UGSLA Recipient: Britney Feng

Undergraduate Student Leader: Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology

Britney Feng
Photo courtsey of Britney Feng

When it comes to leadership, my mentality has always been to lead by example. This style of leadership has been the most successful for me because it is built on a foundation of mutual respect and trust. To me, being a leader was never about becoming the perfect student or role model, rather it was to motivate and inspire others to grow, even if that means making mistakes along the way. A leader is not necessarily someone who is meant to be followed, they are simply someone who encourages and pushes a group forward, even when they slow down.

As a first-year student, I knew all too well the pressures and uncertainty that many students feel as they transition to university. One of the first upper-year friends I made was through my first-year seminar program, TrinityOne. Their words of reassurance and relatability made me believe in myself and helped me to navigate many social and academic obstacles, even when I felt lost or overwhelmed. In my second year, I wanted to be able to provide this type of guidance to incoming first-year students so I became a TrinityOne: Biomedical Health Stream Second Year Mentor. I organized workshops and study/drop-in hours in hopes of making connections with the new first-year students. In fact, I am still in contact with many of those same students today. I was also elected as the Second Year Head of Residence to represent and vote on behalf of my cohort of Trinity Residence students and to plan activities for those who had decided to live in residence admist the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the highlights of my leadership journey at the University of Toronto, has been my contributions to the Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology Student Union (LMPSU). As a second-year student in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I joined the LMPSU to connect and make friends with peers in my cohort. After feeling a sense of belonging on the LMPSU committee, I wanted to pay forward the support and encouragement that I felt being as part of this community, so I continued with the LMPSU as the Vice President of Academics and Co-president in the coming years.

Despite being hesitant at first, I gained confidence as I worked on various initiatives. One initiative included a mentorship program for over 30 students with 15 mentor-mentee pairings. I also brought the annual LMPSU conference back to being an in-person event, after two years of running online. This conference, “Making Sense of Senescence” had over 240 attendees and was very well received by the participants and speakers. LMPSU was a place that helped me gain confidence and allowed me to realize the kind of leader that I wanted to be. I wanted to be someone whose dedication and enthusiasm was contagious to those around me. Looking back at the LMP community and LMPSU team, I am proud to see my efforts contribute to maintaining a welcoming and inclusive environment in which current and future students can thrive.

If you told this story to my first-year self, I doubt she would believe you. Leadership is not about the skills that you begin with, it is about the ones you are willing to gain, and the courage to believe that your actions can spark meaningful and positive change in the lives of others.