Ingrid Chiraz, BSc(AgEnvSc)’16, Project Administrator, Office of Student Academic Services; and Andrew Churchill, PhD’11, Hone Communications

“Thanks to the Lister program, I have been transformed from an unorganized and anxious presenter to a persuasive and compelling storyteller.” Jacob Liberty PhD candidate Bioresource Engineering

The Lister Family Engaged Science Initiative (LFESI) is one program that is increasing its reach and impact even in these difficult times. Specifically, program participation this year is expected to be over 400 students, an increase of well over 100% from last year, and 16 times more than at its inception 5 years ago.

So what do we do, what makes it so special, and how are we achieving such success?

The Lister Family Engaged Science Initiative was created thanks to the generosity and vision of the late Edward (BScAgr’55, MSc’57) and Teresa Lister, who believed that research should be communicated beyond the hallowed walls of academic institutions, and saw an opportunity to get students involved in that process. Since launching in 2016, students in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences have participated in science communication training, learning valuable tools to improve knowledge translation and become empowered communicators. Here is what our participants now say:

“The experience empowered me to speak about my research in a compelling and powerful story suitable for an audience of all backgrounds and ages.” Morgan Crowley BA’13, PhD candidate Natural Resource Sciences

The Initiative launched with a small cohort of 25 summer undergraduate research interns seeking to improve their communication skills in the context of a poster presentation event. Building on that success, by 2020, LFESI had developed into a year-round program, extending its reach to include graduate students in a variety of public forums, including LFESI public events such as the Macdonald Campus 3-Minute Thesis Competition, the Lister Science Chats, and the co-sponsored John Abbott Sustainability Symposium.

With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent shift to our new online reality, it has become apparent that the need for science communication training has grown in importance. The LFESI mission now includes helping students adapt to the virtual presentation space. Specifically, students are learning to develop a deep connection with their virtual audience by embracing the digital platform from which they now present. With a decreased impact of physical presence, students have had to rely more heavily on dynamic voice and more active, illustrative visuals, but we’re proud to say that they have stepped up to the challenge and are excelling in this new environment.

“I really enjoyed the Online 101 Quick Tips. I liked the very practical tips like some PowerPoint functions or how to engage with the audience through more dynamic presentations.” Mariana Beltran Quero, MSc student in Bioresource Engineering

Join one of the upcoming Lister Science Chats or visit our website to find more testimonials, training videos and recordings of past events.