Trent University student Tonya-Leah Watts has been named a 3M national student fellow in recognition of her outstanding accomplishments in combining Biomedical Science and Indigenous Studies – making her the third student in a row to receive the prestigious honour.
The 3M Fellowship annually recognizes ten college and university students from across Canada who have demonstrated qualities of outstanding leadership and embrace a vision of education that enhances their academic experience and beyond.
Ms. Watts, a fourth-year undergraduate student studying a unique combination of Biomedical Science and Indigenous Studies, is being honoured for her academic work as well as for her contributions to medical research, music, and Indigenous community-building and cultural revitalization. She is currently working towards a career in medicine through which she plans to combine western and Indigenous knowledge to deliver better quality care to Indigenous peoples in Canada.
“We are very proud to have had students from Trent University recognized for three consecutive years by the Society of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and 3M Canada,” said Dr. Cathy Bruce, dean of Education, Teaching and Learning at Trent. “We celebrate all of our outstanding student leaders at Trent, and we particularly recognize the impressive accomplishments and contributions of our most recent recipients, Erin Hayward, Debbie Jenkins, and now Tonya-Leah Watts, the Trent students who over the last three years have been welcomed into this distinguished fellowship, which only recognizes the most outstanding students from colleges and universities across Canada.”
Ms. Watts is from Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island. She’s a gifted and dedicated leader, advocate, scientist, musician and mentor. Throughout her time at Trent, Ms. Watts has received several scholarships and awards recognizing her exemplary academic achievements and exceptional community leadership and involvements. She has also been involved in research and mentorship programs at the SickKids Research Institute.
Speaking of the 3M honour, Ms. Watts said: “The majority of my life has been spent looking for ways to pursue my own dreams of promoting positive change for Indigenous peoples in Canada while encouraging others to do the same. I take this opportunity as nothing less than a sign that I am headed in the right direction.”
Ms. Watts’ vision for delivering better quality health care to Indigenous peoples in Canada is intricately connected to her passion for music. Ms. Watts noted that “Indigenous voice, expression, and advocacy has been silent to the ears of Canada for a long time. Finding our voices again is an act of resurgence and a symbol of our strength as Indigenous peoples. However, in my mind, reconciliation only comes when others are ready to listen to these voices. Thus, singing is what I consider a gift from the creator, as it has allowed me to share/celebrate my culture with others who are willing to listen. When I sing, I not only represent myself, but my community, and I have learned the great responsibility of participating in building relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.”
The ten 2019 3M National Student Fellows will jointly deliver an address at the national conference of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) in Winnipeg, Manitoba in June. Together with the other student fellows selected from across the country, Ms. Watts will have the opportunity to develop a national collaborative project with the goal of enhancing teaching and learning at the postsecondary level. The student fellows will then implement that project over the course of 2019/20, with the support of STLHE.
About Trent University
One of Canada's top universities, Trent University was founded on the ideal of interactive learning that's personal, purposeful and transformative. Consistently recognized nationally for leadership in teaching, research and student satisfaction, Trent attracts excellent students from across the country and around the world. Here, undergraduate and graduate students connect and collaborate with faculty, staff and their peers through diverse communities that span residential colleges, classrooms, disciplines, hands-on research, co-curricular and community-based activities. Across all disciplines, Trent brings critical, integrative thinking to life every day. Today, Trent's unique approach to personal development through supportive, collaborative community engagement is in more demand than ever. Students lead the way by co-creating experiences rooted in dialogue, diverse perspectives and collaboration. In a learning environment that builds life-long passion for inclusion, leadership and social change, Trent's students, alumni, faculty and staff are engaged global citizens who are catalysts in developing sustainable solutions to complex issues. Trent's Peterborough campus boasts award-winning architecture in a breathtaking natural setting on the banks of the Otonabee River, just 90 minutes from downtown Toronto, while Trent University Durham – Greater Toronto Area, delivers a distinct mix of programming in the east GTA.
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