2013 3M National Student Fellows

Anita Acai
4th Year (of 5 yr program), Biochemistry (Co-op), Honours
University of Guelph

Though she is a dedicated science student, she has never abandoned her broad ranging interests across a variety of disciplines, realizing that complex problems require complex solutions. She is passionate about empowering students to become better learners and critical thinkers, and has made her mark on the University of Guelph community as a Writing Services Peer Helper, an Academic Support Program Facilitator, a Summer Orientation Program Group Leader, and an Orientation Week Volunteer. She has recently been named the first female Editor-in-Chief of a peer-reviewed undergraduate journal at her university, and is a 2013 delegate to Canada’s first Student Mental Health Innovation Summit lead by The Jack Project.

One of Anita’s most impactful leadership experiences was traveling to Vancouver’s Downtown East Side on a service-learning trip. Through an exploration of the systemic issues prevalent in this vibrant community, Anita discovered the transformative impact of community-based learning. In her own community, she has sought to create opportunities for others by packaging birthing kits for women in developing nations and food items for Haiti and Mauritania, serving as a tutor in two adult learning centres, and mentoring others in a variety of capacities. 


Ameena Bajer-Koulack
3rd Year, Environmental Science
University of Manitoba 

Ameena is a natural leader whose belief in education as a catalyst for social change and environmental action has inspired many of her leadership roles. Following a transformative experience working alongside Arctic researchers through the Schools On Board program, Ameena co-chaired the 2010 Arctic Climate Change Youth Forum to empower students to take action on climate change, and has been dedicated to Arctic outreach and environmental education ever since. Recently, she was a key organizer of the UArctic Student Forum, a 5-day event that brought together students from all over the world to discuss communication and mobility issues in the North.

Ameena is fully committed to making positive change in her community through environmental education and activism.  She believes that a truly meaningful education involves going beyond the classroom to engage fully in every learning experience. She seizes opportunities to get involved in her community, volunteering in many roles including as a language partner for international students, Spanish Club co-president, and public program leader at Fort Whyte Alive (an environmental education centre in Winnipeg). Also an accomplished musician, she sings in the University of Manitoba Women’s Chorus and teaches violin and banjo lessons to students of all ages. 

Vic Cowan
3rd Year, English (Honours)
University of Saskatchewan 

Vic volunteers as a teacher-intern with the Inspired Minds: All Nations Creative Writing program at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre. S/he facilitates workshops for a small group of inmates and edits a publication of inmate art and writing. Vic’s work is motivated by a desire to work with diverse perspectives and pedagogies and by the importance s/he places upon reciprocal learning and community building. Hi/r vision of leadership is deeply informed by hi/r experiences as a peer facilitator and co-learner.  S/he is also a firm believer in the value of taking risks and stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. The courage and vulnerability required to do so become a means to strengthen understanding and, thus, enhance learning.

Experiential learning is at the heart of Vic’s leadership practice. Sustained volunteering with the University Learning Center’s Learning Communities and Community Service-Learning programs has helped facilitate hi/r understanding of leadership as a non-hierarchical, inclusive process. Additionally, hi/r experience this past summer with The Otesha Project, an environmental organization that empowers youth to make sustainable lifestyle choices, has profoundly influenced Vic’s approach to meaningful leadership and social change as communal and collaborative in nature.


Emerson Csorba
3rd Year, Political Science
University of Alberta

While balancing studies in a joint-honours Sciences Politiques and Political Science degree, Emerson has served as a research assistant in a variety of fields, from neurobiology to French linguistic studies and the philosophy of higher education. In 2011-2012, he served as the Vice-President Academic of the U of A Students’ Union, representing over 30,000 of his undergraduate peers, where he organized one of Canada’s largest undergraduate research symposiums. In addition to this, he helped put together the Canadian Roundtable on Academic Materials, an online nationwide conference that brought together bookstore managers, librarians, publishers, students and faculty to discuss the rapidly-changing academic materials industry.

Aside from his U of A activities, Emerson is a dedicated runner, having completed several marathons and ultra-marathons. With endless kilometres of river valley trails, Edmonton is an excellent spot for running, which Emerson takes of advantage of each summer. He is also an avid writer, serving as an editor and co-founder of The Wanderer Online, a daily magazine launched in July 2012 that has become one of Edmonton’s highest-viewed dailies. 


Stephanie Doherty
2nd Year, Environmental Engineering
University of Northern British Columbia

At the heart of Stephanie’s leadership is a desire to be responsible with the opportunities she has been given and to be a person of integrity that is consistent with her actions. Her experience in post-secondary education has convinced her that words do not inspire change. Action however, has the power to transform values.

She has shown leadership in her community through her volunteer work and employment by the Prince George Public Research group, researching and developing a compost system that meets the UNBC Campus sustainability goals. This led to a campus waste audit and the co-authoring of a report of recommendations. She invests in the Prince George community through organizations like the “Life Center” and her leadership extends to Honduras and New York City where she has participated in youth outreaches. Passionate about being a well-rounded person, Stephanie has made it a priority to be involved in extracurricular team activities that include competing in the Western and Canadian Engineering Competitions. Through her actions she inspires her peers to take on the challenge of doing hard things, and to break out of the constraints of expectations. 


