UGLSA Recipient: Christina Ji

Undergraduate Student Leader: Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology

Christina Ji

My leadership philosophy centres around the idea of agency: being empowered and capable to act. A leader realizes her capabilities by seeking diverse experiences and strives to improve through self-reflection, and by doing so she can better inspire others to grow their agency. All my leadership experiences have allowed me  to gain a sense of empowerment and encourage others to achieve the same.

Through my
graphic designing experience with U of T Creative Design Club, I realized I had the capacity to lead and help others build confidence. I interacted directly with clients, usually other student organizations, to produce design works. I led the logo design for a U of T club and was involved in a number of group projects. I hosted a workshop to teach design techniques to other designers and mentored new club members by offering advice on conducting efficient client meetings. Interactions with clients and fellow designers allowed me to learn my capabilities in creating effective designs. Feeling empowered, I was able to help others growing their skills and confidence. I took my learning in the importance of interpersonal interaction in developing one’s agency a step further when I joined the Innis residence council as Ads and Publicity Director. In this role, I worked to create effective graphics and promotional materials to attract newer residents to our events. Understanding  how disorienting but pivotal first year was to one’s university life, my goal was to promote community bonding. I did this by mentoring new students to make their transition to university smoother. It was rewarding to see them realizing their potential and subsequently pursuing leadership roles in the community. My involvement in residence life allowed me to further appreciate that leadership stems from a sense of empowerment of self and others.

I discovered another aspect of leadership through my experience with stem cell research. My research ranged from investigating protein expressions in embryonic stem cells to characterizing the regulation of a critical pluripotency factor using the exciting CRISPR-Cas technique. I have presented my research to diverse audiences, from experts in the field to those with minimal understanding of biology. I was empowered because of the knowledge I gained through my diligent work. By guiding my audiences through my scientific endeavors, I was able to share this sense of empowerment. As a researcher and presenter, leadership calls for the ability to clearly communicate my knowledge with confidence and enthusiasm that spark intellectual curiosity in others.

My experience as Marketing Co-Chair for UofT Student Society for Stem Cell Research’s inaugural conference highlighted some crucial aspects of leadership for me: taking initiative, encouraging communication, and taking responsibility. A team is most productive when every member feels capable of making a positive change. So I strived to incorporate diverse ideas, reconcile different opinions, and encourage discussions that spark creativity. Leadership meant pushing myself hard to ensure a healthy team relationship, motivating others to achieve more. Our efforts resulted in 150+ attendance and promoted interest in stem cell research. I was pleasantly surprised to discover multiple attendees had since decided to pursue such research.

Reflecting on my involvement in student life and research, I deeply appreciate the guidance I received from senior student leaders and my research supervisors. They helped me realize my abilities to have a positive influence, develop my confidence in advising newer members, and grow into an independent researcher. As a mentor in LMPSU mentorship program, I aspire to help my mentee realize greater potential by encouraging him to participate in student organizations, inviting him to a lab to show him how research works, and connecting him with resources. In helping my mentee discover academic and extracurricular interests, I am also able to self- reflect and strive harder in my own studies. My use of accessibility services allowed me to learn the importance of having support from community. I decide to provide academic support to my peers by taking detailed and productive lecture notes, so that I can help them feel empowered and capable to achieve their academic goals in the way I was empowered and helped by others. In these situations, leadership means taking initiative to identify and address needs in the community and realizing my responsibilities to others.

Leadership is not a standard to be achieved, but rather an ongoing process of growth. My leadership experience with student life, research and mentorship have allowed me to realize and continuously develop my agency, and to make a positive impact by encouraging and helping others to further their abilities.