Photo of Gobika Sithamparanathan

2021 U of T Student Leadership Award: Gobika Sithamparanathan

The University of Toronto Student Leadership Award recognizes graduating students for their exemplary contributions and significant impact at U of T and on the university experience of their peers. This year, four MScOT students (Class of 2021) received this prestigious award: Congratulations to Bismah Khalid, Meera Premnazeer, Gobika Sithamparanathan,  and Marcus Yu.

Below, Gobika Sithamparanathan shares thoughts on leadership as an occupational therapy student:

What motivates you to take on leadership roles?

Growing up in a war torn- country, my passion for leadership to creatively support folks with finite resources started from an early age and has remained close to my heart ever since. In fact, potential for leadership in healthcare is one of my main motivations to pursue a career in occupational therapy, where I can advocate for this holistic profession with a wide scope of practice. Leadership roles allow me to collaborate with a team, using a strengths-based approach, to incorporate everyone’s personal and professional goals to achieve outcomes that benefit all those involved. I value fostering leadership competencies in others I work with and supporting their growth in leadership roles.

Tell me about the leadership role(s) you are most proud of, and why.

I value representing the student voice in committees. Students are often on the receiving end of many department/institution wide amendments and it is important that our voices are amplified in decisions that impact our learning experience. Acting as a liaison between the student body and the University’s administration provides me the opportunity to advocate for students’ needs. Over the past year, I was especially grateful for the opportunity to liaise between the Professional Curriculum Committee in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy and the student body by organizing student feedback to inform amendments on the curriculum due to COVID-19.

What advice or support can you give to students who would like to be active leaders but are unsure how to get started?

I would suggest starting by creating a vision map (a rough draft is also sufficient). I would also suggest writing down where they want to be in one year, in five years, and in ten years. I would then like to invite folks to reflect on why they want to be there and what skills/experiences would support their path towards that goal. This will help them devise actionable SMART goals towards achieving short term goals that support long-term goals surrounding leadership.

Do you have any role models who supported and encouraged your leadership capabilities, and if so, what did they do to support you?

I am very fortunate to have many role models. I appreciate the opportunity to learn from each and every leader I have worked with because each leader contributes their diverse perspectives, leadership style, and experiences to inform the work I do. I truly value the time my role models have taken to mentor me and support my growth. Many of them took time out of their busy schedules to ensure I was meeting my learning objectives. This is a quality I also practice as an educator, researcher, clinician in training, and I envision carrying onto my practice as an occupational therapist.

How did it feel to be nominated for this award, and to be a recipient?

I am truly honored to be nominated and selected as a recipient of this award. My contribution to the U of T community for six years would not have been possible without the support of my peers, faculty, staff, and most definitely my family. I am humbled to have learned from and be mentored by faculty, clinicians, senior students, and teammates, who shaped me into the leader I am proud to be today. I hope to continue contributing to the department, faculty, and university upon graduation through research, teaching, mentorship, and advocacy through advisory committees and task forces.

March 4, 2021