2023 LFS|US Student Leadership Award

Recognizing Student Leaders

Three students are being recognized for their leadership in the Land and Food Systems community. Abeera Irfan, Melissa Marthias, and Vivian Li and are recipients of the 2023 LFS Undergraduate Student Leadership Award, each making invaluable contributions of their time, energy and ideas to enhance student experiences in the Faculty.

In 2016, LFS Undergraduate Society (LFS|US) created the LFS Undergraduate Student Leadership Award to recognize students who have made contributions to student and Faculty life through their leadership, and left a lasting impact that will enrich the experience of LFS students.

Abeera Irfan (she/her)

Year level: Year 4
Program: Food, Nutrition and Health
Major: Dietetics

Abeera Irfan

Abeera Irfan is a fourth-year Dietetics student whose time in LFS has had a profound impact on her academic, professional, and personal growth. This year, as President of the Dietetics Student Community, Irfan was honored to be mentoring a team of 12, third-year students in organizing events such as the club’s highly attended Meet the Dietetics Student Night. It was a full circle moment as she had attended that event in her first year. She was also a speaker at TEDxUBC 2023, which was an incredible opportunity outside of her comfort zone. Her experiences and learning in LFS have allowed her to think about how food has shaped her identity and its ability to provide intergenerational knowledge. Her talk conveyed the importance of storytelling through food, encouraging people to think about the role food plays in their lives. Another significant achievement for Irfan this year was collaborating with her peers and contributing her leadership into successfully bringing ‘Embrace’, the first 100% plant-based LFS Community Dinner to fruition.

Overall, Irfan reflects that the Faculty of Land and Food Systems has not only helped her achieve her academic and professional goals but also shaped her worldview. LFS is where Irfan’s love for biology, chemistry and anatomy bridges with her passion for social justice and advocacy work. She enjoys bringing LFS-related subjects into her engagements beyond the Faculty, such as her involvements with UBC Residence Life and UBC Global Lounge. We look forward to the impact Irfan will continue to make during her time in LFS. Irfan aspires to complete her undergraduate studies next year, and pursue further education in graduate school.

Tip for LFS students:

“Academics are important, but aren’t the only part of a university experience! Try getting involved in different areas that interest you and make sure you are taking time out to focus on your mental and physical wellbeing. Last but not least, say ‘Yes’ to the plans – school can get really busy but seeing friends and making memories with them is something I’ve really cherished.”

Melissa Marthias (she/her/hers)

Year level: Class of 2023
Program: BSc in Food, Nutrition and Health
Major/minor: Food Science major, Fermentations minor

Melissa Marthias

LFS is Melissa Marthias’s home away from home. It was where she developed her leadership skills. Where she made connections that pushed her to grow professionally and personally. A small, tight-knit, welcoming community, standing out from other UBC faculties.

Her inspiration to get involved came from participating in LFS|US’s Feeding 9 Billion case competition in her first year. This prompted her to begin her LFS|US journey as case competition coordinator. As she found her passion in giving back to the community, she wanted to continue create memorable experiences for the LFS community.

Marthias’s involvements during her university life included roles within LFS|US, LFS Orientations, LFS Firsts, UBC Food Science Club, UBC Student Leadership Conference, and more. She helped create connections within the communities that have supported her early on during her degree.

One of Marthias’s proudest achievements within the Faculty was the launch of LFS’s first student benefits program. As LFS|US VP External, she advocated for the launch of the program with aims of promoting local businesses and improving financial accessibility. Two years of hard work led to the launch of “Reggie Rewards” in 2022 with 17 business partners. She believes the program will continue to grow, providing more benefits to current and future LFS students.

After graduating in May 2023, Marthias is currently pursuing a Master of Management at UBC, hoping to merge her passion in the food industry with her entrepreneurial spirit. She still hopes to be connected to the Faculty, providing guidance to curious students like herself.

Tip for LFS students:

“Be open-minded and try out new things! Never ever limit yourself to what you already know. Step out of your comfort zone because you’ll never know what you’re truly passionate about until you experience new things. Don’t hesitate to talk to people – ask questions, learn about their involvements, start early. The Faculty is very welcoming and most people are open to helping others and accepting volunteers!”

Vivian Li (she/her/hers)

Year level: Class of 2023
Program: BSc in Food, Nutrition and Health

Vivian Li

What stood out about LFS to Vivian Li is the Faculty’s commitment to supporting students’ personal and professional development beyond their academics at UBC. The range of co-curricular programming offered and connections she built with the staff gave her the confidence and skills to get involved within the tight-knit community that LFS is known for.

After a peer encouraged Li to pursue her first extracurricular involvement, she realised the difference that having support from just one person could make – and was determined to be that person for someone else. She sought out a multitude of roles within LFS|US, LFS Firsts, and UBC Orientations to directly support incoming and first-year students at UBC, wanting to facilitate connections between students and build spaces of belonging.

Beyond community building, one of Li’s favourite involvements was serving as the LFS Student Senator where she focused on spotlighting the processes behind academic governance at UBC, and strove to engage students with the UBCV Senate. In addition, she enjoyed having the opportunity to support the career development of LFS students while working as the LFS Mentorship Program Assistant within LFS Student Services.

Li is grateful for all the support she has received from LFS staff and faculty throughout her involvements, who have inspired her to pursue a career in student affairs after graduating in May 2023. She is excited to continue building community and supporting students’ personal and professional development in higher education.

Tip for LFS students:

“It’s never too late to get involved! It’s easy to look at someone and only see their success, but we often forget that there is a process, and likely many failures to get to where they are now. Everyone starts somewhere, so don’t let the thought of being a beginner intimidate you before you take your first step.”

Honourable Mentions

We are also excited to highlight our honourable mentions this year: Meghan Lok, Lucy Macdonell, and Torren Kaiser.

Meghan Lok is a part of the LFS class of 2023, graduating with a degree in Applied Animal Biology. Her passion for student leadership, research and animal welfare is highlighted through her extensive extracurricular participation. She has demonstrated student leadership and lasting impact as the first-ever VP Engagement of LFS|US.

Lucy Macdonell is a student in the Applied Animal Biology Program and has made impactful contributions to our community as an active student leader. This past year, she was the team lead of the LFS Academic and Career Engagement (ACE) team, a Senior Orientation Leader during UBC Imagine day, and served as the Applied Biology Program Representative in LFS|US.

Torren Kaiser is a student in the Global Resource Systems Program who has been instrumental to the strong revival of Agora Cafe in the HR MacMillan building. He has contributed extensive time, effort and care to the improvement and operation of this key LFS student resource in addition to being present in the LFS community in other manners.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2023 LFS Undergraduate Student Leadership Award, as well as all of the other students highlighted today.