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Student Leadership Award winner enhances the learning experience of other students

Anupam Chaudhri wins Dean’s Student Leadership Award

Photo of: Anupam Chaudhr

Dean’s Student Leadership Award recipient, Anupam Chaudhri honoured for creating opportunities that enhance the learning experience of other students. Photo: Diana Tyszko.

Anupam Chaudhri, a third-year Trinity College student studying international relations and contemporary Asian studies, is this year’s Dean’s Student Leadership Award recipient. She is being honoured for creating opportunities that enhance the learning experience of other students.

In 2011, Chaudhri was among a group of undergraduate students who founded and organized the Interrogating Notions of Development and Progress (INDePth) conference hosted by the Pan-Asia Student Society and the Asian Institute. The event brought students from leading Canadian, American and Indonesian universities together to devise solutions to development problems in Indonesia. In this capacity, Joseph Wong, director of the Asian Institute, describes Chaudhri as “Extraordinary. Broad yet focused and both generous and intense.”

“INDePth was exactly the challenge I was looking for when I first stumbled across it in my second year,” said Chaudhri. “I spent my first year at U of T being involved in as wide an array of student groups as I could, but INDePth really jumped out to me as a unique opportunity to gain the skills to contribute internationally.

“The experience of organizing the conference itself has been invaluable to me because it allowed me to synthesize a variety of skills that I learned both inside and outside the classroom, from my academic experiences with the Asia-Pacific to my experience in workshop development and facilitation. I have the privilege of working with very talented young people and of executing a conference that goes beyond the orthodox conference structure by bringing together people from across the continent and from a variety of disciplines to engage in meaningful conversions about development.” This year, Chaudhri is a lead organizer of the 2013 conference which focuses on the challenges faced by contemporary China.

Chaudhri has also taken advantage of unique opportunities available to undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts & Science. Inspired by the inaugural Indonesia conference, she took part in a three-month Arts & Science Research Excursion to Indonesia with anthropology professor Tania Li. There, she investigated the origins of wealth and poverty in the booming rural economy of the Dieng Plateau.

“I chose to focus specifically on a government program that was trying to convince farmers to transition from intensive potato cropping to an alternative local fruit that was envisioned to be a more lucrative business,” said Chaudhri. “I examined the tensions existing between local farmers and policy makers, particularly around issues of corrupt practices.”

Eager to deepen her understanding and to take advantage of the opportunity of being in the country after the course, she decided to intern with Transparency International (TI) Indonesia – a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to fighting corruption.

“I took a chance and emailed TI Jakarta to find out how I could become involved. Though my time there was short, it was fulfilling to explore a public policy issue, such as corruption, from the grassroots level in a village with Professor Li and then at a more systemic level with TI,” said Chaudhri. “I was also happy to contribute anything I could, however small, to their organization and work with such positive people.”

Chaudhri is now in the process of creating an anti-corruption student group that would allow her to continue her work with TI and help create meaningful extra-curricular research opportunities for other students.

She is also a mentor in the Global Ideas Institute, a high school learning project run by the Asian Institute and the Munk School of Global Affairs. The Institute enables high school students to work with U of T professors and undergraduate and graduate student mentors on a real-world “problem” culminating in a day-long symposium where they present their findings to leading experts in the field.

“Her global experience, sense of leadership-by-example and natural abilities have contributed to a cutting-edge experience not only for the high school students, but also her fellow mentors,” wrote Wong in his letter supporting Chaudhri’s nomination.

Chaudhri also volunteers with the Neighbourhood Centre of Toronto where she has led projects to help underprivileged youth.

“Most of my activities are very connected with my academic interests, so I tend to see these activities as part of my broader education. I value being able to apply my academic experiences in novel contexts during the school year because what I learn from my extracurricular experiences often then contributes positively to my subsequent academic experiences and reframes my perspectives and opinions in the classroom.”

The Dean’s Student Leadership Award recognizes an Arts & Science student who has played a significant leadership role in his or her extracurricular activities and in so doing has had a demonstrable impact on improving the quality of student experience at the University of Toronto. Chaudhri will receive the award at the Outstanding Achievement Awards ceremony on April 16.