By Cindy Wei • Schulich Leader at University of Waterloo
On Saturday, September 15, I leaped out of bed, excited for an amazing day in downtown Toronto - a busy day studded with networking, learning, and even career opportunities. At 8:00, I arrived at the parking lot of the University of Waterloo gym, where I met up with the other UWaterloo Schulich Leaders. Unfortunately, some were working and living permanently in other countries, or on co-op terms. It was exciting to meet the four new Schulich leaders of 2018 - congratulations to Advait, Robin, David, and Atif. The ride to Medical and Related Sciences (MaRS) Discovery District was entertaining, as we chatted about everything from summer travelling to drag queens.
We arrived around 10:00, picked up swag bags - the pop sockets and hat are adorable - and the networking began! I was thrilled to reunite with Annie and Kaylie, since we worked together to create round table topics and a variety of Snapchat filters. Over breakfast pastries, fruit, and caffeine, I chatted with the wonderful Sherry, who literally flew in from Montreal that morning. After posing for a professional LinkedIn photo upstairs, I caught up with Kyra, Flora, and Andy. They are my role models because they balance extracurricular activities with research and superb grades, and are now attending medical school at UofT. They shared valuable insight with me, and I walked into the job fair feeling inspired and enthusiastic about my last few terms of undergrad.
The job fair was a unique, new addition to SLXCA. We were lucky to have booths that represented RBC, Top Hat, Sunnybrook, and more, ready to recruit Schulich Leaders. During the job fair, I spoke with Joan, whose work ethic and dedication to research motivates me so much. The job fair was followed by a delicious lunch. I sat with my friends, the Schulich Leaders of McMaster University, and we devoured sandwiches, cheesy flatbread, wraps, fruit, and the best chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.
Not long after, the livestream began! Everyone was on their feet to welcome Seymour Schulich, our keynote speaker. It was his first time addressing the Schulich Leaders of Canada. It was an honour to see him on stage, listen to him share his story, and respond to our questions.
SLXSPARK, an interactive competition, was another new addition to our annual event. After splitting into specially-designed teams that optimized our strengths, we brainstormed ideas for a STEM outreach program. I truly enjoyed creating a video pitch with my group. After that, the Schulich Leaders of Ontario watched all the short clips and selected two videos for the national competition. My group was pleasantly surprised to find that we had been chosen as one of the top two teams, out of eleven Ontario teams! There was a national vote, and it was fascinating to see what Schulich Leaders from other universities had created. Good job, Team UBC, for winning.
Leader Talks came next. I always find myself looking forward to these well-crafted presentations, and I have never been disappointed. Nicole and Blake delivered excellent speeches on leadership and the integration of computers and medicine, respectively. Sidrah shared a poignant, yet empowering, tale about her experience with naive optimism. My favourite part was when Emily, Canada’s Top Co-op Student (amazing!) gave me a shoutout in her presentation about advice for a successful internship. To close the Leader Talks, Erin spoke about how she lives by the foundational rules of martial arts.
For the round tables portion of the event, I sat with a group of Leaders who had expressed interest in social justice and activism. Though activism does not seem STEM-related to start, we identified various ways in which social movements and politics tie into STEM. I particularly loved hearing the thoughts of Sabrina, a nerdy and quirky Schulich Leader from the University of Toronto. I follow her on Twitter, where her powerful tweets and retweets straddle the line between education and entertainment. Our group discussed everything from homelessness to mental health to feminism.
In an engaging speech titled “Embracing Your Inner Geek”, Dr. Molly Shoichet shared her extraordinary experiences as a woman in STEM. After Dr. Molly Shoichet’s empowering presentation, the Schulich Leaders at SLXON took a group photo, and the wonderful Julia led us to the post-event. The post-event took place at UofT’s brand-new Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I caught up with Izzy and Sandra (both Sandras!), as we munched on some lovely snacks, like cheese, crackers, and the notably-memorable arancini balls. Before I knew it, the UWaterloo Schulich Leaders were back on the road and heading back home.
I’m not sure if I have the right vocabulary to express how great SLXCA is. Every year, I am rendered speechless by the poise, eloquence, and confidence of every talented, yet humble, Schulich Leader. It is amazing to interact with the others, and learn that each of these students balance creative hobbies with academics. I am truly looking forward to reconnecting with friends, and meeting new friends, at SLXCA 2019.