These stories are from Bishop’s Alumni Magazine, edition No. 58 Fall 2022.
Despite being separated by decades, miles, and more, our alumni community has an indelible glue: Bishop’s University. For many, this has been a source of attraction over the years, pulling together alumni with otherwise unrelated lives and experiences. Such was the case for Deborah Nicoll-Griffith ’81 and Grace Belzil ’21, both former Chemistry students at Bishop’s. Their university adventures separated by a neat 40 years, the pair nevertheless managed to connect through BU.
The relationship occurred by chance through Deborah’s involvement in the Canadian branch of the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI Canada). The SCI aims in their words to “further the application of chemistry and related sciences for the public benefit” through both events and publications. It has a long history of recognizing and advancing scientific achievements, notably through the SCI Canada Awards which celebrate Canadian professionals and students in the chemical industry.
It was the SCI Canada Awards that drew Deborah and Grace together, with Deborah sitting on the Nominations Committee and Grace a winner of the Student Merit Award. As a nominator, Deborah was charged with assembling a panel on sustainability in a low-carbon economy, and she turned to Bishop’s for help. Deborah was then put in contact with Grace, who agreed to join the panel.
From there, Grace began working on her presentation and despite it being a topic unfamiliar to her, she crafted a vibrant presentation on a facet that interested her: the health benefits of a low-carbon economy. With a mother in the medical field and an Honours degree in Organic Chemistry from Bishop’s, Grace found a vantage point from which she could speak with interest and confidence.
Throughout the preparation period, Grace and Deborah met on ZOOM calls to discuss the panel presentation, Deborah acting as an advocate and sounding board for Grace. As a more seasoned professional, Deborah offered herself as a resource to Grace, answering questions and helping her prepare for her presentation. She allowed her to vocalize her thoughts, challenged her with questions, and encouraged her not to be intimidated by other panelists. In the end, Grace delivered a memorable and highly praised presentation which Deborah described as a “breath of fresh air,” offering an insightful perspective on a rarely discussed topic in the low-carbon discussion.
In a discipline where mentorship opportunities are harder to come by, especially for women, connections like these provide invaluable chances for personal growth and professional support. For Deborah, it was important to offer Grace “an opportunity for luck to happen,” putting her in the path of other students and professionals in her field through SCI Canada. For seasoned professionals looking to pay it forward or fledgling alumni wanting to spread their wings, bonding through Bishop’s and its alumni network has proven a vital means of making connections.
Click here to read the full Alumni Magazine from Fall 2022.