Navarana "Navi" Smith

Angela Colibaba, student recruitment admissions liaison
  • Trip Leader, YMCA Camp Chief Hector
  • Intern, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
  • Visiting Student, United Nations’ mandated University for Peace, Environment Program
  • Delegate, World Student Environmental Summit
  • Fall Program Student, Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre
  • Outings Coordinator, Sierra Club of BC
  • Semester Student, Canadian Field Studies in Africa Program
  • Organizing member, University of Victoria Environmental Round Table (UVERT)
  • Biology
  • Environmental Studies
  • Canmore, AB
  • Fellow, 3M National Student Fellowship Award
  • UVic Environmental Studies Association
  • UVic Outdoors Club

Although Navi’s list of accomplishments and involvements is vast, her strategy for having a great university experience is simple, and one that any student can adopt: connect, take holdcommit and get a deeper understanding


Communities have been an essential of Navi’s university experience and reaching out early on was a key lesson she learned in her first year.

“Take the plunge and find those communities as early as possible because by November and December, you're going to be really busy,” she says. “You're going to learn so much from other people in your university life. It will complement your learning and help you find balance, so take the time to explore with your friends. Go camping or go do some of the things you really love and know that they, too, are part of your education.”

Sometimes finding community happens when you least expect it.

“In my first month on campus, I attended an Environmental Studies Student Association potluck. I was sitting beside someone and it turned out that we both wanted to bike to see the salmon run at Goldstream Provincial Park the next day. Next thing I know, she is someone I consider a close friend.”

Other times, says Navi, you need to push yourself to make those connections.

“It’s kind of like leaving an eddy in a boat. If you just take that first little push out and go and check out what’s out there, you have no idea where that current is going to take you.”

Take hold

What do you want to get out of your university edcation? For Navi, this is an important question.

“You have to take your education into your own hands,” she says. “So don’t look at your courses as things merely to complete for graduation. Instead, ask ‘how am I going to make sure that I'm really learning and that this applies to what I want to be doing?’” 


Get involved with a club, research project, co-op program … see where it takes you!

In Navi’s case, her involvement in the Canadian Field Studies in Africa Program led her to studying national parks in Kenya, food security in Tanzania and papyrus swaps in Uganda. 

At the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, Navi worked in a team to study the ingestion of microplastics in copepods. “We were able to boat out to these beautiful locations, often in crazy weather, collect samples, come back to the lab and then dissolve these copepods and analyze them for plastics”, explains Navi. “And so there was a lot of personal agency in this project. And it was so cool being part of a team of students who were passionate and working on a project that was applied.” Her involvement with these projects and effort to enhance her academic experience earned her a 3M National Student Fellowship.

Get a deeper understanding

For Navi, all this experience leads to a deeper understanding of the world. “I’ve gained more layers of complexity which is daunting but also incredible because I think that allows you to have conversations that are more constructive,” she says.

“All of a sudden, things you thought you understood are just so much bigger. I’m grateful for that.”

Navi on what makes UVic special

University of Victoria third-year Biology/Environmental Studies student Navarana Smith is one of ten undergraduates in Canada to be named a 3M National Student Fellow in 2015. In this video, Smith discusses what makes UVic special.