. In this moment of reflection, I realize that contrary to my pre-current beliefs, leadership has become an integral part of my life and ceased to be a set of tasks that I am must do.



Today, I am not short of things to be grateful for. I am grateful to God, for the cascade of opportunities that unravel ceaselessly. I am grateful to the MasterCard foundation scholarship, to UBC, and more specifically, to the people who stand behind these reputable organizations. There have been people who have believed in me along the way. The people who have nominated me, the people I have worked with and the people who have supported me in my duties. Tomorrow, I look forward to being here again as a student ambassador with campus tours. As I take home a written form of inspiration signed by Martha Piper, I pause at the door of Sage Bistro and glance back. I am not one to pass an opportunity to be grateful for good food.


The Clinton Global Initiative University 2016

CGIU 2016.

This year, I was honoured to be a part of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) at UC Berkeley. With the support of the MasterCard Foundation and CGIU, I was given an opportunity to be a part of an outstanding global movement. Driven by observations of the increasing socio-economic challenges on the globe and increasing ability of



the world to observe critically, the Clinton Global Initiative is one of the numerous initiatives to create capacity to tackle these problems. This year, the initiative converged thousands of delegates from many universities around the world to inspire commitment to creating change within small communities as pieces of the larger picture of global development.

Going back to 2013, my greatest misfortune was the impediments between the translation of my ideas into developmental projects and impact. In developing the HYDRA 256 concept, I was driven by the change I wanted to see in remote communities in Uganda. However, I was limited in the number of like-minds and resources to set the development of the idea into motion. Despite not being able to access these resources then, being part of the CGIU this year felt like my second major chance to contribute. Through my commitment to action with CGIU, I have been inspired to use my personal career development to contribute to the public health sector in central Uganda.

My commitment to action.

I was raised by a mother who has been a public nurse for over 20 years, and therefore was extensively exposed to the healthcare system in Jinja district. Through casual interactions with the staff and patients, I was impressed by the support system in place especially for HIV/AIDS patients under The AIDS Support Organization (TASO). However, I also observed challenges within the system. I developed hypotheses to explain the challenges I saw, but did not have an opportunity to undertake rigorous research to identify these challenges and contribute to finding solutions. The CGIU system has given me the much-sought opportunity to channel this curiosity into action. My commitment is to develop a protocol for monitoring HIV/AIDS treatment in low-income settings and promote adherence in central Uganda. This also aims in long term to also deal with multi-drug resistance that is wide-spread on the African continent due to misuse of available drugs. This would be a research based commitment as an incremental effort to the already existing medical and public health research on HIV/AIDS in Uganda. This is also inspired by my career aspirations in Immunology/Microbiology. My commitment to action also aligns with my summer internship in which I will be engaged in translational research in HIV/AIDS at the infectious Disease Institute at Makerere University. I intend to use this as an opportunity to kick-start the commitment and also have practical exposure to assess the feasibility of my project.

Why commit to research?

The research commitment aims to alleviate mortality due to HIV/AIDS arising from poor adherence and accessibility to treatment. The findings of my reports would be useful to bridge the gap between the sources of treatment and the affected patients. This will be by providing a well-researched set of guidelines for public health personnel to execute treatment programmes and evaluate their proficiency. Another issue that could subtly be addressed by this research is the multi-drug resistance that is associated with poor treatment adherence especially for opportunistic infections at the AIDS stage. There has not been extensive public information of the risks of this drug resistance. The target population is East and Central Uganda, with a focus on Kampala and Jinja districts.

What success would look like…

As with most scientific research, my project’s value is incremental and informational. I intend to write a comprehensive report on the current system of diagnosing, treating and monitoring HIV/AIDs infection. The real value of this report would be to use these observations to optimize the control of HIV/AIDS mortality right from the level of health policies down to the patients and society. In effect, this project aims to instigate the revision of policy and process surrounding treatment.

Perhaps the more unique aspect of my research would be to investigate drug resistance by pathogens, using HIV/AIDS patients as a starting point since they are constantly exposed to antibiotics and antivirals. Through my education and in my community, there wasn’t a strong emphasis on the drug resistance due to misuse. This makes such communities a ground zero for a foreseeable global medical catastrophe known as the “post-antibiotic era” which would be in large due to lack of emphasis on appropriate drug use in developing nations. My commitment should raise awareness on the matter through advocacy.

Personal lessons from CGIU.


With President Bill Clinton (left), me (right) and P. Wangui, a student member (centre)

With President Bill Clinton (left), me (right) and P. Wangui, a student member (centre)

In addition to focussing my plans to contribute to society, there were several more specific moments of learning at CGIU. I was honoured to personally meet President Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States of America. In his addresses, I found many messages to be revolutionary in the way I think about being part of change. He reiterated the significance of interdependence and particularly, the importance of positive interdependence as opposed to negative interdependence. I vividly recall his inspirational drive for reporting failure in order to use it as a foot hold for future development. Subtly, this speaks to my personal inaction for fear of failure. A more human message from the former US president was to see people as individuals and pay attention to each and every person.

A salient theme of the CGIU was engagement of local communities in solving their own problems. In his opening address, Bill Clinton stated that “the people closest to the problem are closest to the solution, yet often furthest from power”. I find remarkable truth in this statement and the promotion of individual empowerment through CGIU serves to bridge that gap – an effort I was encouraged to believe I can be a part of.

