The Students’ “Everything” Seminar

If you’ve read some previous posts, or if you know me personally, it may be relatively clear to you that I’ve long been interested in academia.  I explore the sciences and some of the humanities in my spare time, and derive a sense of tremendous intrigue from doing so.  Whilst I understand that this isn’t the best way of finding joy for everyone, I feel that an academically fulfilled life must, in the very least, be something that everyone should know how to obtain.  This is, essentially, why I created the Students’ “Everything” Seminar.

An introduction, a goal, and a story:

The SES, as I affectionately abbreviate, is a triannual, entirely student-run event essentially geared at getting students talking about academics, extracurriculars, admissions, and life.  Its goals are, in the most fundamental sense, the following: to further high school and university students’ knowledge of the academic and extracurricular opportunities available to them, to enhance understanding of the U.S. and Canadian university application processes, to foster increased awareness of standardized testing procedures, and – this is arguably the most important of its aims – to allow like-minded students to learn from one another.  This is accomplished through free 5.5-hour sessions thrice a year – in January, June, and September.  Each speaker is typically given eleven minutes to speak.  Each 5.5-hour session also contains at least four ten-minute intermissions geared at getting students networking.  Free contest problems, business cards, and brochures are also distributed.  High school and early-undergraduate-level students who have been deeply involved in academia, their communities, or in some other productive facet of life make presentations.  Anyone may attend, albeit that a) the presentations will be most satisfying to high school and university students, and b) high school and university students will be granted priority entrance.

Nicholas Schiefer, soon-to-be Caltech student and I.S.E.F. medalist, addresses the audience.

Our January session was our first, and it saw twenty-three wonderful speakers, a relatively large audience – of over eighty, according to Facebook – and a great deal of information sharing.

This immensely surprised me, as the first session of the SES wasn’t exactly something that was granted a great deal of planning.  It was conceived in the December of 2011.  After ingesting an abundance of caffeine, I entered a late-night talk with Cyril.  At this time, Top Tutors had already been running for quite some time.  When I had finished completing all those assessments necessary for my application to several U.S. institutions, I had begun to integrate what I’d learned about the S.A.T. and the A.P. examinations into my curriculum.  Many younger students grew interested in these offerings, and as a result, I founded something called A.P. and S.A.T. Preparation Club at M.G.C.I.  Through it, I began to regularly work with ambitious, hard-working, wonderful people interested in bettering themselves.

Many of these students were motivated to devote their time to interesting pursuits, but weren’t exposed to the information required to move forward in their plans. Countless individuals I knew of wished to attend universities in the United States, and wanted to know more about how to brave the Common Application, or enter the elusive M.I.T. Others still would’ve loved to attempt research, but didn’t know where to begin. Even something so simple as a bizarre registration protocol can, it seems, prevent a student from writing an enriching contest. I’ve personally suffered several failures by dint of a simple lack of knowledge; when this occurred, I always thought that I would have loved if someone had simply told me more.

I mentioned this – and the basic idea of the seminar – in our conversation.   was extremely supportive, as per usual.  With his encouragement in hand, I went to work, and the SES was created.

January 2012 – SES I:

The first session of the SES took place just under a month after the idea first presented itself to me.  I’ve included some brief notes below!

At SES I, Yang Chen, founder of Sp.LIT and Adrenaline!, discusses small group leadership.

• 23 speakers spanning a variety of subject areas
• 80 confirmed attendees, according to the event page
• 56 “maybe” attending on Facebook

Speakers, in order of appearance:

