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U of T students among first winners of national leadership award

3M Student Fellows Mimi Liu and Johanna Lewis (Photo by Diana Tyszko)

One has a passion for empowering marginalized people through political engagement. The other advocates access to education and health care for oppressed communities.

For their work, University of Toronto students Mimi Liu and Johanna Lewis are among the inaugural winners of a 3M National Student Fellowship Award from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE).

The prize honours students who demonstrate outstanding leadership and embrace a vision to enhance the quality of their educational experience.

“I’m humbled to be part of a diverse community of teachers and students who care deeply about learning and making an impact,” said Liu, a Trinity College, international relations and peace and conflict studies student.

As a teenager, Liu founded a community-based organization that makes music education accessible to children from families with limited means. This year, she co-chaired INDePth, a conference that brings Canadian and international students from diverse disciplines together to discuss development in Asia. She also works for Asian Institute director Joseph Wong on a multidisciplinary research project on health innovations for the global south.
“Educational experiences build the intellectual rigour, emotional resilience and community networks necessary for effective leadership,” Liu said. “I’ve been lucky to have learning experiences that have helped me develop the skills necessary for dealing with obstacles which inevitably arise from trying to create change.”

Liu also conducted field research on democracy during last January’s Taiwanese presidential elections, and spent the past summer in China with International Bridges to Justice, an organization that works to strengthen rule of law in developing countries.

Victoria College’s Lewis, who studies global health and women and gender studies, advocates for universities as spaces for critical thought tied to action for the public good.

Lewis served as a director for the University of Toronto Students’ Union and was an organizer with U of T’s General Assembly. After working a few weeks at Women’s College Research Institute through a Women’s Health Summer Experience Award, Lewis was appointed coordinator of a national research project studying methods of care for women living with HIV. She helped develop the mission, vision and mandate of the research and worked to integrate principles of anti-oppression throughout the project.

“I am delighted to see Johanna’s and Mimi’s work recognized with the 3M National Student Fellowships,” said Faculty of Arts & Science dean Meric Gertler. “I never cease to be amazed by the capacity of our students to draw on their own interests and strengths to exemplify leadership and enhance the educational experience of those around them. I am very proud that they will be representing the University of Toronto at the Society’s annual conference later this year.”

A total of 10 winners were chosen from nearly 90 candidates who were asked to define leadership in the context of their educational experience and explain why they aspired to such roles. Each is eligible to attend the annual STLHE conference in June, and participate in a collaborative project related to post-secondary education.