GSA introduces new Leaders of Laurier awards

Graphic by Fani Hsieh
Graphic by Fani Hsieh

The Wilfrid Laurier University Graduate Students’ Association recently announced that they will rename their Researchers of Laurier program to Leaders of Laurier.

The change comes with the introduction of two additional categories that graduate students are eligible to apply.

The three categories include Researchers of Laurier, Innovators/Entrepreneurs of Laurier and Community Champion of Laurier.

The Researchers of Laurier program has been successfully run since 2012, choosing one winner per year.

According to GSA vice-president of student development, Rebecca Friesdorf, the change was brought on by a need to recognize students whose work didn’t fall into the category of research.

“Students who are in domains such as business and social work, might not have been able to apply with their graduate work because it wouldn’t fall under the umbrella of research,” said Friesdorf.

“[Those are] the key changes, that we really wanted to include those people because there’s such a diverse number of different types of work being done by graduate students and we want to kind of promote and recognize and celebrate all of those and not have it be specific only to research.”

Application forms were made available on Nov. 15, after which students have the opportunity to submit until Jan. 15. The process includes submitting both an application and a video.

Once applications are submitted, invitations will be sent out to students to present the work to a review panel in late January and early February, after which a showcase will be made available to graduate students to vote on an overall winner.

Many of the dates will remain flexible as the process moves throughout the winter semester.

The submissions must adhere to the 2016-17 theme of “Agents of Change”.

“This year’s theme is “Becoming Agents of Change” and thus applications might discuss how the project transforms our understanding of a particular concept or mechanism, how the student or project acts as a catalyst for change, how the student or project alters human capability or organizational systems to achieve a higher degree of output or self-actualization, etc.,” said a statement released by the GSA.

Students will have the flexibility to decide how their work fits into any of the three frameworks.

“We created the three streams to help students.  It’s really hard to describe the type of work we’re looking for, if you leave it very broad. So we still wanted to have some level of specificity, so that’s why we went with Researcher of Laurier. That way there is also continuity with there being a Researcher of Laurier each year.  Then we added the innovator/entrepreneur of Laurier category and the community champion of Laurier category, to kind of help people have something specific and concrete to apply to.”

In order to accommodate for the changes, the GSA will be implementing a new showcase review panel.

“We are going to recruit graduate students from programs that are representative of the three domains. Those students will then be provided with, at the first stage, a broad evaluation form. That’s still in the process of being developed because now there’s the different streams and we’re going to try to be as specific as possible towards those different streams. We’ll put out a call once the application period is open to recruit people that can be on this adjudication committee. They can then gain experience with that process, as well,” said Friesdorf.

There will be three overall winners at the end of the entire process.

“Previously, with researchers of Laurier, there was one 500 dollar prize and professional development package. Now there will be three of those, so one for each stream. There won’t be an overall winner, there will be three winners and it won’t be reduced to one at the end,” said Friesdorf.

According to Friesdorf, the award presents an opportunity to be recognized for an individual’s graduate work and can also make a great line on a resume.

“It’s a really good opportunity for their research or other graduate work to have more visibility within the Laurier community, potentially also within the wider community, the global community and the Waterloo Region community,” said Friesdorf.

“They have the potential to have their work showcased in the library, as well. That’s an even kind of bigger event because we will be broadcasting it through various social media channels that will allow others to be aware of their work and they can receive recognition for that.”

The Graduate Students’ Association holds a number of events throughout the year to encourage student development. The three awards given this year will be among the biggest given out by the association.

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