UGSLA Recipient: Karen Mao

Undersgraduate Student Leader: Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology

Karen mao
Karen Mao

As a leader, I pride myself on my passion and dedication for improving student life and LMP community-building. My main goal as the 2020-2021 co-president in laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology Student union was to provide more opportunities for LMP students who were disoriented and demotivated in this incredibly challenging time. And this was especially needed for second years who just enrolled in LMP specialist program but hadn’t yet met any of their classmates. Therefore, I facilitated summer reception and daily Summer Study Hub session for 2nd year students, and introduced Welcome Back Package which consisted of tips from upper years regarding mandatory 2nd year courses and an outline of opportunities for this school year. For LMP students in general, I facilitated the introduction of research and professional workshop series held by LMP faculty and led academic seminars, with the goal of minimizing the hindrance that COVID-19 place on research and career development. I coordinated monthly socials where we innovatively utilized online platforms, and held jack box games session, virtual movie night, winter photography contest and more, with the highest attendance of 35 people.

Every year, the LMPSU hosts a 1-day free admission conference to provide an update on current scientific research being conducted in a specific field and is often one of the biggest student-led conferences on campus. This year, in recognition of the global pandemic that has affected everyone, we focused on the research around COVID-19 virus and featured notable speakers that have made significant impacts in the field, with many of whom from LMP faculty. We chose to be creative with the conference platform, speakers and the marketing strategy.

Specifically, through extensive research and experimentation with 4 available online platforms that we decided to use zoom conference as our platform of the conference. For the first time, we included Facebook ad in our marketing strategy and featured researchers from United States who led the largest clinical trial on COVID-19 convalescent plasma therapy in North America. Due to these creative measures and our active promotion, we were able to exceed sign up rate by 200%, with 700 people signing up across North America (Canada and America), and attracted attention not only from ungraduated but also graduates, research professionals and university professors. We significantly diversified and expanded our audience size. Our conference received 378 unique viewers and at one point 198 concurrent attendees.

Speaking of LMPSU, my definition of leadership is to inspire my team and help them to reach their goals. To do so, I first introduced on-boarding meeting to LMPSU for the first time to talk to every executive one-on-one. Through these meetings I was able to understand their personal aspirations and expectation for joining a student union. Then, I drew upon these conversations to make decision about delegation of responsibilities. I tried to make sure that I delegated responsibilities that fitted their personal aspiration and expectations. Even for second year executive who were new to the team and LMPSU, I would actively reach out to them and ask for the events that they want to bring for the second-year class. Knowing that effective communication is foundational to strategic planning, I systemized the internal communication and held bi-weekly meetings, which was not reinforced in the past years, to ensure effective, transparent communication within my team. Ultimately, I am committed to cultivate an environment where everyone has important role to play, and everyone is happy with the progress they have made and is proud of their personal accomplishments. LMPSU should not be a burden but a source of passion and excitement and, most importantly, a family outside of their home. It is a safe space for every executive, with open dialogue on stress and mental wellbeing, where I support them in the best possible way.