Recognizing Graduate Student Leaders

Erin WongEring Wong 2018-2019

Ering Wong, PhD Candidate
Department: Molecular Genetics


Did you know that GLSE has an Instagram account? Our Instagram, ScienceToU, is a student lead initiative that aims to share the research being conducted at the Faculty of Medicine and to shed light on the day-to-day activities of graduate students and scientists.

Erin Wong is the student leader of our Instagram account. She is a 5thyear PhD candidate in the Department of Molecular Genetics and has played a major role in the development, launch and continued maintenance of ScienceToU.

Erin believes that practicing scientists have a responsibility to inspire the next generation of young scientists and to bridge the gap in scientific understanding between academia and the public. Since photography is also something that she enjoys greatly, when the call came out to recruit student volunteers for the GLSE Instagram committee, she jumped at the opportunity to get involved. She believes that sharing the routine of scientists and communicating their research findings in an easily digestible/visual manner will help demystify science to the public and ultimately foster more curiosity, engagement, and understanding. She has found this experience to be very fulfilling and looks forward to continuing to develop the account. It’s not often that you’ll get the opportunity to combine your work, your hobby and your desire to enact change at the same time.

Erin MillerErin Miller Erin Miller, Physiotherapist and PhD Candidate
Department: Rehabilitation Sciences Institute


I am a physiotherapist and PhD Candidate at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute (RSI) at the University of Toronto.

Throughout my two years in the doctoral program at RSI, I have been actively involved in supporting the graduate student community and promoting ongoing excellence within the Faculty of Medicine. This has included serving on a number of strategic and planning committees, such as the Rehabilitation Sciences Research Day Planning Committee, the Rehabilitation Sciences Faculty and Staff Development Committee, the Faculty of Medicine Strategic Working Group for Rehabilitation Sciences and the International Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Student Group.

In addition to my work with these committees, I have served as a formal mentor for students across a variety of programs within the Faculty of Medicine. This includes students from RSI, students from the Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MScPT) Program and students from the Ontario Internationally Educated Physical Therapy Bridging (OIEPB) Program.

As a mentor to my peers, I try to foster relationships where both the mentor and mentee contribute to driving the relationship and establishing the mentorship priorities. My experience has been that engaging in mentorship relationships that are reflective and reciprocal in nature (rather than purely hierarchical) leads to a high level of engagement on both the part of the mentor and the mentee. Graduate school can be a very challenging and isolating experience and I think it is important that as students we work together to support each other and help each other to thrive.

In acknowledgement of my capacity to motivate and inspire, I was thrilled to be awarded the 2019 PhD Leadership and Innovation Award at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute.

Jonathan ChioJonathan Chio Jonathan Chio, PhD Candidate
Department: Institute of Medical Science


Jonathon Chio is a PhD student who joined the Institute of Medical Science (IMS) in September 2014. Working under the supervision of Dr. Michael Fehlings, Jonathon’s doctoral thesis aims to facilitate the clinical translation of human immunoglobulin G as an immunomodulatory therapy for treating spinal cord injury. Outside of his academic work, Jonathon has made significant contributions in enhancing the academic experience of students. In the IMS, at the graduate level, he is an Executive Editor on the Institute of Medical Science Student Magazine, mentor in the IMS peer-to-peer mentorship program and student representative on various subcommittees involved with strategic planning and curriculum development. He had also helped to develop the graduate professional development module and participated in the Student Council; holding positions of Secretary, Magazine Representative and Interdepartmental Representative. At the undergraduate level, Jonathon helps to organize the annual IMS Summer Undergraduate Research Program. Outside of IMS, he leads a high school neuroscience outreach program and is a teaching assistant. Jonathon has been a beneficiary of the supportive academic and social environments he grew up in and thus, tries to contribute back by “paying it forward”. This also serves to be the foundation of his leadership philosophy, where he actively participates and leads initiatives that help students reach their full professional and personal potential through academic and social development.
Mikaela StiverMikaela Stiver Mikaela Stiver, PhD Candidate
Department of Rehabilitation Sciences Institute


I am a 3rd year PhD candidate in the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute (RSI) working under the supervision of Dr. Anne Agur. Outside of research and teaching, I have sought out numerous opportunities to connect with and contribute to communities within RSI, the University of Toronto, and the City of Toronto/Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

As a member of the Rehabilitation Science Graduate Student Union, I have served as the co-chair of both the Social & Service Committee and the Mentorship Committee. I am also a Senior Editor and Promotions Manager for rehabINK: an academically-driven online publication created and led by graduate students in RSI.

