U of S student receives national leadership fellowship

Victoria Cowan is leading the way as the first U of S recipient of the 3M National Student Fellowship, an award given to 10 undergraduates in Canada for demonstrating leadership in education.

By Kris Foster

Cowan, a third-year English honours student, has been a leader on and off campus through her volunteerism as a peer mentor with the University Learning Centre, as a teacher-intern with Inspired Minds, and as a volunteer with the Otesha Project, an environmental sustainability and youth empowerment organization. In addition to this recognition, Cowan also received the University of Saskatchewan Students' Union's Vera Pezer Award for Student Enhancement.

"It feels incredibly humbling," said Cowan about receiving the award. "Throughout this process, I had to reflect on the influence of leaders and mentors who have inspired me and who could have easily been up for this award as well.  I feel like this is an important stepping stone in deciding what direction to take after my undergrad."

The nomination process involved preparing a narrative that outlined Cowan's vision of leadership in higher education, along with evidence from other students and faculty. Cowan said that the nomination process "was illuminating. It showed me that an individual's success is always a community effort."

Cowan's award narrative focused on experiential learning, which is central to her leadership practice. She believes that, although "experiential learning is currently an exception rather than a norm, it is important to keep providing a diversity of learning environments in higher education."

"Being able to have the leadership excellence of one of our exceptional students recognized with a national award is very exciting," said Patti McDougall, vice-provost teaching and learning. "That her leadership experience has focused on participating in experiential learning and enabling experiential learning opportunities for others, which is one of our key areas of focus for the teaching and learning environment, makes this even more outstanding."

The 3M Student Fellowship program, offered by 3M Canada and co-ordinated by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE), is modelled on the successful 3M Teaching Fellowship program recognizing both teaching excellence and educational leadership. The U of S has eight teaching fellowship recipients.

As part of the student fellowship, Cowan will have the opportunity to discuss her vision for teaching and learning in higher education at the STLHE conference in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The fellowship includes travel to the conference and a $5,000 award.