Most of us go our entire undergraduate careers without realizing that there are opportunities within our reach yet left unclaimed. Lohana Capanema Queiroz, a fourth-year student double majoring in political science and criminology with a minor in sociology, is not one of those people.

Out of 12 recipients from U of T, Capanema Queiroz was the only student from UTM to win a Global Undergraduate Award. As a recipient, she participated in a fully funded three-day conference in Ireland where she had the opportunity to present her research paper.

“I keep telling people to seek out these opportunities; they’re not going to come to you. It was such a great experience,” Capanema Queiroz says. She discovered the opportunity while browsing U of T’s awards’ page.

The Undergraduate Awards is a non-profit organization operating under the patronage of the President of Ireland.  As one of the world’s leading undergraduate awards programs, it recognizes top undergraduate work, shares it with global audience and connects students across cultures and disciplines.  Every year, the organization coordinates award programs for penultimate and final year undergraduate students enrolled in a broad range of academic disciplines. 

All submissions for the award must come from work done in a course. Capanema Queiroz wrote the paper for a second-year Canadian politics and government course but drew inspiration for the paper from a third-year urban politics course that interested her.  “I was the only one to go down that route because it was a difficult topic. Even my TA said I wouldn’t be able to find enough information.” However, Capanema Queriroz did it and did it well. 

I ask Capanema Queiroz whether the research she was exposed to at the conference was intimidating or inspiring. She laughs and says, “Inspired! Their research was so extensive too. People submitted their 30-page theses and others submitted multiple papers. I didn’t know that. I only submitted one!” She also had a chance to present her research at the conference which was “intimidating because the professionals take pictures and record you” but was overall exhilarating in a room of 300 people.

A lot of times students don’t seek out opportunities or don’t submit papers for awards due to fear of failing. It’s also why so many university awards go unclaimed. Capanema Queiroz said she had the same fear at first but says without submitting anything, “there was no chance I was going to get it but if I submit, there’s at least a one per cent chance that I will and that’s enough to push me to do it.”

The three-day conference in Ireland provided students all around the world to get to know one another and their research as well as network with academics, professors and panelists. “The networking is invaluable and there’s an alumni portal where we can all keep in touch.” They also had “brain dates which is an informational interview where you can talk to potential employers.” They also collect your resume within their database. Capanema Queiroz got this opportunity with Ernst and Young, a “Big Four” accounting firm, from whom she also got feedback on her resume during the session.

She emphasized the importance of seeking out your resources such as librarians and TAs. “Don’t be afraid to make your point for a grade if you know you deserve it! I did that for this paper because I know how much effort I put into the research,” she laughed.

I ask her what advice she would give to other students and she encourages students to “get out of their comfort zone and look for opportunities because no one is going to come tell you to apply to anything!” Even if it seems hard, students should “still apply” and if they don’t get it, it should encourage them to “write a better paper, for example” instead of being disheartened, Capanema Queiroz says.

The non-profit is now accepting submissions for 2019. Students can apply up to one year after graduation.

This article has been corrected.
  1. January 29, 2019 at 5 a.m.: Thw photographer credits were corrected to Muhammad Ali

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