GRADventure profile: Justine Salam

Justine

Who are you and what do you do?

I am a University of Waterloo PhD candidate in Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs. My research is on oil governance in Alberta, especially the role played by corporate actors, government, NGOs, and civil society groups in making policy. I am also a racket and water sport enthusiast, so I love swimming, kayaking, scuba-diving, and badminton.

Describe the kinds of professional development activities you have taken part in (e.g. volunteering, professional skills workshops, student association, GSA).

I currently volunteer with Move-Your-Mind as a Workout Buddy mentor and I just came back from a volunteer placement as a Teacher in Indonesia.

I have completed various trainings and programs through on and off campus providers, including the Student Leadership Program (Student Success Office), the Coping Skills Certificate (Counselling Services), Peer Mentorship Training (Student Success Office), SafeTALK (Living Works, through Campus Wellness), and Safe Space (Campus Pride). I am currently finishing the Fundamentals of University Teaching (Centre for Teaching Excellence). I also participated in events, such as the Non-Academic Career Conference, the Beyond the Professoriate Conference, and a number of workshops offered by the Centre for Career Action (CCA), Writing and Communication Centre (WCC), Office of Research Ethics, and Mitacs.

In addition to workshops and programs, I completed an internship in Energy Security at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. The year before, I was UW Councillor at the Graduate Student Association (GSA) Council for Global Governance. I presented my PhD work at eight national and international conferences and have taken intensive research courses both in Canada and abroad. Previously, I was a Globalink Mentor for Mitacs Canada, a Visiting Fellow at Sciences-Po Paris (Mitacs Globalink-Campus France program), and the MA Representative in Political Science at the University of Alberta.

You have been very involved both on and off campus! How have you found out about these activities, and how do you find balance between your academic responsibilities and these activities?

To be honest, finding out about these activities took some time because they are not yet centralized into one platform—that is why GRADventure’s work is so crucial. I registered on a few mailing list, scanned through the various UW websites, and simply started attending workshops that looked interesting. There, you meet people who are completing other credentials and program facilitators who can direct you to new workshops. I was very motivated to get as much out of my time at UWaterloo as possible—and I wanted to put those tuition fees to work!

To balance your academic responsibilities and extra-curricular, you need to be organized—but most importantly, motivated! That motivation will help you dare to do things you didn’t know you could do.

Personally, I divide up my life in four groups: studies, professional development, volunteering, and personal development. Every term, I make a plan to make sure I hit my program’s milestones and remain in good standing (have a study schedule and stick to it!); next, I map out workshops I want to attend this term (start with one certificate at a time). Then, I think of my wider role as a human being in society and the type of skills I have that can help my community (choose something you like to do / a cause you care for and start with a few hours a month). Finally, my personal development helps me to grow and do the things I love (join a sport club, Skype your family, or have a YouTube Karaoke night by yourself!).

Describe the value of these professional development opportunities and how they have complemented your academic experiences.

Getting involved on campus is a safe and accessible way to start a professional development journey. The resources available are incredible and they are all within reach—literally. The CCA taught me not how to fit a job, but how to find a job that fits me. The Centre for Teaching Excellence gave me novel insights into the classroom—from the perspective of the educator. The WCC is my absolute go-to for everything that is related to communication, brainstorming, and writing. The GSA was key in raising my awareness of student well-being and making me confident to represent their interests.

Off-campus, my recent teaching placement with an NGO in Indonesia was life-changing; I got out of my comfort zone, discovered a new culture, and met very inspiring people. My internship at NATO was one of the best professional experiences I have had, especially for someone with a political science background: I saw real international politics at play. Finally, my work with Mitacs was impactful and stimulating; I did what I love most, helping others—and Mitacs is truly a game-changer in higher education in Canada!

If you would like to know more about my experience with Mitacs, read my recent Mitacs blog post.

Why did you apply to work with GRADventure?

I am passionate about helping others realize their potential. In higher education, that translates into ensuring that students have the best experience possible during their studies and that they are well-equipped to transition into their professional life—and that is exactly GRADventure’s mission. As a graduate student myself, I have benefited from GRADventure’s work; now, I hope to share my professional insights and continue to learn from them. I am excited to join the team!

What do you want to do following graduate school?

I strongly value working with engaging and smart people who are dedicated to implementing positive change—so I would like to work in a place where we have real and direct impact. I have always worked in diverse and international environments, so that component is important also. Finally, being part of something bigger than oneself is extremely empowering; so for me, an organization whose focus is to improve the common good—be it student wellness, education, environmental protection, or personal/professional growth—would be ideal. 

Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?

Having a career that fits you is directly related to having a fulfilling life; it’s never too early to start your professional development!

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