Outside of RSI, I am actively involved with the award-winning, national, charitable organization Let’s Talk Science. Let’s Talk Science focuses on the development and delivery of hands-on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) outreach initiatives for children and youth. As a Site Coordinator, I work with teams of dedicated volunteers to organize and manage several annual symposia for students across the GTA, including StemCellTalks, Let’s Talk Cancer, and the Let’s Talk Science Challenge.

I believe that successful leaders are those who can translate interest or enthusiasm into action and inspire those around them to do the same. I am tremendously grateful for those who inspired me and helped me to recognize the value of pursuing what I truly enjoy. As I near the end of my doctoral studies, I hope to carry this philosophy forward into my career.

Brianna GuildBrianna Guild Brianna Guild, M.H.Sc. Candidate
Department of Speech-Language Pathology

Brianna Guild is a second year M.H.Sc. Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) student who has displayed leadership through her involvements in Mind Your Mind and Theory to Therapy: The Ontario SLP and Audiology Graduate Student Conference.

Developed by UofT SLP alumna Jenna Haji in 2017, Mind Your Mind is a multifaceted wellness program that bridges education, self-care, and personal development in a safe environment for students to learn, grow, and gain peace. Brianna served as Project Manager of Mind Your Mind for the 2018-2019 academic year, which included organizing a committee to run the program, and facilitating weekly mindfulness sessions for the UofT SLP students. Each session focuses on a different topic related to mindfulness, such as self-care, gratitude, and emotional resiliency, and consists of a meditation, education on the topic, and an activity to develop skills in that area.

Additionally, Brianna, alongside SLP student colleagues Allie Annibale and Shanie Rampersaud, was a Co-Founder and Co-Chair of Theory to Therapy 2018, and returned as a Co-Chair in 2019. Theory to Therapy is the first student-run conference for SLP and Audiology graduate students in Ontario that aims to integrate students from across the province to share knowledge and experiences, and showcase the importance of research in clinical practice. Each year, Brianna worked diligently to plan the conference day, which included a keynote speaker, presentations from current clinical and research students, and a team-based advocacy campaign creation challenge.

Brianna’s collaborations with her peers exemplify her leadership philosophy that our best work is done when we work collectively to achieve our goals. Brianna developed this philosophy after years of working as part of successful leadership teams during both her undergraduate and graduate programs. She has consistently been a respectful, inclusive and collaborative leader.

Suzette Newton-Janse van RensburgSuzette Newton-Janse van Rensburg Suzette Newton-Janse Van Rensburg, M.H.Sc Candidate
Department: Speech-Language Pathology

In preparation for the University of Toronto's Speech-Language Pathology program's 60th Anniversary Celebration in June 2018, Suzette formed the SLP Choir, conducting a performance featuring twenty talented Year 1 and Year 2 SLP students. The SLP Choir continued to rehearse and perform throughout 2018. In September 2018, Suzette organized, directed, and performed in Singing for Support: A Concert Highlighting Communication and Mental Health. Taking place in the beautiful Tapestry Opera space in the Distillery District, this fundraiser concert raised funds for the George Hull Centre for Children and Families, a community-based centre for child, youth, and family mental health programs and early intervention. Featuring the singing, dancing, acting, and musical talents of our students, the concert addressed the important connections between mental health and communication. In total, the concert raised over $2300 for the George Hull Centre! Suzette also served as the Co-President for the Class of 2019 Speech-Language Pathology Student Council.

Suzette believes that effective leadership relies on trust and demonstrating a willingness to listen and understand the perspective of others. If you recognize a need for change, take the initiative and speak up, reach out, or take action.

Jo-Anna BaxterJo-Anna Baxter Jo-Anna Baxter, PhD Candidate
Department of Nutritional Sciences


Jo-Anna Baxter is a 4th year PhD Candidate in the Department of Nutritional Sciences (DNS). Under the supervision of Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta, her dissertation focuses on the nutrition of adolescent girls in rural Pakistan. She works closely with a team of researchers from the Aga Khan University in the management and conduction of a large randomized trial evaluating the effectiveness of multiple micronutrient supplementation and life skills building education provided to adolescent and young women in Pakistan.

