Michelle Liu carefully plans each hour of each day three weeks in advance to figure out where she needs to be and when.
Between volunteering up to 40 hours a month in several different roles on and off campus and keeping on top of her graduate studies, she constantly checks her changing calendar.
“I call it 80 productive hours a week, divided between volunteering and my studies,” Liu says with a laugh.
The civil engineering master’s student was recently recognized for her volunteer and leadership contributions by the City of Waterloo with a certificate signed by Mayor Dave Jaworsky.
Much of Liu’s volunteer work takes place at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener.
Each week, she spends a shift at the front desk of the hospital’s cancer centre greeting and helping direct patients as well as circulating charts, lab samples, and lab results. When the oncology unit was looking for a researcher to work with its dieticians, Liu volunteered for that role as well.
Through her involvement at the cancer centre, she was recruited to become a member of the Waterloo-Wellington Patient Family Advisory Council, which guides the delivery of cancer care across seven regional hospitals and within Cancer Care Ontario.
Liu also volunteers with Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO), the licensing and regulatory body for professional engineering in the province. Liu is the secretary of the local PEO chapter and has been involved in affiliated awareness programs and women-in-engineering task forces.
Developed time management skills as a student
Her extensive list of on-campus volunteer activities started when she was a first-year civil engineering student in 2013.
During her undergraduate program, she held 18 different leadership positions, 14 of which she held for two or more consecutive terms. Her roles ranged from food director and media guru for engineering orientation to department lead for the Ontario University Fair and the University’s Fall and March Break Open Houses. She was also the director of the Engineering Student Ambassadors team for three terms.
She served as vice-president and president of the undergraduate Civil and Environmental Engineering Society and is now president of the department’s graduate society.
While she sometimes finds it challenging to make time to meet a friend for coffee, Liu says she thrives on being busy and giving back to Waterloo Engineering and the surrounding community.
“I feel more alive and happy when I volunteer and the time management skills I developed in during my undergrad years helped me get here,” she says.