UGSLA Recipient: Fiona Cui, Biochemistry

Fiona Cui

My leadership philosophy stems from my passion to help others and improve myself. In my  opinion, learning from one’s mistakes and a capacity for deep self-reflection are two of the most important qualities in a leader. These qualities turn leadership into a positive feedback loop, where established leaders grow through interactions with others, while at the same time inspiring new leaders. This amplification of leadership creates a spiral of positivity.

My leadership journey at U of T began during my first year. I was a Student Ambassador at Enrolment services, where I facilitated campus tours for potential students and families that were interested in learning more about U of T. With my second year came, the COVID-19 pandemic and my recognition of the fact that supporting student’s efforts through online activities was essential. To play my part, I became involved with the U of T Students’ Union Study Hubs, where I facilitated online study sessions that brought together students from different years, programs, locations and time zones in an uplifting environment.

As a first-year life sciences student, my transition from high school to university was not easy, as I dealt with both new academic and social challenges. I was lucky to meet a mentor in the Biochemistry student union, who was both enthusiastic and helpful. I aspired to learn from her and in turn one day inspire other future leaders. After finishing first year, I was involved as a summer E-Mentor at Innis college, where I answered questions from incoming first-year students regarding course selection, enrolment, and residence life. I have continued as a mentor at both Innis College and in the Medical Sciences Student Union during the school year, providing guidance and advice to first year students. I was also a panelist at a Research Opportunities Seminar organized by a course union, where I shared what I learned from my experiences figuring out how to apply to research positions and how to effectively reach out to professors.

My Student Union efforts include being the Vice President of the Pre-Optometry Club, the Third Year Representative for the Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology Student Union and the Academic Director of the Biochemistry Undergraduate Student Society (BUSS). Last year, we relaunched the BUSS mentorship program, providing a platform for Biochemistry students to connect to each other, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, where students were not able to be on-campus for in- person events. I took the initiative to actively organize the setup, running, and wrap up of last year’s program. This started with getting the program Co-Curricular Record-validated. I also recruited and paired mentors/mentees, based on future career goals and interests, organized meetings/mingles, and collected reflections and feedbacks at years end. This feedback along with my own self-assessment allowed me to have a clear understanding of things that went well and things that could be done in a different and/or more efficient manner. Not only was I able to improve on subsequent events during that year, but my approach also impacted the running of this year’s