There is a well-worn route many students take through university: car to classroom, classroom to car, home, repeat.
In 2013, Taylor Morriseau [BSc(Hons)/17] was one of them, intently focused on getting into med school. Had you asked her whether she was interested in pursuing anything beyond textbooks and coursework, she admits she would have shrugged it off.
But then Morriseau saw a poster advertising Alternative Reading Week—where students work at non-profit organizations during their February break. Intrigued, she broke from routine. Four months later, with her grandmother’s encouragement, Morriseau was off to Belize with five other U of M students.
They visited farms to learn about Indigenous agricultural practices, met with children to talk nutrition, and built a community garden at a local school.
While hand-digging fence posts and tilling the earth, community members explained their struggles with food sovereignty, land rights and health disparities. That newfound knowledge changed Morriseau’s view of the world and her place in it.
“I saw first-hand the disconnect between traditional farming practices and high-fat prepared foods that are increasingly available to families,” says Morriseau. “It made me think seriously about the complexities at home—complexities too often ignored in our textbooks.”
Returning to Winnipeg, she enrolled in a Faculty of Science co-op program and fell in love with research. Now, she’s pursuing her master’s degree in pharmacology and therapeutics by studying the mechanisms of Type 2 diabetes in Oji-Cree youth.
Jaysa Toet [BComm(Hons)/14] also knows the value of experiential learning opportunities. She applied to join the Asper School of Business co-op program and landed a full-time job before she even finished her degree. The connections she made and on-the-job skills she acquired put her ahead of other students, she says.
“You have to leave the safety net of the classroom,” explains Toet.
“When you’re forced to figure it out in real life, you stretch outside your comfort zone. HR is one of those fields where the textbook and real life are very different. You could read a piece of legislation and know what it says, but how that applies to a specific business is entirely situational.”
Giving students this competitive edge ensures their success and Manitoba’s economic, social and cultural growth. It’s a strategy many in the university community generously support.
Bell MTS, for example, established the Innovations in Agriculture Program with a $500,000 gift to the Front and Centre campaign. Through small group research projects, students develop and apply leading-edge technologies critical to advancing our province’s agriculture and food economy.
Thanks to a gift from Simone and L. Kerry Vickar [LLB/80], business law students take part in clinics where they prepare legal information for entrepreneurs and not-for-profit entities, guided by volunteers from the practising bar.
Community support is at the core of Variety Children’s Dental Outreach Program, where dentistry students interact with disadvantaged families, teaching preventative oral hygiene, and practicing restorative care.
Jerome Cranston [PhD/07], executive director of student engagement and success at the U of M, wants to see even more opportunities that equip students to be engaged citizens and encourage them to consider interacting with “the physical and social world beyond the limits of a specific academic program.” Morriseau agrees. “I hope potential donors see how these experiences take us to new places within ourselves,” she says. “I would not be pursuing graduate studies or research if I did not have the opportunities that I did. Even a small trip, four years ago, is still creating lasting change for me.”
To develop the leaders of tomorrow, we need to provide our students with innovative learning opportunities today.
Thanks to the generosity of Bell MTS; L. Kerry and Simone Vickar; Variety, The Children’s Charity; and the collective efforts of hundreds of donors, the Front and Centre campaign is already supporting an outstanding student experience.
But to make a transformative impact, a transformative investment is required. We are calling on you, our alumni, to give generously to the Front and Centre campaign. With your support, our students will become the future leaders of our province and our world.
To support the Front and Centre campaign, visit give.umanitoba.ca