Throughout her time with the DNS, Jo-Anna has had the opportunity to serve in multiple roles within the Nutritional Sciences Graduate Students' Association; as an editor of the DNS graduate student-led magazine (NutriNews); and as a mentor to incoming DNS graduate students. To date, highlights have included running a journal club that promoted thoughtful discussion of pertinent scientific publications; organizing multiple graduate student and faculty social and networking events; and participating in faculty meetings. Outside of the DNS, Jo-Anna is also a member of the Innovation and Education Committee at the Centre for Global Child Health (Hospital for Sick Children). In this role, she has helped with grant administration and review and educational engagement, including organizing a booth for children to learn about global health at Science Rendezvous.


In terms of her leadership philosophy, Jo-Anna strongly believes in ensuring that team members (1) understand role they can contribute, and (2) feel that their efforts are valued. Consequently, she thinks that those involved tend to be more motivated, willing to participate, and optimistic. Jo-Anna greatly values all that she has learned (and continues to learn) around leadership from many fantastic U of T faculty members, as well as from interacting with her peers!

Laura VergeerLaura Vergeer Name: Laura Vergeer, PhD Candidate
Department: Nutritional Sciences
Supervisor: Dr. Mary L’Abbé


How I displayed leadership:
Since beginning my graduate studies in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, I have become involved in several student and alumni organizations. I am Co-President of the Nutritional Sciences Graduate Students’ Association (NSGSA), having previously served as Social Representative and First Year Representative. I am also Vice President of the Department of Nutritional Sciences Alumni Association, and have contributed to our department’s student-led magazine, NutriNews. Outside of the Department, I am a member of the Obesity Canada National Student Executive and a Child Life Volunteer at The Hospital for Sick Children. Through these positions, I have helped to organize and host various events, activities and initiatives for students, faculty and alumni at U of T, as well as members of Obesity Canada and patients and families at SickKids.

My leadership philosophy:
I believe that an effective leader should motivate and inspire others to reach their potential and achieve common goals. A great leader is dedicated, reliable, compassionate and supports the growth of those around them. As a student leader, I aim to encourage my peers to become involved in student life not only for the benefit of our departmental community, but also to provide opportunities for personal growth and strengthening of their own leadership skills.

Sasha DoodnauthSasha Doodnauth Sasha Doodnath, PhD Candidate
Department: Medical Biophysics


Throughout my five years at the University of Toronto, I’ve had many wonderful opportunities to lead a variety of student groups and champion impactful student initiatives. As the president of my student union, I was able to create a tight-knit student community in my department by organizing and leading various academic events and social impact projects. As a student advocate, I successfully co-created the Faculty of Medicine (FoM) Graduate Representation Committee, whose guiding principal was to inform, listen and advocate for all FoM graduate students. Through this committee, my team and I successfully lobbied for increased student funding and restructuring of scholarship top-up practises, resulting in a 7-10% increase in student stipend over the past 2 years. Additionally, in collaboration with GLSE, I was able to co-create an online system for students to assess the quality of their graduate experience and education, allowing for continuous academic reformation. By helping students foster a sense of comradery with their peers through social events, alleviating their financial stresses and assuring a strong graduate tenure, I believe every graduate student's experience across FoM has improved and a stronger sense of UofT community has emerged.

Leadership Philosophy:
My personal leadership philosophy centers around motivating and inspiring others towards a united vision or task; By fostering an environment of mutual respect, open communication and support, teams will be driven to better their goals and scale to newer heights.

Janany JeyasundaramJanany Jeyasundaram Janany Jeyasundaram, MSc Candidate
Department: Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy


My identities and experiences have shaped my perspectives on how humans experience occupations within the opportunities and constraints of social and cultural circumstances. As the daughter of refugees, I have a strong sense of being between two worlds—the world of my parents in their homeland, which I have imbibed and internalized, and the world I was born into, where I do not fully belong. I have witnessed legacies of trauma both in my personal circles and in my role as an occupational therapy student. Throughout my occupational therapy education, I actively sought leadership opportunities to further my understanding of equity and move the profession towards greater inclusion of vulnerable populations.

This year, I established the Student Inclusion Diversity Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) Committee, which is a student-led group with the vision to move towards a more equitable learning environment for OS & OT learners. To actualize this vision, we leverage our collective experiences and knowledge to plan and implement equity initiatives that foster new learning and personal growth. For example, in partnership with experts, the Student IDEA Committee was able to host the department’s first ever Black Futures Month event in February of 2019. The two-part workshop addressed the specific role occupational therapists can play to identify disparities and better meet the needs of Black populations. This leadership role has been the most rewarding for me because it allowed me the opportunity to learn from and contribute to our collective development as change agentsa core competency needed in work with vulnerable populations.

