Rohina Dass: Outstanding Leader in the UBC Community

Rohina Dass is a 2019 recipient of the Outstanding Leader in the UBC Community award.

Hometown: Lucknow, India
Program of Study: Major in International Relations, Minor in Economics
UBC Affiliations: UBC Climate Hub, UBC Sustainability Initiative, Centre for Community Engaged Learning, Centre for Student Involvement and Careers, Indigenous Research Support Initiative, Wellbeing Design Lab (soon)!
UBC Awards: Outstanding Leader in the UBC Community, Faculty of Arts International Student Scholarship
How can we connect with you? Instagram: @rohina.dass

Why did you choose your academic program of study?
I love to learn about everything, so choosing a program was hard. I chose International Relations because its interdisciplinary nature allowed me to take courses from across the social sciences and beyond. I also love the streams that you can choose to make your degree more specific. I heavily focused on International Development knowing that was what I wanted to do.

When I tell people I study International Relations, they don’t always know quite what that means. I love that I cannot be boxed into a category and that they have to ask questions to understand what I study. I describe it as the knowledge of languages, disciplines and ways of knowing the world. We take such a variety of courses that we can understand different thought processes and means of expression which makes us excellent translators and mediators at any decision-making table.

What are some of the meaningful experiences you’ve had at UBC?
Coordinating my Student Directed Seminar was a phenomenal and transformational learning experience of building a course with my best friend (and one of the smartest people I know), taking learning strategies from all our favourite courses. We had the opportunity to work with one of our favourite professors – Dr. Jenny Peterson – and with an incredible class of students who brought so much knowledge into the space we created. I was so energized by every seminar and what I could learn from my peers.

The UBC Climate Hub has been an experimental space for me where I have been able to bring to life projects that use art and creativity for social change, which is what I really want to pursue in my career. Seeing the student engagement and grit of my peers has been inspiring and I am so grateful to be a part of the team.

What’s an important life lesson that your involvement activities have taught you?
Your success belongs to the community that supports you and everything counts if it is authentically you!

I struggled with anxiety for the first two years here because I was constantly worried if I was doing the right thing. I compared myself to my peers and it would put me in a space where I never felt like enough.

My family, friends, and peers supported me with large and small gestures to remind me to do the things I loved and to put my wellbeing first. My first co-op experience reaffirmed this and I learnt to trust myself and really choose what ‘sparked joy’ regardless of whether it felt like the best step to get to a future I had no way of seeing. I also learnt that I was happiest when enabling others and connecting them with other wonderful people to bring their passion to life. These interactions do not necessarily fit into a neat volunteer role but it is what fuels (with renewable energy) me and I am grateful for those who have recognized my contribution!

Rohina and Dean of Arts Gage Averill at the 2019 Dean’s Reception for Graduating Student Leaders.

You recently received a 2019 Outstanding Leader Award. What does it mean to be a great Arts student leader?
At an opening ceremony Missy D (a phenomenal student leader) sang and rapped about finding one’s community at UBC and making it one’s own (Tuum Est!). I remember being so inspired, daunted, but hopeful about what I could do to contribute. Looking back, I have learnt that being a student leader means finding what you care about, finding the community that cares about it too, and doing great work together. Challenge the idea of leadership – it doesn’t always mean starting something new, sometimes it means adding strength and momentum to a community, and it almost always involves enabling one another – leadership cannot be found without a supportive community.

What are the top three things that every Arts student should try before they graduate?

  1. Participate or lead a student directed seminar: It will help you build so much respect for your peers and you will learn about what an active learning community can be. Participating in one is different from being in a class – you almost always have an active coordinating role!
  2. Put in the effort to build a relationship with professors  – they are so willing to discuss and brainstorm ideas and are so supportive of anything you want to do – they will find ways to make it happen!
  3. This applies to everyone but specifically to Arts student: GO TO THE MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY! It is a world-class beautiful space that offers an education in itself. Go there often!

If you had the chance to re-start your UBC experience, what would you do differently?
This is such a difficult question to answer because I can see how everything I have been able to do lead me to a pivotal experience or realization. It’s cheesy to say I would not change a thing, I would still do everything I did, but I wish I could have been in a different mindset – more in the present not in the future, taking it all in and making time to keep myself both physically and mentally healthy. And I really wish I could have taken more geography and FNIS classes because of the lovely people I have met in those disciplines!

What’s next for you?
I will continue working for the Climate Hub and the Wellbeing Design Lab as their Creative and Digital Lead in the summer. I know I want to go to graduate school but I need to take the time to reflect on what I have learnt and what I want to explore in my research. In September I plan to move back to India in the meantime to do three things: 1. Help my mother with her social enterprise and create a growth strategy and work on textile sustainability 2. Research stories for a graphic novel I really want to bring to life 3. Find a climate change adaptation and development research role, learn, and explore!


Meet the other award winners of the 2019 Dean’s Reception for Graduating Student Leaders.