UGSLA Recipient: Mindy Lam

Undergraduate Student Leader: Biochemistry

Mindy Lam

My leadership philosophy has been shaped by the many mentors I encountered in my undergraduate studies. Their mentorship and altruistic manner helped guide my career at UofT and showed me what qualities a successful leader possesses. From their example, I have learned that leaders are inspiring mentors, dedicated team members and compassionate individuals who contribute to their community for the better.

One of my first leadership roles at UofT was as an orientation leader at New College. I was motivated by my own orientation leaders who provided guidance to me—a nervous first year student who had just moved away from home. Realizing that orientation leaders are one of the first people incoming students meet and interact with at UofT, I wanted to instill the same confidence I received in the next generation of incoming students and made an effort to foster an environment where students felt welcomed to university life. It was truly rewarding to see that some of my students felt the same and joined me as an orientation leader in my second year of involvement.

Over the last three years, I have been a part of the Biochemistry Undergraduate Student Society (BUSS). For the first two years, I served as a year representative with the goal of creating a cohesive and close-knit community for biochemistry undergraduate students. I was involved in organizing academic support events like midterm review sessions, social networking events and academic seminars to connect students to faculty members. Outside of my responsibilities as a BUSS executive, I also lead a weekly study group for the second-year biochemistry specialist course students to provide a space for the students to meet, support each other, and develop relationships.

Currently, I am serving as the Co-President of BUSS. One of my main goals this year was to lay down the foundation to help other executives, especially first-time members, to succeed in their roles. I made sure to be available and approachable so my team members knew they could always come to me for assistance. As the year progressed, I interjected less and team members were able to work autonomously on their own subprojects. I also encouraged discussion during meetings, so decisions were always the result of group deliberations as l valued the input from every member. One of my other goals was to extend BUSS’ outreach to include more of the undergraduate student community so we hosted more academic support seminars for biochemistry major students and collaborations with other student unions this year.

When I reflect on the people who have influenced my leadership philosophy, I cannot fail to mention my research supervisors and graduate student mentors. Their patience in mentoring me through my mistakes, as well as their dedication and passion for their work are aspects I try to incorporate into my own leadership philosophy. Under their guidance, I was able to develop independence in the lab and gain a sense of confidence in myself which has permeated through all aspects of my life. These are lessons I will take with me after my undergraduate studies and I hope to pass them on to future mentees.

Outside of student governance, I am involved with mentoring younger students in the biochemistry department because I know first-hand how valuable the guidance of an upper-year student can be. Hearing encouragement and advice from someone who had been in my shoes was extremely helpful when I faced difficult situations. Hoping to inspire others to share my love for biochemistry, I also volunteered with events like the Let’s Talk Science Challenge that encourages middle school students to engage in STEM at a level beyond their regular school curriculum. From my experience working as a piano teacher for the last 5 years, I have also learned that every individual has a unique potential to be unlocked. I developed lesson plans for every single child that highlights their strengths while improving areas they struggle in to achieve their goals. It is the most fulfilling experience when a parent tells me their child is more confident at school because they can see improvement in themselves through piano.

My experience as a BUSS executive and a mentor for younger students has contributed to my personal development as a student leader. I have worked to create an environment where students have a supportive community and are motivated to take on new challenges. My leadership philosophy will continue to evolve as I accumulate more experience and I hope to inspire others like my mentors have done for me.