McMullin: Western students rock the world stage

We know our students are excellent and now the world does, too. As reported in last week’s Western News (“Western students stand atop world in Undergraduate Awards,” Sept. 24), Western students did extremely well in this year’s global Undergraduate Awards competition, having the second highest number of ‘highly commended’ papers in the world which represents 30 papers in 14 categories. This more than doubles our success since promoting the competition in 2014. Indeed, the Undergraduate Awards tweeted there were 47 highly commended papers from the ‘Great White North.’ That means Western had almost two-thirds of the highly commended papers in Canada.

But, there is more good news to report.

On Wednesday, Sept. 23, we learned two of our students, Jane Hutchinson (Psychology) and Michelle Harder (English Language and Literature, Brescia University College), won Best Overall Paper in their respective categories, Education and Literature Pre-1710, respectively. These were the only Canadian students to win. And, they were in good company with winners from other universities such as Yale, Princeton, Trinity College Dublin and Nanyang Technological University.

This is a great testament to the quality of our students, but it also speaks to the excellence of our faculty members at Western. Before students submit their papers, we encourage them to work with their faculty members to put the final polishing touches on submissions. I know many of our faculty members have helped their students with their papers and have encouraged them to participate. For that, I offer my deepest, personal thanks.

But what are The Undergraduate Awards anyway?

The Undergraduate Awards are the “world’s only pan-discipline academic awards program that identifies leading creative thinkers through their undergraduate coursework” (www.undergraduateawards.com). Students from the best universities in the world submit their third- and fourth-year papers to be judged against other students’ papers in 25 different subject categories. This year, the Undergraduate Awards received 5,117 submissions from undergraduates studying at 255 universities across 39 countries.

Through a blinded judging process in which manuscripts are adjudicated by panels of academics, papers are recognized as highly commended if they finish in the top 10 per cent of their subject category. All students who submit a paper that is judged as highly commended are invited to a Global Summit in Dublin. And the winners in each category have their way paid for by the Undergraduate Awards.

I had the privilege of joining our students at last year’s summit and it was among the best academic conferences I have ever attended. Beyond the TED-like talks presented by world-renowned academics, creative performers and diplomats, the three-minute presentations given by the students of their papers were extraordinary. The presentations given by our Western students were simply excellent. These students served as wonderful ambassadors for our school and by the time we left, everyone there knew about Western.

Through the support of the Provost’s office, Western will once again be sending our students who had highly commended papers to the Global Summit. This is our way of saying ‘congratulations.’ We believe that Western students are among the best in the world and our success in the Undergraduate Awards adds evidence to that claim.

Julie McMullin
Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President (International)