  • Dagmar Glisch, professor and coordinator at Centennial College: on the programs, opportunities, and resources available at the Centre for Creative Communications.
  • Sophia Glisch, host of the event, with a brief introduction to what the day will consist of.
  • Lisa Chen and Jenny Yan, creators of SASS Cosmetics: on SASS, philanthropy, marketing and social media, and general entrepreneurship.
  • Brian Bi, three-time Science Olympiad medallist: on IOI, IChO, Chemical Institute of Canada Essay Competition, CAP, and the National Biology Contest, as well as his Programming Enrichment Group.
  • Sarthak Sinha, student researcher: on his work at the Biernaskie lab, the Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge, Canada-Wide Science Fair, Canada-Wide Virtual Science Fair, and the Youth Synapse Program.
  • Hannah Godefa, Ethiopian youth ambassador: on the Power of Pencils project and humanitarianism.
  • Andrej Vukovic, aspiring mathematician: on teamwork in contest preparation, Math for Success, his explorations of higher-level mathematics, the CNMLs, the Kangaroo, the Tournament of Towns, the PUMaC, and Quiz Bowl.
  • Billy Janitsch, Harvard student: on U.S. university admissions, his experiences in fine arts, photography, and writing, and the opportunities available to students when they enter university.
  • Jordan Ho, International Olympiad on Linguistics Participant: on the NACLO, the IOL, writing linguistics competitions, and computational linguistics.
  • Cyril Zhang, Yale student: on U.S. university admissions, CCC, IPSC, USACO, TopCoder, DWITE, ECOO, AMC, AIME, COMC, CMO, Pascal, Cayley, Fermat, Euclid, math camps, Reach for the Top, music competitions, and other items
  • Jeremy Dabor, student entrepreneur: on TED, his research experience, getting involved in entrepreneurship, and how to approach involvement in research.
  • Jesse Wang, head of Victoria Park Programming Team: on team coding, competitive chess, QCSYS, and Java.
  • Jason Xie, Science Expo ambassador: on the Olympiads School, Science Expo, POPTOR, OCAD contests and general robotics, his research experience with U. of T. and EcoSpark, and Qiaoban.
  • Yang Chen, president of Adrenaline (Marc Garneau’s show choir): on planning and leading projects, Sp.LIT, Owl Kids, the Marc Garneau Chamber Orchestra, Shakespearience, and Hudson Entertainment.
  • Sophia Glisch, founder of Top Tutors: on teaching and training others (through APSAT and NACLO Preparation Club), the SAT, AP exams, the MCAT, USS, essay competitions, Hanyu Qiao, research with U. of T. molecular genetics, being a polyglot, opportunities in 3D modelling, and some other items.
  • Nicholas Schiefer, TEDxToronto speaker: on TED, his research at Waterloo, and his work with IBM.
  • Deng Pan, SuperCouncil N.E.-Quad. co-chair: on SuperCouncil, his part-time jobs with the City of Toronto, and Reading Circle.
  • Shirley Miao, MTS Allstream intern: on MTS Allstream, the Amgen Awards, the positive effects of debate, and Shad Valley.
  • Varun Desai, SuperCouncil N.E.-Quad secretary: on the Inner City Advisory Council, Red Cross, and varied other items.
  • Lisa Xiao, SuperCouncil N.E.-Quad. co-chair: on Free the Children, OCMS Youth Symphony Orchestra, TCCSA, 30 Hour Famine, and CCCYC.
  • TianYi Ma, Marc Garneau TOPS student: on Toronto Sci-Tech Fair, Canada-Wide Science Fair, the Ontario Alzheimer’s Society, Maximum City, and Toastmasters International.
  • Linda Du, Bloor TOPS student: on BizAcademy, Leading to Reading, and some other items.
  • Crystal Gao, second at Junior Provincial Debate Championships: on Young Women on the Move, Formula 1, seeking internships, and debate.

June 2012 – SES II:

Last month saw SES II occurring on the ninth!  Some technical difficulties and a whole lot of last-minute cancellations did something to hinder flow, but the event still ran relatively well, if only because of the understanding audience and the flexible speakers.

Marshall Zhang, student researcher and soon-to-be Harvard student, at SES II.

• 29 confirmed presentations, with over 33 speakers
• 131 confirmed attendees, according to Facebook
• 53 “maybe” attending
• A new feature: speakers during intermission!

