Yale University’s Young Global Scholar Program & Planning for Instructing

The image contains a letter of admissions.
It is truly an honor to receive this letter of admission. The image has been altered to conceal confidential information.

I am honored to write that I have been offered a position as an instructor of Biology and Applied Science at Yale’ university’s Young Global Scholar Program. This incredible program located at Yale University hosts students and instructors from across the globe and focuses on providing lessons and seminars on a variety of interdisciplinary subjects. With three different sessions running throughout the summer, YYGS offers programs in Applied Science and Engineering, Biological and Biomedical Science, Literature, Philosophy, and Culture, Politics, Law, and Economics, as well as on Solving Global Challenges. Covering such an extensive array of fields, students from all academic backgrounds receive an immersive program curated for expanding and relating to current knowledge as well as introducing new subjects.

Having the opportunity to work as an instructor, I am excited to empower students by providing them with tools to make a proactive change in currently trending subjects within the field. This program is truly novelle and ahead of the curve by supporting instructors and providing them with the freedom to research and develop seminars and lessons on what we believe will captivate and engross the students. So far, I have developed a seminar on combating the misconceptions of natural selection & evolution, as well as on the implications of biodiversity loss and plant invasion on ecosystems. Having worked in a lab and done extensive research on restoration ecology, I believe that introducing students to the repercussions of plant invasion on the environment will contribute to early intervention and ecosystem preservation.

Students need to be supported by teachers. Curating engaging lessons while gauging their learning as the lesson goes on is essential to students’ success. I have previously discussed how important it is to include teaching that includes different forms of learning (for auditory, visual, kinesthetic, etc. learners), and I think that the line does not stop there. Often times, students with different forms of disabilities are not accounted for in lesson preparation and feel discouraged. I believe that as an instructor, it is fully my responsibility to embrace a pedagogy that assists students by curating accessible lessons. By reading and incorporating the information from Yale University’s links, I am attempting to create lessons that are accessible to the diversity of students that I will be teaching. If you know of any other website or link that can help me provide engaging and accessible seminars and lessons, please share them with me as I am eager to read them!

Academia was not always an easy path for me, but it was certainly lightened by the incredible teachers, professors, mentors, lab members, and teaching assistants that I met along the way. Just as I was assisted by my many instructors, I too hope to support and guide my students through their academic journeys in a way that allows them to access their true potential.

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Revisiting York University’s Experiential Education Symposium & Panel

A brief overview of our panel discussion and my perspective on why we must incorporate a variety of teaching styles for student success, as well as the critical role of experiential education in solidifying in-class learning.

5 people sitting at a table, four of which are panelists. The individual in the middle is holding a microphone.

Recently, I had the honor of speaking on a panel at York University’s annual Experiential Education symposium. Among the high profile attendees was York University’s President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton, as well as chair and faculty members of various departments, accomplished students presenting various educational experiences, and the remarkable EE symposium team who all worked tirelessly to plan and execute such a successful event.

5 people are sitting at a table, 4 of which are panelists. The person from on the left is holding a microphone.
Four objects on a table. left to right the objects are a box with a pen attached to it, a certificate of recognition, and a microphone.

Do students currently receive the support they require?

As a recent graduate, it was a truly incredible opportunity to advocate the need for teachers and professors to enhance students’ learning by curating engaging lessons that incorporate the 7 different learning styles. When asked about the importance of reflective assignments, I spoke on why it is crucial and urgent for university faculty to address students’ needs for different types of teaching and assessment. Simply sticking to one form of teaching such as visual or verbal, or assessments strategies such as tests or assignments often leads to failure by some of the most talented and hard-working students. It is truly disheartening to witness brilliant students give up on their passions because the teacher or professor did not incorporate their optimal learning or assessment style. During this panel, I reinforced the importance of accounting for all students, accommodating for different needs, and utilizing different forms of teaching and assessment styles for inclusivity and student success.  I believe that the Professors, faculty, and staff at York University are progressive in this respect, and it is inspiring to see them include a variety of mediums while teaching, which I was privileged to experience during my undergraduate studies.

