Map the System brings Waterloo students around the world

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Three plaques depicting this year's winning teams with golden ribbons. The background shows the earth at night from space.Many of Map the System’s 2021 competitors are participating from their homes this year, however that did not prevent the University of Waterloo’s campus finalists from tackling systemic issues on local, national, and global scales. Over 200 students applied to participate this year through the University of Waterloo, representing nearly one fifth of Canadian registrations! On Thursday, April 15th, UWaterloo’s top six teams competed for the chance to move on to the Canadian finals. For their research on foreign labour conditions in Malaysian palm oil plantations, Muhammed Ahsanur Rahim, Ewomazino IyanuOluwa Odhigbo and Leah Feor received first prize and the opportunity to progress in the competition.

The virtual setting of Waterloo’s third annual Map the System competition did not dampen the enthusiasm of participating students, faculty and staff. Over 200 students comprising 52 teams of graduate and undergraduate students entered the competition this year, mapping societal problems with guidance from their professors, the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement, and Waterloo’s 2021 Map the System Campus Lead, Thomas Fraser. Under the 2021 theme of “Systems Reset”, students tackled systemic issues in health, climate, economic and social spheres.

Based on the strength of their written submissions, six teams were invited to showcase their work at the live campus finals on Thursday, April 15th, to an audience of Waterloo students, staff, and faculty, as well as their family and friends and this year's sponsors. Local topics included COVID-19 and the Opioid epidemic in Ontario and Student food insecurity at the University of Waterloo. On a national level, teams explored the causes and connections behind Vaccine hesitancy and Work-life conflict in Canada. Finally, two teams focused on systems around the world, reflecting on the incidence of Girl-child marriages in Kenya and Foreign labour conditions in Malaysian palm oil plantations.

Many judges pitched in for this year’s competition, dedicating their time and expertise to determine Waterloo’s top teams. The quick wits of Erin Alexiuk (Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience), Brian Doucet (UWaterloo School of Planning), Jennifer King (Mennonite Economic Development Associates) and Roopa Reddy (Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business) ensured that participating teams received meaningful opportunities to expand on their presentations during the question and answer period, which supported the selection of this year’s finalists. In addition, this year’s evaluators, Karen Schmidlin, Jonathan Baltrusaitis, Jason Lajoie, Tobias Thielen, Simron Singh, and Paul Heidebrecht dedicated many hours reviewing written submissions leading up to the finals.

Portraits of the four judges for the 2021 Map the System campus finals. Behind the scenes, the judges deliberated with spirit and enthusiasm. With such a vast range of topics and scales, choosing just one team to advance to the Canadian Nationals in May was quite the challenge. Fortunately, multiple awards were announced during the campus final showcase.

Delia Lin, Josée Maurice and Lauren Forrest took home the third-place prize of $500 sponsored by the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation (WICI) for their research into the causes of Vaccine hesitancy in Canada and possible ways to address it in a culturally-sensitive manner. This team joined the 2021 competition through Professor Simron Singh’s International Development course Methods for sustainable development practice: A systems approach.

The second-place award of $1,000 from the University of Waterloo Council for Responsible Innovation and Technology (CRIT) went to Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) students Victoria Lumax, Blair Ashford and Jen Collins from Professor Paul Heidebrecht’s Map the System seminar. While exploring Food insecurity at the University of Waterloo, this team identified a gap between student needs and their eligibility for community support. As the highest scoring team with a PACS student, this group also received a prize that is new to the competition this year, leaving with an additional $1,000 sponsored by Owl Practice.

Finally, congratulations to Muhammed Ahsanur Rahim, Ewomazino IyanuOluwa Odhigbo and Leah Feor for their outstanding work learning about the systems perpetuating Precarious conditions for foreign labour in Malaysian palm oil plantations. This team, brought together by Professor Singh's International Development course, received a grand prize of $2,000 donated by the Kindred Credit Union, and will be moving forward in the competition to represent the University of Waterloo in the Canadian finals.

From May 3rd-7th, 2021 teams from across Canada will be participating in a series of online events as part of the online Finals week. Campus finals may be over, but the Map the System journey has only just begun for Rahim, Odhigbo and Feor. On Tuesday, May 4th, 2021 they will compete against winning teams from institutions across Canada for the chance to move on to the global Map the System finals in June. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more updates on this team of University of Waterloo students, and consider cheering them on by attending the Candian finals.


Visit the Centre’s Map the System web page for more details and updates on upcoming opportunities and events. If you are interested in learning more about this competition and other events hosted by the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement, subscribe to receive the Centre’s monthly newsletter.  

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