In recognition of my leadership, I was pleased to be a recipient of the 2019 Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award. This acknowledgement has instilled a confidence and motivation in me to continue to do this work.

Sachin KumarSachin Kumar Sachin Kumar, MD/PhD Candidate
Department: Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology

I am a 4th year MD/PhD student within the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology. This past year, I had the privilege of serving as President of the Confederation of Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology (CLAMPS), the department’s graduate students association. My goal was to develop and expand the programming available to our graduate students, particularly around soft-skills, career planning and getting the most out of your graduate degree. This culminated in a revamp of our annual LMP Research Conference, which unified our graduate and post-graduate medical trainees in a day of research excellence, mentorship and scientific communication. I believe that leadership means identifying an important area of need, and crafting creative solutions. Collaborating with the CLAMPS executive and administration, we were able work together towards a unified goal and improve the student experience.

Stephanie NishiStephanie Nishi Stephanie Nishi, PhD Candidate
Department: Nutritional Sciences


Stephanie Nishi is a Registered Dietitian and PhD Candidate with Dr. John Sievenpiper in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto. Her thesis project is aimed at investigating the misconception regarding nut intake and adiposity by assessing fatty acid bioavailability via a secondary analysis of a clinical trial and synthesizing the body of knowledge by conducting a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Her ultimate research goal is to help inform evidence-based guidance for public health policy and nutrition guidelines.

In addition to her thesis research, Stephanie is actively involved as a leader in the Faculty of Medicine as well as the broader community.  Within her department she has taken on executive roles with the Nutritional Sciences Graduate Students’ Association (NSGSA), including being President; is an Editor of NutriNews, the graduate student-led magazine; Communications Officer for the Alumni Association; and Mentor for undergraduate and graduate students. In the community, she is Co-Chair for the nationwide group Dietitians Doing Research and enjoys volunteering with various other organizations.

Stephanie strives to be inspired and inspiring, and this ethos helps guide her leadership philosophy.  Through dedication, integrity, and enthusiasm she aims to continue to create and cultivate positive, productive environments.  

Zhila Semnani-Azad, Nutritional SciencesZhila Semnani-Azad, Nutritional Sciences 2019-2020

Zhila Semnani-Azad, PhD Candidate
Department of Nutritional Sciences


Throughout my graduate career, I have been an active member of numerous student-run associations and a dedicated student ambassador and mentor. I have been a regular contributor to my department newsletter, Nutrizine, and have held many positions within the Nutritional Sciences Graduate Student Association (NSGSA). I have worked to establish new connections, share my experiences and interests around research in the sciences, and to improve student and faculty engagement. Through involvement in mentorship programs at several university levels and as the New College Senior Doctoral Fellow for Human Biology, I have provided students with guidance in navigating and excelling in academics, in obtaining research opportunities, in scholarship applications, and in balancing academic and non-academic commitments. My involvement at the University of Toronto over the past several years has assisted my peers, Department, and faculty to build strong relationships and a closer community, and has allowed me to meet and learn from fellow students, faculty, and researchers who excel in their own fields and have made commitments to share their knowledge with others. I truly believe that in order to grow as an individual, it is important to share with and learn from others. Taking on leadership roles throughout my time at the University of Toronto has provided me with a multitude of opportunities and has helped me foster and gain invaluable skills that I look forward to extending to all my future endeavours.

Tyler SaumerTyler Saumer Tyler Saumur
Department of Rehabilitation Sciences Institute


I have held various leadership positions in my five years at RSI (Rehabilitation Sciences Institute), including Rehabilitation Science Graduate Student Union Co-President, student lead for the RSI Handbook Committee, and Mentorship Committee Co-Chair. In 2017, I was fortunate to receive our department’s MSc Peer Mentorship Award and in 2020, to be selected for the PhD Inspiration & Leadership Award. As Co-President during my MSc, my partner and I made it one of our goals to ask students what they felt could be improved in their graduate experience and formulated our agenda around these needs. To accomplish this, we used surveys and held town halls to further understand areas of frustration for our students. We then systematically tested and changed multiple processes in the department including: (1) digitizing annual online report forms, (2) creating expectations for administrative response times to improve communication, (3) streamlining the external course application process, and (4) creating a committee of students to review and update the RSI handbook. During my PhD, as Mentorship Committee Co-Chair, I saw a need to improve the community and connection between incoming student and our more senior students and developed a mentorship program where we continually recruit upper year students to be paired with and mentor incoming students. During my PhD, I also helped establish RSI’s Annual Student-Alumni Networking Event to provide current students the opportunity to connect with alumni as an initial step in navigating potential paths following their degree. Being in academia, one of the biggest limitations that students identify in their formal training is understanding the breadth of jobs available to them outside of academia and this was one of the goals of this event.