5 people are sitting at a table, 4 of which are panelists. The second person from the left is holding a microphone.

The relevance of experiential education

Speaking on a panel alongside a moderator, a current student, and two members of faculty, we discussed the importance of experiential education. As we reflected on our personal experiences in experiential education, I began to realize just how much external opportunities such as research placements, internships, co-ops, or volunteering truly reinforces classroom taught concepts and aids students with making a connection in the real-life application of these subjects. 

How often were you learning in a class wondering “when am I EVER going to use this?”. Until a concept or subject is related to current trends or explored in real-life applications, students may find themselves struggling with relating to a subject and in turn failing to find interest in it. True learning starts when interests are addressed. By giving opportunities and encouraging students to embark on experiential education, ideas and concepts are reinforced and students become empowered to make proactive changes in the real world. A subject taught on its own can be challenging to relate to, but when current trends and applications are discussed in the classroom, followed by hands on learning experiences outside of the classroom, students can master the most complex of fields. 

Giving students a chance

The search for opportunities is hard – especially if you are a student. Due to the often untrue negative connotations associated with students, professors, labs, organizations, and other areas that offer experience may refrain from accepting students. To me, this seems like a backward mindset – if someone is putting their time and effort to learn and educate themselves, wouldn’t you want them and their eager attitude on your team? I think it’s time to stand up for students and give them a chance. This is a two-way approach; students need to take on opportunities by deciding to embark on experiential education, while professors, teachers, employers, and co-op/volunteer coordinators need to take a chance on students and guide them to learning while assisting your organization. Students are eager to learn and improve, and their lack of experience can be overcome with their ability to learn while providing an innovative view of the subject and its relation to current trends.
In ecology, it sometimes occurs that two (or more) organisms both gain a net benefit from their interaction; this is called mutualism. Now is the time to take a chance on students, and witness how you both develop a successful mutualistic relationship by working together. 

Closing remarks
I am extremely grateful to everyone involved in planning and executing this event as well as all attendees. I appreciate and value York University’s faculty, staff, and students for allowing us to discuss our opinions on these subjects. I would like to also thank everyone for being so receptive to these insights and am open and appreciative of any and all critique and feedback.

For more information on the event:
News article by York University on the symposium
Tweet by York University

Credits: All photos of the panel are by York University C&PA

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Why startup experiences & hackathons are important for students

Recently, I worked with the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (BEST Lab) at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering to plan and organize Canada’s largest startup.

Over several weeks, I communicated with and invited top-tier speakers, mentors, and workshop leaders to ensure an incredible learning experience for students. Between guaranteeing that scheduling lines up, confirming that partners present applicable educational content, and securing proper accommodations for all attendees, I had a wide variety of tasks to make certain that I properly organization and coordinate this event. Fortunately, I worked with an incredible team that provided unimaginable support and helped me manage the planning. Thanks to their support and guidance, this event was a massive success, with attendees giving incredible positive feedback.

I am grateful to everyone from the BEST Lab at the Lassonde School of Engineering as well as all of the speakers, mentors, workshop leaders, and student attendees for all of the assistance and guidance with curating the schedule for this event.

Events such as these are absolutely crucial to students not only developing essential teamwork and entrepreneurial skills but also creating highly valuable connections. Whether it’s meeting other students or high profile leaders, building your network opens doors to opportunities you didn’t know existed. Jobs, volunteer opportunities, or co-op placements can all come through with these powerful connections in unexpected ways. Not only are these connections important for discovering opportunities, but discussing life and career paths/journies that someone experienced took can give valuable insight and advantageous life advice.

It was exceptionally inspiring to have the chance to address a large audience of such motivated and driven students and seeing how much effort they put in obtaining an optimal learning experience.

Learning comes through a widespread of mediums, and startup/hackathon weekends are incredible events that provide indispensable skills for students. When experienced individuals who are in the workforce mentorship or lectures to students, they provide not just advice but personal experience. Advice and guidance can be read and discovered from books or media, but advice coming from real experience can shine a light on critical points that other mediums negate.

