Hat trick for UVic students recognized for leadership

Social Sciences

UVic's 3M National Student Fellows from left to right: Cara Samuel, Maxwell Nicholson, Michael Graeme

Three University of Victoria students recognized for their educational leadership on issues confronting post-secondary students have landed UVic an historic triple win in one of the most prestigious student fellowships in the country.

Psychology student Cara Samuel, economics student Maxwell Nicholson, and anthropology and environmental studies student Michael Graeme have each been awarded a 3M Canada National Student Fellowship. It’s the first time since the 3M student awards debuted in 2012 that a post-secondary institute has had three students recognized in the same year—a notable achievement when only 10 awards are given out annually. (View a video and a backgrounder on the three UVic students here).

The competition is organized by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE). There were 119 applicants this year, each asked to identify a problem facing post-secondary students and propose solutions for addressing it through their own leadership efforts. All three of the UVic winners are from the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Nicholson chose the challenge of rising textbook costs. Identifying the high cost of textbooks as a barrier to attending university, Nicholson launched a national campaign for open textbooks­—texts authored by professors for the specific purpose of being used and taught from without charge. The social media campaign mounted by Nicholson for the BC Open Textbook Project helped land an additional $250,000 in provincial funding for the project.

Graeme chose the challenge of shifting universities’ view of their own students, to see them as community resources ready to be connected to real-life issues in their fields of study. “If students were treated as assets for community growth rather than mere harvesters of skills and knowledge, then all types of social, economic, cultural and ecological projects across Canada could swell in potential,” he says.

Samuel tackled the problem of “privilege and exclusivity” in Canadian universities, arguing that many processes for admission and scholarship funding favour students with sufficient financial resources while excluding those from challenged economic circumstance and different cultural backgrounds.

UVic president Jamie Cassels expressed great pride in the accomplishments and recognition achieved by these students, pointing out that their success and contributions are “proof points” for UVic’s vision to integrate outstanding scholarship, engaged learning and real-life involvement to contribute to a better future for people and the planet. “These students are the embodiment of that aspiration,” he says.

“There’s implicit critique in each of the students’ projects in that they focus on the ways in which a UVic education can be improved. But I like to think that the experience at UVic has also provided the opportunity, inspiration and resources for these students to develop their leadership skills,” added Cassels. 

“I am inspired by the way in which their projects align with the university’s goal to create an extraordinary academic environment by enhancing diversity and a supportive learning environment on campus, as well acknowledge mobilization and community engagement.”

The 3M students all view leadership as a vital value for incorporating into their daily lives.

“If I reflect on what good leadership has felt like, in every case it is that light that flickers when justice and peace are co-created out of injustice and conflict—no matter the scale,” says Graeme, whose research focuses on deforestation in Ecuador.

A UVic student has been among the 10 national recipients of the 3M fellowship in each of the previous four years. Winners receive $5,000 and an invitation to a retreat and the annual STHLE conference, where they will develop a collaborative plan to take on an educational leadership project with their award cohort next year.

The conference is June 19-22 in Sherbrooke, Que.

A press kit containing high-resolution photos is available on Dropbox.

See today’s Ring story on the 3M students.

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Media contacts

Anne MacLaurin (Social Sciences Communications) at 250-217-4259 or sosccomm@uvic.ca

Click here for the backgrounder.

In this story

Keywords: STLHE, student life, award, psychology, anthropology, economics, environmental studies

People: Cara Samuel, Maxwell Nicholson, Michael Graeme

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