Dec. 20, 2023

3rd-year science student wins Ted Rogers Future Leaders Scholarship

Douye Igoniderigha shines as community leader for campus newcomers
A closeup headshot of a man wearing glasses

A strong leader is characterized by what their community says about them, according to undergraduate student Douye Igoniderigha.

The third-year neuroscience student is making his mark not only academically at UCalgary, but also in his community. Igoniderigha has been recognized for his outstanding achievements in community leadership and academic excellence by winning the prestigious Ted Rogers Future Leaders Scholarship, valued at $26,800.

The scholarship is awarded annually to 100 university recipients across Canada. Igoniderigha was selected out of a pool of close to 600 applicants and is one of 16 UCalgary students chosen for this year’s award.

“Being a Black immigrant comes with a lot of financial responsibilities,” explains Igoniderigha. “So, receiving this scholarship was life-changing for me.”

His commitment to excelling in school and supporting his community stems from his background as a first-generation Nigerian-Canadian. Having arrived in Canada as a young immigrant, Igoniderigha admits to struggling to find his footing outside of his mother country at the beginning of his university career. His challenges as a newcomer have in turn motivated him to advocate even more for the inclusion and empowerment of other newcomers in Canada.

A commitment to community

Igoniderigha has been volunteering as a Sunday School teacher for the past seven years, leading community-building events and worship sessions to help mitigate the cultural and language barriers Black newcomers face coming to Canada. He also serves as the vice-president for the Canadian Organization for Undergraduate Health Research, where he played an integral role in connecting over 1,000 students to medical and health research opportunities.

Igoniderigha has also been a part of the African Studies Expansion Taskforce at UCalgary, helping to secure $500,000 in funding for Black scholars. He also hosts events with the taskforce, to promote student networking and career opportunities for Black students at the university.

In addition to his work with the taskforce, Igoniderigha is an orientation leader and Emerging Leaders Program peer helper at the university. In that role, he coaches and guides newcomer students in navigating their university journey.

“I’ve coached and supported students at the university, equipping them with essential professional skills and instilling newfound confidence to overcome the imposter syndrome that often plagues newcomer students,” says Igoniderigha.

With his continued passion for mentorship, Igoniderigha also sits on the Refugee Student Program Committee and the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee. Both committees are designed to give a voice and implement EDI initiatives in the decision-making spaces at UCalgary. EDI is designed to foster and implement an institutional framework that makes post-secondary education welcoming and accessible to everyone.

Inclusivity and diversity in research

Igoniderigha’s passion for diversity and inclusivity is also reflected in his research. He works for Dr. Morris Scantlebury, MD, an associate professor in the departments of Paediatrics and Clinical Neurosciences at UCalgary. Igoniderigha works alongside Dr. Scantlebury in a paediatric neurology lab which has been contributing to the advance in understanding and care for those affected by neurological disorders.

“My dream is to become a doctor,” says Igoniderigha. “Working in health care, being heavily involved in my community, and volunteering with children has solidified my commitment to becoming a physician.” 

Igoniderigha is also pursuing academic research alongside Canada Research Chair  Dr. Jennifer Adams, PhD. He has supported multiple projects that are working to reduce the barriers Black students face while pursuing a career in STEM-related fields.

His experience working with under-represented students has also given him the opportunity to hear from many immigrant, refugee and marginalized individuals and their experiences in health care. Hearing these stories has further fueled Igoniderigha’s aspiration in pursuing a career in paediatrics, with the goal of joining Doctors Without Borders in Nigeria one day.

Fostering an inclusive community

In addition to Igoniderigha’s community-building and research excellence, he is also the co-founder of For the Diaspora, a website developed to help champion equity in higher education. Over the summer, he came up with the idea to build an innovative online platform designed to empower not only Black students, but also other under-represented student groups.

For The Diaspora was created with the goal of building a sense of belonging, providing mentorship, and establishing professional relationships within the university community. The site was created in fall 2023 by Igoniderigha and fourth-year BSc Neuroscience student Ivana Okaro, providing a central resource for students to access important research opportunities.

Igoniderigha hopes the new site will provide a sense of community and support others as they embark on their own university journey.

Morris Scantlebury is a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Owerko Centre and Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

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