Whether attending a startup/hackathon weekend, attending a conference, or even just participating in networking events, hearing about the academic and professional journies of different people can spark inspiration and guidance on pathways we may have not previously considered. So if you meet someone who inspires you, offer to buy them a coffee and ask them what advice they wish someone gave them at the start of their career – the answer may revolutionize your path.

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5 Things I Learned From Writing and Defending my Honors Thesis

I did it! I wrote and defended my Honours Biology Thesis. After a year of conducting literature reviews, planning my experimental design, running my experiment, laboratory procedures to analyze my samples, and learning SPSS to analyze my stats, I composed a thesis encompassing all of my work. This past year, I learned a lot from my research. Here are the top 5 things that this thesis taught me:

  1. Figure out your research question

This might seem really common sense, but knowing what you are attempting to discover or research is substantially more difficult than it seems. My thesis was on restoring native plants in the Californian deserts which are invaded by an exotic species. So initially I wondered “how do I save these natives from this invasive?”. This question is too broad. You need to pinpoint what it is exactly you are looking for – in other words, what is the relationship you aim to examine? Ultimately, my thesis question ended up examining if there are certain densities of these natives that can outcompete the exotic species by suppressing its competitive capacity. This was the primary question. Whether the natives can suppress the exotic, done, period. There will be other factors, other relationships to note, but first and foremost you need to determine your main inquiry and report these findings.

2. Know the difference between complicated and complex

Writing a thesis or conducting research is not easy. It is a long and strenuous process. Every single part of my experiment was based on the multitude of papers I read during my literature review, from the size of the pots I was using to the number of seeds I used per cm². This work is not easy, but it’s not complicated. Complicated suggests that this topic cannot be understood or explained to other people outside of this field. Complex means that there are many components, but ultimately it can be described to someone outside of your field (sharing knowledge among fields is always fantastic).

3. Set yourself time budgets

Writing takes time. Research takes time. Make sure that you are on top of your work. It might seem like you suddenly have a lot of time before the due date, but this is the time you take to conduct more literature reviews, analyze your stats, and start writing. Editing can take you weeks. This is not a high school lab report, you can’t do this the night before it’s due. You may think you are done and when the edits come back, you might have to rewrite large amounts of your report. Make sure to stay on track with your time budgets. Give yourself reasonable amounts of time to finish tasks.

4. Confidence brings success

Going to your defense is a high-stress situation. You need to be able to present your work and answer inquiries on it. It is at this moment that it is most important for you to bring self-confidence. Your stance, intonation, body language, and facial expression all show whether you are confident in not only yourself but in your work. It took me a long time to get to the level of self-confidence and self-fulfillment of where I am now, but it is essential to work on valuing yourself and your abilities so that it shows when you speak. If you believe in yourself, it makes it easier for others to also believe in you.

5. Know that your thesis and academic success is not your entire worth

It can be absolutely nerve-wracking writing a thesis, and when things go wrong (which sometimes they do!) it can be challenging to continue, persevere, and believe in yourself. It is exceptionally easy to feel like your GPA or the research you conduct describes how successful of a person you are, and let me tell you this is not the case. Some of the most well-read and knowledgable individuals do not see their families, do not contribute to their communities, and spend their lives isolated. To me, this is not success. Success to me is developing self-fulfillment from the vast array of relationships we have in our everyday lives along with assisting others with their journies. While writing my thesis I had immense help from every single person in my lab, from my supervisor, from my partner, from my friends, and from my family. I had people help me with my thesis in ways that would not benefit them but made my thesis so much better. I was supported along the way, and without these people, I would not have been able to write this thesis. You are not alone and can get help from others during your research. The academic community is filled with extraordinary individuals and reaching out for help is not embarrassing or shameful. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that if things aren’t going well, you can consult with others, rework your ideas, or take a breather but to not give up. The people who succeed are not people who never fail, they are people who have failed hundreds of times but kept going despite the roadblocks.

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