Rosa Lee
4th Year (of 5-year program), Honours Arts and Science
Specializing in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour
McMaster University

Rosa tackles global challenges with rare energy and personal responsibility. In particular, she is driven by the concerns of public and global health. She equips herself to impact healthcare through education, research and advocacy. She is an MCAT instructor at Kaplan Test Prep Company, a private tutor at Young Academy, and she has been invited for an Introductory Psychology teaching assistant position. She is co-authoring the undergraduate textbook for this course, and assisting another professor build an undergraduate—graduate course on Translational Medicine.

Further, motivated by the macro scale impact research can have on healthcare; Rosa is leading two research projects investigating the efficacy of various medications, and co-authoring a paper on the neurobiology of depression. Rosa has travelled to India as a medical volunteer, and is currently volunteering at Princess Margaret Hospital as a Healing Beyond Body volunteer. She has written a strategic advocacy piece on the rational use of medicines, soon to be published by McMaster Health Forum Student Voices vol. 4. Rosa has founded a group, Collaboration of Korean-Canadian Health Advocates, to build a platform where Korean-Canadians can collaborate to make a difference in the world of healthcare. 

Gaurav Sharma
3rd Year, Bachelors of Science
Majoring in Neuroscience (Minoring in Interdisciplinary Life Sciences)
McGill University

Gaurav’s experiences growing up in an immigrant Indo-Canadian family helped shape his understanding of leadership, which he recognizes as both an individually and socially mediated process. He advocates inclusive approaches to education, such as recognizing knowledge that is traditionally underrepresented and making academia more accessible to the public.

Gaurav constantly challenges his own ideas about leadership through critical reflection. He has been on international volunteer trips to Peru and Benin, supporting a medical clinic and working at an orphanage. Thinking critically about his time abroad moved Gaurav to begin work on a documentary film evaluating the ethical consequences of the growth of the students volunteering abroad industry. Social justice is the core motivator for Gaurav’s leadership experiences. In Montreal, he leads Youth Opportunities! Through Community, an organization he founded in Ontario to counter the unfair distribution of sports programs for youth through free learn to skate and leadership programming. In an internship with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Gaurav wrote articles and developed resources related to the intersections of mental health, racism, and the justice system. He is currently a floor fellow at McGill University, providing peer counselling and building community for first year students in residence.

Brianna Smrke
3rd Year, Arts and Science
McMaster University 

Ten billion isolated neurons cannot think, but a brain can. Something about the connections between these neurons causes the whole system to become “emergent” – more than the sum of its parts. Brianna Smrke was fascinated by emergence before she knew the term existed. A third-year student in the enriching and challenging Arts & Science Program at McMaster University, she has experienced emergence in her own academic path. Her self-created courses on complexity science, time spent in a structural virology laboratory, exploration of caves in Kentucky and creation of cardboard furniture, among other pursuits, have woven together, leading her to discover a compelling sense of purpose.

Brianna wants to make our educational system more emergent. She wants to foster the connections that will liberate the untapped potential of students, professors and community members so that extraordinarily enriching experiences like hers become normal. She has shared her compelling narratives about the importance of interconnection as a TEDx speaker and Thiel 20 Under 20 Fellowship Finalist. Currently, she is co-leading a team to create a social innovation “collaboratory” at McMaster University that will allow diverse groups of students and community members to combine their knowledge to co-create solutions.


Tristan Smyth
3rd Year, English Honours
Mount Royal University 

Tristan found his niche in life at Mount Royal University where he quickly became a voracious learner – coming to understand not only the value of an education but also of becoming educated. Realizing that the key to enriching his fellow students’ lives is in the small projects as well as the large ones, he has engaged in numerous roles across campus: a chairman of the Office of Student Conduct; co-creator of the Arts’ Citizenship Cup; and primarily, representative of the student voice on a host of institutional councils and committees including General Faculties Council, four Faculty Councils, and a variety of subcommittees. 

Furthermore, he works as President of the English Student Society, Events Coordinator of the Film Student Society, Editor-in-Chief of STOPGap (an in-house literary publication), and Speaker of Students’ Council. Tristan’s latest endeavor, partnering with a team of faculty and students, is as the founder and chair of the Understanding Atrocities: Remembering, Representing, and Teaching Genocide conference, which is an interdisciplinary academic event bringing in Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, Allan Rock, Dr. James Waller, Dr. Andrea Smith, and Dr. Chris Powell as keynote speakers. Currently, he serves as the 2013-2014 Vice-President Academic of the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University. 

Naythrah Thevathasan
3rd Year, Bio-Medical Sciences (Honours)
University of Guelph

Naythrah’s leadership niche lies in being an ambassador of hope. As a Supported Learning Groups leader she inspires, motivates and ignites passion in the lives of her fellow peers. Through her work as a Student Senator, Naythrah advocates on behalf of her constituents for positive and affirmative change at the University of Guelph.

Naythrah has been an active member in the Guelph community as a volunteer at the Guelph General Hospital and a peer coach for the Special Olympics. Over the years, Naythrah has received many distinctions for her efforts including being a three time Provincial DECA award winner, a Shad Valley RBC National Cup winner and a finalist at the Sanofi- Aventis Biotechnology competition.

Naythrah’s enormous compassion and social awareness shines through her philanthropic work. She has helped raise over $20,000 in aid relief for the people of Haiti through the Canadian Red Cross. In 2011, she travelled to India with Me to We and helped build a local primary school in the village of Komoda. She also led a local initiative to send school supplies to an impoverished school in Ghana. Naythrah is an exceptional young woman who is constantly trying to make the world a better place.