Posts Tagged: Khadija Rana

Compassion in action: Meet 2022 Troost ILead Difference Maker Award winner Khadija Rana

Khadija Rana looking to camera and smiling, standing in front of an ivy-covered wall

Khadija Rana is the 2022 winner of the Troost ILead Difference Maker Award. (Photo: Negar Balaghi)

 

By Natalia Noël Smith

To Khadija Rana (Year 4 EngSci) being a difference maker is not heroic.

“I want people to know that anyone can do it,” she says. “It’s about recognizing people as the whole beings that they are.”

Rana is the 2022 recipient of the Troost ILead Difference Maker Award. Sanjay Malaviya, a long-serving member of the Troost ILead Board of Advisors, established the award in 2020 through the Bodhi Tree Fund, a private giving foundation. The award recognizes a U of T Engineering undergraduate student for their leadership achievements and their vision for change. It provides $50,000 to help a promising young leader accelerate their steps after graduation.

Rana’s path has not always been easy. When she began her studies, she says she felt isolated and thought she had “a productivity problem.” But that began to change in 2019, when she took advantage of the Troost ILead Summer Fellowship, followed by an engineering course from ILead called The Power of Story. These experiences helped Rana combine her love of engineering with her passions for caregiving and leadership.

A long-time volunteer with Hospice Toronto, Rana has accompanied people through the dying process.

“The skills you apply in engineering and caregiving are not so different,” she says. “In both, I’m listening to people and being present for them. You have to hear someone else’s story and be willing to take action to address that need.”

Rana’s leadership is strongly influenced by the concept of loving kindness.

“I found a definition of this in the book The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck, and another one from author bell hooks, who wrote All About Love: New Visions in 2000. They talk about it as, ‘the will to extend yourself for the growth of other people, and for your own growth.’”

For Rana, the idea of extending yourself to help others resonated with her understanding of the practice of engineering.

“We hear about it during Frosh Week on the first day in the story of Lady Godiva,” she says. “We learn about it through engineering design, in our courses. We celebrate it during the Iron Ring ceremony at the end of our programs. Professors demonstrate it for students when they advocate with them. Club leaders and mentors practice it when they volunteer their time for one another. It’s everywhere.”

Putting this idea into practice, Rana soon became involved in Skule™ life. She joined CUBE, the Club for Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering, eventually becoming its president. She worked with her team to rebuild the organization’s structure, foster self-determination and empower members to shape their own roles.

She also served as a senior Director of U of T’s Biomedical Engineering Design Team, where she led three project teams to collaboratively develop assistive devices for clients across the Greater Toronto Area.

Rana was also able to put the loving kindness ethic into practice as a research trainee at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, where she worked under the supervision of Dr. Azadeh Yadollahi and Dr. Douglas Bradley. Her tasks included guiding patients with severe asthma through voluntary but grueling experiments related to sleep apnea.

In her final year, Rana became President of the U of T chapter of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), leading a 40-member team working to reframe conversations of gender equity by prioritizing allyship and sensitivity to culture and race. She chaired the 2021 U of T WISE flagship international conference, which drew more than 600 participants from 15 countries.

After graduation, Rana plans to pursue research in narrative approaches to community-led design. Grounded in her caregiving experiences, her work will explore how engineering professionals and community stakeholders derive meaning from complex ideas through storytelling to inform technical change.

In the longer term, she has her sights set on a career in medicine where she will advocate for the advancement of narrative approaches to enhance empathy among health-care practitioners and ultimately transform patient care.

When asked how she works with those who may be resistant to her philosophy of compassion, or with whom collaboration presents challenges, she says “It’s important to be curious about what’s making it difficult for them. And to do that, you bravely ask them.”

“Once you’re able to make space for people to be more open about their challenges, you have an intentional conversation with them that’s prioritizing their growth and yours too. It’s not zero sum.”

This story was originally published in the U of T Engineering News.


EngSci students receive leadership award

Headshots of all six UTSLA winners smiling and in front of different backgrounds.

Six graduating EngSci students received a University of Toronto Student Leadership Award. From top left to bottom right: Jacqueline Fleisig, Bipasha Goyal, Aditi Maheshwari, Joanna Melnyk, Khadija Rana, and Rima Uraiqat. (Photos courtesy of the students)

 

Six graduating EngSci students are among 18 U of T Engineering students that have been recognized with University of Toronto Student Leadership Awards (UTSLA) for their leadership, service and commitment that have had a lasting impact on their peers and the university.