Speakers, in order of appearance:

  • Sophia Glisch, host of the event: a brief introduction to the day
  • Dagmar Glisch, professor and coordinator at Centennial College: on the opportunities available at the Centre for Creative Communications
  • Susie Pan, social entrepreneur and founder of Science Expo: on Science Expo, social entrepreneurship, and following your dreams
  • Marshall Zhang, student researcher and soon-to-be Harvard student: on entering research, the I.S.E.F., and the U.S. university admissions process
  • Sparks Youth Enrichment Group (Julie Nguyen, Jean Wu, Adeeb Rahman, and Priscilla Yung): on the concepts behind Spark, its aims, and its conferences
  • Mahan Nekoui, founder and editor-in-chief of The Reckoner: on student newspapers, resolving conflict, The Reckoner, and intellectual property
  • Araf Khaled, founder of Youth Sarcoma Initiative: on YSI, surviving sarcoma, leadership, and succeeding in university
  • Varun Desai, soon-to-be University of Pennsylvania student: on the Penn application
  • Billy Janitsch, Harvard student researcher: on culturomics at Harvard and entering research
  • Jeremy Dabor, biotechnology entrepreneur: on the role of competition in education, entering research, and his other experiences
  • Sutina Chou, Glowstik Social Marketing executive: on the role of drama and theatre in her life and the lives of other students
  • Yuanling Yuan, youngest Canadian WIM: on chess, its role in her life, her competitive philosophy, and Chess in the Library
  • Gorick Ng, Harvard student and entrepreneur: on making a difference, with a look at his OSTA-AECO experiences
  • Adeeb Rahman, World Vision ambassador: on his expedition to Rwanda, World Vision, and getting involved
  • Angus Chung, social entrepreneur: on being a caring individual and United Way
  • Lucy Liu, founder of The Plume: on the value of pursuing dreams, and on The Plume
  • Jessica Cao, I.C.D.C. medalist: on Glowstick Social Marketing, I.C.D.C., and getting involved in D.E.C.A.
  • TianYi Ma, peer tutor: on her tutoring methodology, getting involved with Top Tutors, and why peer tutoring is useful
  • Full Credits (Donna Yan, Joyce Chen): on Full Credits, the importance of gettng involved, and what the organization offers
  • Adelina Cozma, I.S.E.F. medalist: on the science fair experience and how it has enriched her, with a breakdown of how to get involved in science fairs
  • Shaan Bhambra, founder of C.Y.T.T.: getting involved, getting opinion out, and the Canadian Youth Think Tank
  • Sophia Glisch, student researcher: on the pre-med path, standardized testing, and entering research
  • Patrick Lung, scientific entrepreneur and Morehead-Cain scholar: on getting and staying involved, with other life lessons
  • Brian Bi, three-time Science Olympiad medalist: on everyday phenomena and scientific explanations of them
  • Howard Feng, O.F.S.A.A. participant and student researcher: on entering research, the IPhO, and athletics

September 2012 – SES III

With two sessions behind us, it seems that the SES is here to stay!  I’m attempting to plan a third session for September.  Through the last two, I’ve learnt quite a bit; albeit that I’m not certain I’ll be able to orchestrate something satisfactory, I’ll devote the summer to trying my best.

What’s going to be new?  Our whole format!  This SES will be an experiment into a different session style: SES Circles.  This will be a 2.5-hour long day featuring four or five very prominent speakers, each of whom will present for about eleven minutes, and hold an eighteen-minute discussion period.  This format is geared at encouraging a higher degree of networking and learning – I’m hoping that we’ll be able to incorporate problem-solving or idea-generating activities.

Students networking during an intermission (SES II).

Jason Xie discussing his research (pictured during SES I).

• The first SES Circles!
• Online streaming to prevent Skype-related issues
• A website featuring speakers’ profiles, contact information, videos, and photographs
• A session somewhere near Oakville or Burlington
• A greater focus on securing a media presence
• Generic ending: and much, much more

A final note must be made: a tremendous “Thank You!” goes out to every audience member, speaker, friend, and C.C.C. staff member.  This is something that I do attempt to orchestrate myself, but the truth is that each session of the SES effectively organizes itself.  I’ve the privilege of working with an ever-understanding, always-resourceful, never-negative, continually-enthusiastic audience, speaker, and Centennial-staff-member group.  All of you make this happen every single time.

If you’ve ideas, or would like to be involved at all, please let me know.  I hope this has granted those who were interested a not-so-brief overview of our work.

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One Response to The Students’ “Everything” Seminar

  1. Hi Sophia

    I am Alexander

    Previous student of Dagmar in Foundation Studies

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