Although academics make up the foundation of any good education, the modern university graduate faces much more dynamic and complex work and social environments than ever before. To meet these challenges, McGill students are using the same intrinsic drive that motivates them in their studies to develop extracurricular experiences to complement their education. Frequently, however, they lack the essential element that brings any innovative idea to fruition: financial support.
Enter programs like the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ Student Experience Enhancement Fund (SEEF) – designed to provide funding to create active learning opportunities that allow students to foster intentional reflection and acquire knowledge, skills and values that extend beyond the traditional classroom experience.
Recipients of SEEF funding, made possible by donations, feel that the financial assistance offered through the program affords them the opportunity to participate in activities that help them to better understand out-of-the-classroom elements associated with their chosen fields of study.
What’s on the MENU
Bianca Loge, BSc(NutrSc)’20, and Kristen Sunstrum, BSc(NutrSc)’21, acknowledge that SEEF funding is largely responsible for making their 2019 project proposal Meeting des Étudiants en Nutrition à l’Université (MENU) possible and accessible. Their idea for an annual two-day networking and social event for nutrition and dietetics students from eastern Canadian universities, presented entirely in French, sought to give their colleagues a unique opportunity to network with fellow dietitians through various workshops, kiosks and conferences featuring leaders in the field.
“SEEF funding covered the bulk of students’ transportation costs to the event in New Brunswick and a portion of the price of the trip for participating students, which made MENU 2019 a much more inclusive and affordable event to attend,” explains Bianca.
Kristen says the experience taught her the value of staying connected in this continuously evolving industry. “I’ve always carried forward the importance of increasing education and awareness on nutrition topics from experts who are spearheading change and influencing our field.”
Providing support in a digital world
In 2015, Zoey Li, BSc(NutrSc)’17, was also thrilled to learn that her proposal Yumitrition, a diabetes support program for the Montreal community, had been selected to receive SEEF support. “We felt ecstatic to be offered an opportunity to create something valuable for our peers and community, and to be supported as we explored this new journey.
“We hoped to connect the students and the local community through a website, forums, social media, community meet-up social events and cooking workshops in the Mac Campus Food Labs,” she explains.
“SEEF funding enabled us to build a proper website to begin to reach our community and also allowed us to finance and host workshops with professional food bloggers so that nutrition and dietetic students would have a better understanding of blogging and social media.”
Li currently runs Yumi Organics, a health food company she co-founded that creates better-for-you products for consumers. Operating primarily in the digital realm, she credits her SEEF experience with giving her the skills to navigate and better communicate her business offering. “Thanks to that experience, I understand how to build a website designed for its intended audience, how to structure a webpage that is logical and easy to follow, how to use keywords to maximize our Google search rankings, and how to write articles and blogs to boost our site ranking on Google.”
Douglas and Doreen Jose Student Experience Enhancement Award
Macdonald alumnus Doug Jose, BScAgr’66, is a firm believer in the power of experiential learning. In 2022, Dr. Jose and his late wife, Doreen, BSc(HEc)’68, endowed the Douglas and Doreen Jose Student Experience Enhancement Award – a legacy donation that will support Macdonald student hands-on learning for many years to come.
“University is a time for students to reach beyond the classroom to build experiences to help them transition into professional careers and develop relationships to create life-long friendships and future resource and support associates,” says Jose. “Universities need to develop critical thinking skills in their students, to instill an obligation and yearning to seek the truth with a commitment to enhance society as a result of their training and experiences.”
Jose understands that these complementary experiences give students a strategic advantage in the workplace, particularly in the agricultural sector. “They are better equipped to make contacts and generate ideas from those interactions. They understand that working in one aspect of agriculture comprises one component of a larger industry and that all the elements need to fit together to feed the world,” he explains. “These experiences also give them a chance to learn how to communicate information to others in a way that is consistent, scientific-based, relevant to the situation and understandable.”
The award is open to all students in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences engaged in learning opportunities that foster the acquisition of knowledge, skills and insights to supplement traditional classroom experiences. It encourages students to act on creative ideas and aspirations and to develop career and professional skills. Activities may include but are not limited to internships, independent research and volunteer activities.
Ultimately, through these activities, Doug hopes that students will walk away with the confidence to tackle any challenge they might face in their future careers. “Be true to yourself,” he says. “Interact with others with an open mind to generate ideas that fit your goals and can contribute positively to society and the advancement of agriculture.”
Bianca Loge, BSc(NutrSc)’20, recently completed a masters from the University of Copenhagen in Integrated Food Studies; Kristen Sunstrum, BSc(NutrSc)’21, works as an Account Development Representative in the digital health industry. Zoey Li, BSc(NutrSc)’17, is the founder of Yumi Organics, a health food company that creates better-for-you products for consumers and is a leader in Overnight Oats.
Interested in making your own contribution to the Student Experience Enhancement Fund?