The UTSLA continues a long-standing tradition which began with the Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award, established in 1994 by the University of Toronto Alumni Association in honour of Mr. Gordon Cressy, former Vice-President, Development and University Relations. During the award’s 25-year history, it celebrated the exemplary contributions of more than 4,000 students whose commitment and service had a lasting impact on their peers and the university.

In 2022, 18 U of T Engineering students earned the honour, which recognizes leadership, service and commitment to the university. Their diverse activities include heading up co-curricular organizations such as Engineers Without Borders, leading design teams such as the University of Toronto Aerospace Team, creating a welcoming Frosh Week despite the pandemic, and taking on executive roles in the U of T Engineering Society. They are joined by 166 students from other Faculties across U of T.

U of T Engineering will celebrate this year’s UTSLA recipients with a virtual ceremony hosted by U of T Engineering Dean Christopher Yip, to be held April 27.

“Students like these embody everything that makes our Faculty so special,” said Dean Yip. “Through the activities and accomplishments we are celebrating today, they have made a positive impact on our community, while also discovering new strengths and abilities that will serve them well as they join the next generation of global engineering leaders. I’m so proud of them, and excited for what lies ahead.”

Meet EngSci’s UTSLA winners

As President of the Engineering Society (EngSoc) during these tumultuous times, Jacqueline Fleisig worked with other student groups, health & safety, and the Faculty of Engineering to ensure a safe return to student activities campus. Her work helped ensure that students could interact safely in person outside of the classroom was instrumental for building community after a year of online learning. Among many other activities, she previously served as Co-President of U of T’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), where she founded a three-day conference on social change and leadership in collaboration with three EWB chapters across Ontario.

Bipasha Goyal joined the Club for Undergraduate Biomedial Engineering (CUBE) with the goal of creating an inclusive biomedical engineering community for engineering undergraduates. Through various executive roles she organised networking events with professionals and revamped CUBE’s mentorship program to foster meaningful connections with U of T professors, graduate students, and alumni across the world.  As Co-President she expanded CUBE’s reach beyond engineering to different departments at U of T and shifted its mandate from professional development to complete biomedical engineering immersion, creating the “go-to” student club in this field.  Bipasha also served as Co-Conference Chair for the U of T Society for Stem Cell Research, organizing U of T’s first-ever virtual stem cell undergraduate conference.

Aditi Maheshwari is a dedicated leader in the engineering community who strives to provide a meaningful and enriching community experience. As chair of the Engineering Science Education Conference in 2021, she organized the first-ever virtual version of this cornerstone event for over 600 first- and second-year EngSci students. She helped recruit a diverse and engaging set of speakers, including a Nobel Prize winner. Aditi also served as co-chair of the EngSci Alumni Dinner, an event that strengthens the EngSci alumni community and provides students with valuable networking opportunities. She also contributed to Frosh Week, the HiSkule outreach program, among many other activities.

The contributions that Joanna Melnyk is most proud of are those she made to environmental sustainability work and developments at U of T through technical design projects, research, and sustainability curriculum advocacy. She spearheaded a sustainability curriculum advocacy project while serving in various roles with Engineers Without Borders. The project was further advanced through her change project in the ILead Summer Fellowship. Joanna also helped support students in challenging academic circumstances, through her work with the Toike Oike, Skule Lettuce Club, Orientation Week, and NSight, emphasizing empathy and relational leadership.

As President of the U of T chapter of Women in Science and Engineering, Khadija Rana advocates for gender equity in STEM fields and strives to reframe equity discussions at a global scale in this community of over 1,600 members and over 30 industry partners. During her time as Co-President of the Club for Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering (CUBE), she helped build a new space to connect biomedical engineering undergraduates with graduate mentors. As part of the Engineering Orientation Committee she also helped implement a new training program for 600 volunteers, helping them to welcome over 1,000 engineering students virtually for the first time at Orientation Week 2020.

Rima Uraiqat has put her passion for aerospace into action as a Thermal Systems Lead and Airframe Lead in the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT). She led the design and testing of several technical projects, while managing the external presence of the team. As the Director of Outreach, she organized several events for current students within the Faculty, high school students, and the general public. She contributed to the growth of the team, and increase student engagement in UTAT. As an EngSci Ambassador she also shared her enthusiasm for engineering with prospective students at many recruitment events.

Story, including the full list of U of T Engineering UTSLA winners, from U of T Engineering News


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