September 25, 2023 — 

From forging intergenerational connections to providing basic necessities to the community’s most vulnerable, the fifth cohort of the President’s Student Leadership Program (PSLP) recently completed five innovative and meaningful community leadership projects. PSLP brings together student leaders from post-secondary institutions across Manitoba, with specialties ranging from microbiology to marketing, at levels ranging from diploma to doctoral programs.

The program provides students with training, connections and personal development, asking them to apply their insights and skills to projects that address social issues and make a positive, lasting impact in our communities. 

PSLP students connect with industry leaders who offer coaching and mentorship, and they receive training through a series of workshops. They work in multidisciplinary teams to find creative ways to have a leadership impact. In just a few short months, these teams go from concept to action: generating ideas, building partnerships and planning then carrying out community projects.

Lukas Neville, associate professor of organizational behaviour at the Asper School of Business and acting academic lead for PSLP, comments on the importance of these hands-on projects.

There’s an element of leadership development that isn’t found in a classroom, a lecture, or a workshop alone,” says Neville. “It comes from the hands-on experience of building and carrying out initiatives and projects. These students met one another for the first time in May, and by the end of the summer were working closely in teams, putting their training into action and serving the community in deeply meaningful ways. It’s an amazing journey to see.” 


Catalyst Collective

  • Jennifer Breddam – University of Manitoba, Bachelor of Arts in Labour Studies
  • Kathleen Murphy – Red River College Polytechnic, Diploma in Business Administration
  • Victor (Chun) Chau – Red River College Polytechnic, Diploma in Applied Computer Education
  • Winnica Beltrano – University of Manitoba, Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD)

Catalyst Collective partnered with Aurora Family Therapy Centre to establish terms of reference for the Centre’s Elder-In-Residence (EIR) program that is being developed. This initiative is in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRCC) 94 Calls to Action, specifically Call 22, which urges health service providers to offer culturally informed care to Indigenous Peoples in collaboration with Indigenous Elders and healers.

Developed in consultation with Indigenous programming experts, Catalyst Collective has produced a uniquely inclusive program grounded in mino-pimatisiwin, the Indigenous approach to helping. This program takes a holistic approach, prioritizing respect for the experiences, cultures, languages and traditions of Indigenous Peoples. It is designed to provide service to any person seeking Elder In Residence (EIR) services at Aurora Family Therapy Centre and aims to establish a connection between Aurora Family Therapy and Winnipeg’s Indigenous communities through direct and meaningful consultation and collaboration.

Community Canvas

  • Abigail Kawadza – University of Manitoba, Master of Nursing (Administration)
  • Justin Hiebert – Red River College Polytechnic, Diploma in Business Administration (Marketing)
  • Mudra Dave – University of Manitoba, Master of Science in Kinesiology
  • Randi Roy – University of Manitoba, Bachelor of Science in Microbiology Hons. Co-op

The key objective of Community Canvas was to build community by fostering intergenerational connections, using painting as a medium of addressing and expressing current social issues. The team chose to focus on making connections across generations by bringing together community-dwelling older adults and youth.

“We see great value in bringing people together from different generations to raise awareness on multiple social and environmental issues through painting,” says the team. This intergenerational endeavor provided a space for socialization and elevation of creative growth in community-dwelling older adults while fostering intergenerational connections through art.

New Transitions

  • Amy Lloyd – University of Manitoba, Bachelor of Science (General)
  • Carolina Cespedes – University of Winnipeg, Master of Science in Applied Computer Science and Society
  • Christopher Yendt – University of Manitoba, Doctor of Philosophy in Education
  • Mark Rauhaus – University of Manitoba, Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry
  • Mehraz Sarker – University of Manitoba, Master of Arts in Sociology

The New Transitions team partnered with the New Directions for Children, Youth, Adults and Families to offer supports to individuals living within the Supported Independent Living (SIL) program. The SIL program supports people with intellectual and physical disabilities to live independently based on their individual needs. This groundbreaking program took a critical step away from the institutionalization or service-centered approach and moved into a person-centered approach that prioritizes the person’s rights and empowerment.

New Transitions worked with New Directions to identify gaps in the transitional services provided and to pilot life-skills workshops. The pilot workshop taught relevant financial skills including how to budget, grocery shop, save income and set financial boundaries with loved ones.


  • Allison Balasko – University of Manitoba, Medicine (MD/PhD)
  • Hiwot Jonk – University of Manitoba, Bachelor of Science in Human Nutritional Sciences (Dietetics)
  • Jesse Shen – University of Manitoba, Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Physics (Hons)
  • Joao Carlos Fidencio da Silva – University of Manitoba, Bachelor of Science in Biosystems Engineering
  • Pelumi (Samuel) Akinola – University of Manitoba, Master of Science in Pharmacy

In collaboration with Siloam Mission, SciFive worked to raise awareness about the chronic shortage of adult undergarments and socks among unhoused individuals. The team recognized that these often-overlooked necessities play a crucial role in maintaining dignity and well-being among the unhoused. Through donation drives, they sought to address this shortage and provide essential items to community members. SciFive’s aim was to contribute to the integration of unhoused individuals within our Winnipeg community.

The first awareness and donation drive, held in partnership with Real Canadian Superstore (Winnipeg West) was a success. At the end of the drive, the team received approximately 250 pairs of underwear, 500 pairs of socks, and $365 in monetary donations. Building upon this success, the second donation drive saw an even greater outpouring of support, resulting in 530 pairs of underwear, 700 pairs of socks, and an impressive $1,836 in monetary donations, totaling $7,116 worth of donations.

Team iMPact

  • Edwin Alarcon – Red River College Polytechnic, Diploma in Business Technology Management
  • Michael Zarychta – University of Manitoba, Bachelor of Science in Chemistry
  • Pinaz Mehta – University of Manitoba, Master of Business Administration
  • Tasnim Ferdous – University of Manitoba, Master of Landscape Architecture

Team iMPact partnered with Harvest MB to enhance awareness and provide education to children and young adults on food insecurity. The project’s strategy involved creating educational tools designed for elementary students, as well as resources that encompass broader subjects such as constructing home and community gardens and addressing food insecurity. These resources were developed for Harvest MB as part of their extensive educational outreach efforts. With the support of Harvest MB, Team iMPact successfully presented the elementary-school-oriented presentation to a summer camp hosted by Sustainable South Osborne Community Cooperative.

The project’s core mission focused on creating awareness and facilitating the dissemination of resources to build capacity in starting home gardens, effective use of food banks and advocating for sustainable food practices, all aimed at mitigating the adverse consequences of food insecurity.


The President’s Student Leadership Program is the flagship program of the James W. Burns Leadership Institute and unique-in-Canada immersive learning opportunity that brings together a cohort of students each year from across faculties, post-secondary institutions, interests, backgrounds and regions of the province to build their leadership potential.

Applications for the next cohort of the President’s Student Leadership Program will open on January 21, 2024, and close on March 3, 2024.


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