March 26, 2013


Two McMaster Arts & Science undergrads receive prestigious 3M National Student Fellowships


Hamilton, Ont. March 26, 2013Two McMaster Arts & Science students – each driven by a deep desire to build a better learning environment for all — have received the 2013 3M National Student Fellowship Awards.


Brianna Smrke, in her third-year, and Rosa Lee, a fourth-year student,  join an elite group of only 10 undergraduates chosen from across the country to receive the honour which recognizes outstanding leadership in learning. 


“Having two students win a prestigious award that was open to students from across Canada is deeply gratifying for McMaster. We are proud of their achievement and their potential,” said McMaster Provost and Vice-President (Academic), David Wilkinson.


“These awards reinforce the link between effective teaching and accomplishments in learning, considering that last year two of our faculty members were named 3M National Teaching Fellows,” he says.


Smrke, who entered McMaster University after scoring 100% in each of her eight final-year high school courses, has always been fascinated by how systems with many interacting parts - like brains, societies and economies - work. 


Ten billion isolated neurons cannot think, she says, but a brain can. The connections between these neurons cause the whole system to become ‘emergent’ – more than the sum of its parts.   Smrke wants to apply this idea to higher education.


At McMaster, she is co-leading a team to create a ‘collaboratory,’ a centre for social innovation that will allow diverse groups of students and community members to come together and develop solutions to local issues.  


"This award is as much a recognition of my parents, friends, professors and collaborators as it is of me. I am grateful to the many people who have supported, inspired and challenged me," she says. 


"Applying for the 3M Fellowship gave me an opportunity to reflect on how enriching and experiential my education has been. I think the award will enhance my efforts to create similar opportunities for other students. It has also made it possible for me to undertake a summer internship at a social innovation 'collaboratory' in India, where I will learn skills I can bring back to McMaster in the fall." 


Motivated by concerns for public and global health and the impact research can have on health care, Lee is investigating the efficacy of various medications and co-authoring a paper on the neurobiology of depression. 


“I am truly honoured, and even more so, humbled to become a 3M National Student Fellow,” says Lee, who is specializing in Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour.


“My goal here at McMaster is not only to build intellectual competence, but just as important, to develop into a responsible, conscious citizen. There are so many public and global challenges to be tackled, so we need everyone to take responsibility and to show leadership. I pursue education precisely for this reason: to prepare myself to be a leader who can effectively tackle global challenges.” 


Lee is co-authoring an undergraduate textbook for the hugely popular Introductory Psychology course and helping to build an undergraduate/graduate course on translational medicine.


“The tremendous success of these two students is a testament to their outstanding leadership qualities and it speaks to a rich learning environment that enables them to flourish both inside and outside the classroom,” says Phil Wood, dean of students and AVP of student affairs.


The 3M National Student Fellowship Award was introduced in 2012 to honour undergraduate students in Canada who have demonstrated qualities of leadership and who embrace a vision where the quality of their educational experience can be enhanced in academia and beyond.


Each of the 10 winners receives a $5,000 award, registration at the Society for Teaching & Learning for Higher Education (STLHE) conference and participation in a day-long retreat. They are invited to take part in a project related to post-secondary education. 


They will be honoured at an awards ceremony at the STLHE conference June.


In 2012, political science professor Marshall Beier and Sue Vajoczki, director of McMaster’s Centre for Leadership in Learning, were named two of 10 national winners of 3M Teaching Fellowships.


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For more information please contact:


Michelle Donovan

Public Relations Manager

McMaster University

905-525-9140, ext. 22869


Wade Hemsworth

Public Relations Manager

McMaster University

905-525-9140, ext. 27988