With Chris Ategeka (right).

With Chris Ategeka (right).

I was also able to network with several students from across the globe and listen to amazing initiatives. This has broadened my network of like-minded people and given me an opportunity at peer mentorship. I was honoured to meet and receive advice from Chris Ategeka, a successful Ugandan-born social entrepreneur who was featured in Forbes 30 under 30. If there was anything to learn from Chris, it was how he sustainably developed projects for community support and empowerment. I was impressed by his model of maintaining financial sustainability and using it as an effective pitch to garner more funding. Furthermore, Chris’ idea to use mobile clinic and motorcycle ambulances to increase accessibility to health care in rural communities ignites questions surrounding the use of these methods to increase accessibility to HIV/AIDS testing and treatment.

More specifically, I attended several workshops including those about securing funding and storytelling to effect change. I find these quite relevant to communicating my ideas and getting support to get them off the ground.


My reflections are on going.

Overall, my learning experience at UC Berkeley was highlighted by the flamboyant weather and the vibrant community of San Francisco. My reflections from this extraordinary experience are ongoing.








Building Biotech 2015.

22nd September 2015.

An eye into the future of Biotechnology.

This year, I was privileged to attend the “Building Biotech dinner and Networking” event organized by the Student Biotechnology Network. Sponsored by the MasterCard Foundation Scholarship, I attended a night full of learning among outstanding figures in the Biotech industry in Canada. This was my first exposure to different role players in the biotechnology industry; I got the opportunity to meet economists, scientists and human resource professionals from different Universities and Biotechnology firms.

Academic research or Biotech industry?

My interactions with three post graduate students have contributed to my knowledge about the conditions of academic research and industry career paths. Since I am in the process of choosing what path will support my professional development and impact, this insight was helpful in helping me organize my own thoughts. Through assessing the challenges of each career path from the personal experiences of the professionals that have taken them; I learnt that the academic path offered more freedom in research than the industry, but offered many challenges as regards career development because of its limited focus on “vertical” development towards a few available professional positions. Overall, this information will add to my thought process for my future decision between the two options.

Economics in Biotechnology.

To my surprise, many of the guests and some of the panelists were economists who sometimes started out as scientists. Through hearing the professional story of Aura Danby, the Territory account manager of Illumina, my understanding of the possible ways to contributions to science have been broadened. Also, the contributions and influence of economic policies and systems on research funding has been illuminated. One particularly interesting highlight of the night was the 5000 percent increase in the price of a vital drug by Turing pharmaceuticals. Though disheartening in its implications for patients that rely on the crucial drug at the time, this “pharmaceutical catastrophe” was crucial in building my understanding of the undeniable influence of economics on my own potential career progression towards medical research and pharmaceuticals. Because scientific research is dependent on funding, it is important to pay keen attention to economic policies and conditions.

Building Biotech 2015: Networking and Dinner.

Building Biotech 2015: Networking and Dinner.


Laboratory research and Graduate school.

Perhaps my biggest take away from this networking event was from my lengthy discussion with Dr. George Haughn, a Biology faculty member who has been involved in Botanical research at UBC for over 20 years. Dr. Haughn’s perspectives on the importance of plant research on human health and survival were insightful. This seemingly distant research is potentially one of the most vital contributors to the future Global Food Economy, and pharmaceutical research.  Furthermore, I got an insight into the vetting process that Faculty members use in choices of funding Graduate students, and laboratory employees. This is fundamental information in my own aspirations for Graduate school and laboratory involvement.

Overall, this has been a momentous event that I am glad to have attended. Scientific research, like my own career goals, isn’t isolated but rather part of a mesh involving very many contributors that must all be factored in making decisions.


A venture on the outside.

Date: January -April 2015


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.”


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.


MasterCard Foundation Action day.

Date : 8th November 2014

I participated in the MasterCard Foundation (MCF) Action day where all MCF scholars from the University of British Columbia volunteered in replenishing the gardens of the Strathcona community center. Activities included raking dry leaves and forming compost heaps, mulching gardens and replenishing path ways.

Raking dry leaves.

Raking dry leaves.

In addition to recalling familiar experiences of garden work back home, being involved in an activity that was going to benefit the community made me particularly nostalgic. And this being my first community involvement in Vancouver, I relished the feeling of contributing to the Vancouver community, beyond my campus community – thereby reinforcing the feelings of being part of a larger whole.

My biggest reward from this day came from speaking to the staff of the community center. They were my first contact with the life and experiences of being living in the downtown east side of Vancouver. I was exposed to the challenges of the underprivileged, and was inspired by the contribution of community centers in alleviating some of these challenges. My eyes were opened to the fact that the concept of community centers is not largely explored in Africa, but could serve to improve the quality of life of the underprivileged. Also, this instigated constructive conversation with my fellow scholars on the matter, and what facts surround the implementation of such ideas in Africa.

With Patrice and Eddie (scholars)

With Patrice and Eddie (scholars)

Much as the forms of contributions that I personally intend for my community back home are not exactly aligned to this experience, there were very many crucial transferable ideas. And therefore, I believe that I’m better poised to advise similar projects back home and execute community support projects.

There is a lot to learn from the implementation of the Strathcona community center projects.

There is a lot to learn from the implementation of the Strathcona community center projects.