Photo of Meera Premnazeer

2021 U of T Student Leadership Award: Meera Premnazeer

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, Meera Premnazeer shares thoughts on leadership as an occupational therapy student:

What motivates you to take on leadership roles?

As the eldest daughter of immigrant parents and being an immigrant myself, I found I was automatically placed into the role of a speaker for and on behalf of my family at a young age. Because of this, I was always outspoken but also enjoyed supporting others. I strived for unique roles that would allow me to grow as an individual. Ever since I was young, I ensured I was involved within the community I was part of. I mainly did this by joining various student-run groups. As I grew, I took upon more executive positions and leadership roles. I found I relished speaking in front of people and collaborating with others on various initiatives. This also was one of my motivators for the leadership roles I undertook. Through my experiences, I learned that leadership in general does not mean telling others what to do. Rather, it implies that you listen and take the time to consider the opinion of others and work together by guiding them in a plausible direction. This has and continues to be my approach to leadership.

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

To date, the leadership role I am most proud of is my involvement in the cross-departmental Creative Wellness Committee at the University of Toronto. I am currently an executive member who also co-chairs one of the Project Planning subcommittees within this group. I am most proud of this initiative because it is a cross-departmental collaboration that impacts mental health of students in 13 programs across the Faculty of Medicine through arts-based initiatives. Moreover, I was able to assist in leading this project from when it was just an idea to where it is now. It is a project that is three-years long, and I hope to see meaningful change within the student community.

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

I’ve always found that, first, it is good to find out what you are most passionate about, and then seek leadership opportunities relating to that area. Moreover, another important aspect of becoming an active leader in something one is passionate about is to ensure that you gain experience related to that particular topic. For instance, it may be good to start off as a volunteer or hold a general role and then progress to hold stronger leadership roles.

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

My mother has always been a strong supporter of any initiatives I’ve undertaken. She has always helped me to make decisions and encouraged me to take leadership roles that I’ve been unsure about. If it was not for her support, I may not have taken up half of the opportunities I am in now. My mother always taught me to be there for those who need help and to be selfless. I feel all the values and advice she provided helped me to shape my pathway. Furthermore, for any leader you always need the emotional support and I feel that my friends and family have been there to provide me with that.

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

At the time when I was nominated for the award, I was unsure if I would be selected. I knew I had a vast amount of leadership experiences, yet I also knew that there were so many individuals within the Faculty of Medicine and all of University of Toronto who had shown great potential as well. Having received this award has reiterated to me that I am well prepared to function as a leader. I could not have achieved this without the support of my friends and family who always encouraged me to push myself. Overall, I hope many others take to such opportunities within their programs to follow their passion.

March 4, 2021