Leadership Philosophy
Overall, through my experience as a student leader, I have always considered what the students want to get out of their experience at the University of Toronto as a prime focus of my endeavours. It is my philosophy that an event or workshop should not be run just for the sake of doing it, or because it has been done in the past, but because it will help further skills of the graduate student body that they feel need to be further developed.

Jacqueline NesticoJacqueline Netico Jacqueline Nestico
Department of Rehabilitation Sciences Institute

When I began my master’s studies at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute (RSI) in 2018, I immediately looked for opportunities to become involved in student life. I took on an executive position with the Rehabilitation Sciences Graduate Student Union (RSGSU) as the Communications Officer, as well as joining several RSGSU committees. Now in my second year, I have had the privilege of taking on leadership positions including Co-President of the RSGSU and Co-Managing Editor for rehabINK’s Issue 9. Through my involvement with the RSGSU, I have listened to and engaged with the student body to identify their concerns and areas in which the RSGSU and RSI department can improve student life. In doing so I have assisted with and spearheaded initiatives, including advocating for financial equity for students and creating a networking resource for RSI students and alumni. With the disruption that the current pandemic has caused to regular daily life, I was also able to assist with seamlessly shifting multiple initiatives online, including RSI town halls, which have been instrumental in ensuring information is effectively disseminated to the students. Following my active efforts to ensure students are engaged and having positive graduate school experiences, I was proud to have received RSI’s Leadership and Inspiration Award.

As a student leader, I strive to enhance the positive experiences of my fellow students. Being heavily involved in student life has provided me with invaluable experiences and greatly improved my time at the University of Toronto. In turn, I encourage my peers to also seek out opportunities for involvement within RSI and the RSGSU. While my time at RSI is coming to an end, I hope that through my involvement and active leadership positions, I have made a positive impact on my peers and that I have inspired them to also strive for excellence.

Nicole BazzocchiNicole Bazzocchi Nicole Bassocchi
Department of Speech-Language Pathology


Nicole Bazzocchi is a second year student in the M.H.Sc Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) program. She  has displayed leadership through her involvement with the Theory to Therapy: Ontario Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Graduate Student Conference and the Interprofessional Healthcare Students’ Association (IPHSA).

Developed by UofT SLP alumni Brianna Guild, Allie Annibale, and Shanie Rampersaud in 2018, the Theory to Therapy Graduate Student conference aims to foster the importance of research in clinical practice, while encouraging collaboration among audiology and SLP students. For the past two years, Nicole has acted as a co-chair of the conference, creating a space for students to share their research, knowledge and experiences with one another. Even among the COVID-19 pandemic, Nicole remained committed to cultivating these learning environments and the team transitioned the conference to a virtual format! Going virtual allowed the conference to expand across the Ontario border, bringing together students from six schools across Canada. The agenda included a professional keynote speaker, five student workshops and an interactive case-based networking activity.

As a member of IPHSA, Nicole acted as one of the SLP program representatives, as well as a member of both the Outreach and Education Committees. As a member of these committees, she assisted in the organization and implementation of various interprofessional education learning activities. She also acted as an Outreach Mentor to undergraduate and high school students interested in entering a healthcare profession, particularly SLP. In this role, she listened to her mentees’ aspirations, fielded questions, provided support and promoted healthcare professions and interprofessional collaboration.

Nicole believes that leadership is adaptive and can take on many styles and forms. Being a leader means sharing your talents, passions, and skills with the world; collaborating with others to achieve a shared vision and inspiring others to do the same. 

Chanele Polenz and Dakota GustafsonChanele Polenz and Dakota Gustafson Student Names: Chanele Polenz and Dakota Gustafson
Supervisors: Dr. Myron Cybulsky and Dr. Jason Fish
Department of Laboratory Medicne and Pathobiology

Chanele Polenz and Dakota Gustafson are both Ph.D. students in the Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology. Throughout the last four years they have served numerous roles within the Confederation of Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology Students (CLAMPS), the student body representing all graduate students within the department, as well as leadership positions in other academic and community groups.

