Convocation is a time of reflection and celebration. For Allison Farfus (BSc ’17), crossing the stage at the University of Lethbridge Spring 2017 Convocation brought the last four years to a close as she looks forward to a very bright future.
“It felt very special to celebrate that moment with my friends who were also graduating, my family in the audience and all the faculty and staff members who supported me along the way,” says Farfus, who was awarded the Arts & Science Gold Medal, a crowning achievement of her time at the U of L.
“To hear I was even nominated, let alone that I won, was a huge honour. The past winners were inspirations for me, so it was a shock to be considered.”
Looking back, Farfus’s journey to the U of L seemed inevitable. Originally from the Crowsnest Pass, she was used to small class sizes and a close environment with her instructors.
“I had applied to a few other schools, but the U of L has one of the best reputations for education,” she says. “It was close to home, and for the longest time, I’ve wanted to come here.”
Beginning her U of L journey with aspirations to become a science teacher, she eventually fell in love with biology, switching majors after her first year.
While pursuing a biology degree, she had the opportunity to participate in an independent study in Dr. Igor Kovalchuk’s lab, helping with research into plant pathogens.
“Working in the lab really complemented my education by putting into context the information I was learning in the classroom,” she says.
She says her experience with Dr. Kovalchuk also led to him providing her with a letter of recommendation for an undergraduate research award. Having received more than a dozen scholarships during her time at the U of L, Farfus says the support she received made all the difference.
“The more awards I got, the better my grades became,” she says. “This meant I could become more involved and earn even more awards to get even more involved. I could do research throughout the summer without having to worry about debt.”
Another major point she attributes to her success as a student is getting involved with clubs on campus. One of the founding members of the Biology Club, she served as its vice-president in her last year.
“My first year I spent most my time in my room studying,” she says. “Once I started getting involved with the community, my grades drastically improved.”
She also got involved with the World University Service of Canada. Helping start up a Student Refugee Program at the U of L with some of her friends, the group managed in its first year to raise enough funds to bring a refugee student to Lethbridge and in its second year, passed a referendum to add a student fee to help support the program.
But if it were one experience at the U of L she can attribute most of her success to, it would be her involvement with the Student Success Centre as a Peer-Assisted Study Session (PASS) Student Leader.
“I was running twice weekly PASS sessions for intro biology students,” she says. “I had to learn what they were learning at a more in-depth level so I could teach it to them.”
In mid-May, Farfus received even more good news when she learned she had been accepted into the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine.
It was all the studying for her PASS sessions that she credits with helping her prepare for the MCAT tests.
“That’s what got me into med school,” she proudly states. “When the biology section came around, I did really well on it.”
After looking forward to being accepted into med school for so long, it was a shock when it became a reality, and Farfus says her time at the U of L prepared her for the next chapter in her life.
“A lot of medical professions involve research,” she says. “The U of L gave me many great opportunities to pursue research while providing me with a great education. I’m so excited for the fall!”