Mount Allison student SunMin Park receives 2023 3M National Student Fellowship Award
SACKVILLE, NB — Mount Allison University honours biology student SunMin Park is a recipient of a 2023 3M National Student Fellowship Award. The ten student recipients across Canada were announced on May 12 by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE).
“It is a really incredible honour to be one of ten recipients across the country,” says Park. “This process has allowed me to reflect a lot on my life journey so far, what kind of impact I want to have moving forward, and how I can make that impact even bigger.”
Park grew up in South Korea and moved to Moncton, NB with her family in 2010 at the age of nine. As the only immigrant and person of colour in her classroom, she says it was an isolating experience.
“I left everything I knew to move across the world and the way I assimilated myself in the community was to become invisible to make other people comfortable,” she says.
This experience fueled her passion for working with newcomers and refugee families, along with a lifelong commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. She worked as a youth coordinator with MAGMA in Moncton in 2019, connecting newcomer families to resources and opportunities, and that experience led her to Parliament in 2021 as a communications intern at the Office of the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth.
“This was one of the best experiences I have ever had,” says Park. “Working on such an important mandate that is to build a truly inclusive Canada for all at the highest level of government.”
A large part of Park’s experience at Mount Allison has been as an honours student, conducting research with associate professor in chemistry and biochemistry, Dr. Jill Rourke.
“One of the best things to ever happen to me at Mount A was meeting Dr. Rourke and learning under her mentorship and guidance,” she says.
“SunMin’s intellect, drive to pursue excellence, and compassionate leadership are well known in the university and broader community,” says Rourke. “She is always brimming with ideas on how to make the student experience the best it can be. What sets her apart is that she consistently puts those ideas into action, driving creative initiatives that help those around her come to see their own potential for excellence. Giving, organized, and tenacious in her drive to improve her community, I nominated her for the 3M award because I know without a doubt that her vision and creativity will continue to create meaningful change in higher education.”
Park's honours thesis looks at what the artificial sweetener sucralose does to our gut cells. She has also developed a passion through her work with Rourke on creating more science learning opportunities for local children. Alongside Rourke, Dr. Susie Andrews, and Dr. Carla VanBeselaere, Park has helped create educational materials on the human body for a local education program for kindergarten students and their families called ‘Together Time.’
“It is really fulfilling to provide that learning experience to students that they might not otherwise have,” says Park. “The program also provides undergraduate science students with the opportunity to learn and grow through teaching.”
She has attended three research conferences this past year, winning awards at all three — the NB Health and Research Foundation’s Health Research Week in Fredericton (People’s Choice Award); a virtual presentation at the Canadian Undergraduate Conference on Healthcare at Queen’s (best oral presentation); and her first international conference YGNITE in San Jose (undergraduate poster award).
“The YGNITE Conference was super motivating and a really eye-opening experience for me,” she says. “It was the first time I’ve been in a room full of Korean scientists, doctors, and engineers. I want to continue being involved in the research community to be able to help empower the next generation of Korean Canadian scientists.”
Throughout her time at Mount Allison, Park has also been highly involved outside of the classroom. A Bell Scholar, one of the University's most prestigious undergraduate awards, she took on the role of Bell Scholar Intern for two years, which she says was an opportunity for her to express her gratitude for the financial generosity. She also helped develop what she calls a passion project — MtA Gives Blood — a club on campus that promotes blood, stem cell, and organ donation. She was the Science Senator for the Students’ Union, a teaching assistant, and an umpire with Badminton Canada.
After graduation on May 15, Park will be returning to Parliament Hill, working with the Minister of Environment as a parliamentary affairs and operations intern. In the fall she will return to Mount Allison as a research associate with Dr. Rourke’s lab, working towards more accessible processes and resources for future student researchers.
The 3M National Student Fellowship honours up to ten full-time diploma and undergraduate students at Canadian post-secondary institutions who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in their lives at their post-secondary institution. These students embrace a vision of education that enhances their academic experience and beyond.
STLHE is a diverse and vibrant community of educators, including college and university faculty, educational developers, administrators, national award-winning teachers, special interest groups and students (www.stlhe.ca/)