As Co-Presidents of CLAMPS they instituted and launched a new ambassador program for incoming students. In this program, students are matched with an experienced, upper-level LMP graduate student to help guide them through all aspects of their graduate career: academic milestones, navigating a new project or research environment, or finding time for wellbeing. Programs such as this one embody their leadership philosophy of empowering students to reach their innate potential, allowing individual strengths to flourish, and creating an inclusive and well-balanced environment.

They believe that an important part of student advocacy and leadership is to encourage others to make decisions and participate in crafting the student experience. In the last year, their role in organising events such as departmental roundtables and student-led conferences, supporting new wellness initiatives, and introducing mentorship programs has helped create a more inclusive and healthy graduate experience. Although they will be leaving their role in CLAMPS at the end of this summer, they will continue to advocate for students through the ongoing involvement in university affairs, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to succeed.

Alena ZelinkaAlena Zelinka Alena Zelinka, Helen Yang, Joey Silbert
Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology


Alena Zelinka, Helen Yang, Joey Silburt are student leaders within the Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology (LMP) Wellness, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (WIDE) committee. This committee is a collaboration of faculty, staff, and students focused on reviewing the department’s practices to ensure that they are inclusive, equitable, and supportive of diversity and wellness.


Helen YangHelen Yang Alena is a PhD candidate at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute in the lab of Dr. Rita Kandel. Together with Dr. Samira Mubareka, she co-chaired the Knowledge subcommittee, investigating challenges in faculty member career advancement and developing strategies to overcome these obstacles. She is currently leading a project with Dr. Isabelle Aubert to develop methods to assess LMP committee composition and practices according to principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Together with her project working group, she has generated a preliminary approach for LMP committee review and drafted a common set of Terms of Reference for LMP committees.

Helen is a MSc candidate at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute in the lab of Dr. Shabbir Alibhai. Helen co-chaired the Community subcommittee with Dr. Janice Robertson. They worked with a team of students, staff, and faculty to improve the accessibility of departmental communications, create safe spaces for LGBTQ members, and develop social, academic, and professional opportunities for postdoctoral fellows. She is now leading a project with Dr. Avrum Gotlieb to collect and highlight stories from the LMP community, and amplify voices of individuals from marginalized and under-represented groups in health and medical sciences.

Joey is a PhD candidate at Sunnybrook Research Institute in the lab of Dr. Isabelle Aubert. Through the WIDE committee, Joey worked with a team to identify gaps in health and wellness resources available within LMP. In this capacity, Joey helped to lead a project to develop a repository on community health and emergency help resources and is working with the WIDE committee to create an emergency one-click button to help connect students and staff with health resources.


Alena, Helen, and Joey joined WIDE with the ultimate goal of supporting the LMP community and contributing to important dialogue and solutions. Working with faculty and staff to lead specific tasks and objectives has been and continues to be a journey of growth, collaboration, and empowerment. They learned that success as leaders is predicated on the contributions of all team members who must have meaningful roles and responsibilities, and the creation of safe, respectful, positive spaces, resulting in the productive exchange of novel ideas.

Alexandra MarakhovskaiaAlexandra Marakhovskaia Alexandra Marakhovskaia
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology


In the end of 2019 I applied for SGS fund to organize Mental Health Workshops and the application was approved. We are looking forward to these seminars that will take place during Fall 2020, current circumstances permitting.

What is leadership for me?
No one’s path is the same and we are here to help and guide each other through it. Many of us had great teachers that provided support and direction, answered our questions, and helped us to understand our strengths.

Academic career and scientific research are very attractive for young and smart people, however, going through it alone can be a challenging task. I believe it’s important for students to help each other. We all have different talents that can complement each other. I strongly believe that competitive environment is not the best way to promote productive work, in my opinion, collaboration and cooperation help people being creative and happier overall. Unfortunately, a great number of grad students face challenging life circumstances, that might affect their mental health. I am one of them.

My dream and objective is to find a way to bring guidance and support to as many people as possible that happen to be in similar circumstances as me. We often do not know what is right, what is the best way to lead our lives and careers, but it might be easier to figure it out together. Having someone you can trust and rely on can make this phase of your life more enjoyable and rewarding. I believe that graduate students deserve to have control over their professional development and in order to achieve that, I want to do the best I can to improve the graduate student’s well-being and guide them to a career they want to pursue.