B.E.S.T. Project Fund: Meet the recipients pt. 1

The B.E.S.T. Project Fund is the premiere experiential learning opportunity at Bishop’s. This unique fund is intended to assist students to determine their career paths and realize their ambitions. Every year, students are awarded the B.E.S.T. fund to pursue a project or internship that will help them gain perspective on their future careers. Read what some of the 2021 recipients have to say about their projects in our feature below.

Interning for a local MPP – Carrie Robinson

Fourth-year student Carrie Robinson (she/her) is double majoring in International Studies and Political Science. For her B.E.S.T fund project, she spent the summer interning for the MPP of Niagara Falls, Wayne Gates.

“I was working a lot with the constituents, doing a lot of case work, writing speeches, and attending events as his (Gates’) staffer. Right after the London attach occurred, Wayne knew I study politics and religion and the way those topics intersect, so I wrote his remarks. After that I asked if the office has a sustained outreach program with the Islamic and Sikh communities – so I spent the rest of the summer putting that program together with three mosques and one gurdwara in Niagara. It was very rewarding – I worked on this program for the whole summer.”

Carrie first heard about the B.E.S.T. Fund from a fellow student. “He did a similar internship with a MPP in Toronto.”

“It was an interesting summer – most of the work was virtual so I worked from home a lot. Some days I went to the office, and I did a lot of canvassing as well. Going into my fourth year, I wanted to figure out what I want to do when I graduate – either international or domestic politics in grad school. I’m still debating, but I feel much more equipped to be able to make that decision. Whichever route I choose, I’ll know why, I’ll know what, I’m looking for.”

She adds that the financial aid was very beneficial for her. “It’s been an amazing opportunity, and I’m very glad I did it. If I hadn’t applied for the B.E.S.T. – the NDP doesn’t like to take on unpaid interns and didn’t have a budget – I wouldn’t have been able to do it. The door wouldn’t have been open to me without it.”

Sailing the Caribbean – Megan Bernier

Second-year Neuroscience student Megan Bernier (she/her) had an uncommon summer. As part of her B.E.S.T. fund project, she spent 40 days aboard an 88-foot schooner, navigating the Caribbean seas and islands with the organization Seamester. During this time, Megan completed two university-level courses credited by the University of Southern Florida – Oceanography and Nautical Sciences.

“We were 14 students – I was the only Canadian – and we learned so much about sailing, received our crew and VHF Radio certifications, and learned about chartwork, plotting positions, and coursing the vessel. Our longest passage was three full days and two nights at sea. Throughout the entire trip we covered 788 nautical miles and six nights at sea. During the nights when we weren’t anchored or moored we were split up into watch teams with four students on each. We were responsible for helming using the compass and stars, one was on the bow to watch out for boats.”

“We didn’t set food on land for the first 17 days of the trip. It was quite an experience – only 88 feet and we were 18 people. It was unique and brought out whole group together.” The journey was not all smooth-sailing, however. “Sailing to St. Lucia, our foresail broke, and that night, 30 minutes from the marina, the engine stopped. Wind direction would not bring us to the marina so we kept sailing until 7am when we could finally anchor.”

“It was such a major experience, a once in a lifetime journey. I learned so much from the people around me as well. One of the most beautiful moments was sailing at night with the stars, and all you can hear is the wind, all you can see is the stars. I’ve always been interested in the ocean, and would like to advocate for fighting to protect it.”

Reoviruses vs. Cancer – Edna Amoah

Edna Amoah (she/her) spent her summer as a research intern for the Pavillon de Recherches Appliqués sur le Cancer at Université de Sherbrooke thanks to the B.E.S.T Project Fund. Her project focused on studying the mechanisms of alternative splicing in Reoviruses – viruses that will go into the infectious cells in a cancer cell and destroy them.

“The Reovirus goes into a cell and changes the DNA, so I looked at the locations where DNA is affected by the virus. What I did was extract the DNA fragments, place it in another cell, combine the virus with this new cell, and see if the virus is still modulating the cell.” In layman’s terms, Edna was looking for a potential pathway to cure cancer. “Science is hard. Not a lot actually worked,” she admitted, “but we succeeded in cloning two types of genes, extracting these two types of genes, putting them in another mouse cell, and tying them with the virus.”

“I had been thinking about applying for a B.E.S.T for two years as a way of helping me find where I want to go after my undergraduate. Thanks to the fund, I discovered the reality of research.”

Edna reached out to her director, Martin Bisaillon, Dean of Student Life at Université de Sherbrooke and director of a lab in the PRAC there, after he came to BU to give a lecture on neuroscience. “Afterwards I was very interested in his studies, so I reached out to him and asked if he has other projects he needed help with.”

“Through the internship, I grew because I was in a new environment and had to communicate with new people to progress. It’s a maturing process. I was literally going from being a student to the real world of work and research. I became more confident in myself, and I understand that failures are not an obstacle.”

Social economy and enterprise – Evelyne Verrette

As part of her B.E.S.T Project Fund, Evelyne Verrette (she/her/elle) spent ten weeks this summer as an Intern for the Corporation de Développement de l’Entrepreneuriat Collectif de Sherbrooke (CDEC), a non-profit organization devoted to social enterprises in the area.

“The organization manages funds from the city and province and works specifically with social economy enterprises. There are two dimension to the work that the organization does. One is to help entrepreneurs start their business, make financial and business plans, and develop. The other is towards social economic development, more community and social projects.”

For her first project, Evelyne worked on a community fridge that appeared in Square Queen during the summer. “The project is called Frigo Free Go. There are many of them in Québec, and we borrowed the idea from Germany. We first had to find partners – people to bring food – so we called businesses, restaurants, and grocery stores, and of course the population can provide food as well.”

“I’ve always been interested by social enterprises, and how I can use business to do good – not just for profit but also for social impact. So I was happy to not only work in economic development, but for an organization whose values are environmental impact, social development, community building, solidarity; all values I also share.”

“I wanted something concrete, a real life experience,” she added. “I’m really grateful for the experience. It was eye-opening, and it was a great opportunity to able to do this during the pandemic. Project management is something I really love, and I got to see the power of partnership. The projects are successful because there are so many strong partners at every phase.”

The application period for this year’s B.E.S.T. projects is open until January 28, 2022!

For more information on the B.E.S.T. Project Fund and to apply, visit the page on our website: https://www.ubishops.ca/future-current-students/money-matters/scholarships-awards-bursaries/b-e-s-t-project-fund/

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