An Interview with Lorelei Baquiran, Youth Advocate & Undergraduate Researcher
Our first Spotlight of 2018 features Lorelei Baquiran, a fourth year Bachelor of Science (Honours) student at the University of Alberta. Lorelei has extensive leadership experience, and has served on the Executive Board of Directors for the Ainembabazi Children’s Project, and remains a Permanent Youth at Large for the Edmonton Youth Council Health and Wellness Committee. Beyond this, Lorelei is an undergraduate psychology researcher who also dances in her spare time. In our interview, Lorelei outlines youth mental health initiatives for Edmontonians, shares the best pieces of advice she has received, and offers tips to aspiring undergraduate researchers.
1. You have previously served on the Executive Board of Directors for the Ainembabazi Children’s Project. What is this initiative and why are you passionate about it?
Ainembabazi Children’s Project (ACP) is a non-profit organization based in Edmonton, Alberta Canada that helps to build and empower communities in East Africa through a child-centered approach to development. As the name suggests, it upholds the rights of vulnerable children with a focus on those affected by AIDS. To ensure that children’s basic needs are being met, ACP works hard to build healthy communities by identifying three areas that need improvement. These are income generation, health promotion, and education and life skills.
In particular, two aspects drew me to be a part of this organization: 1) my passion for volunteerism and, 2) my love for children. Upon learning about the ACP’s missions and the goals they have for Uganda and its people, I knew I wanted to be a part of their team and contribute to the help that they provide. My experience working as a member of the Executive Board of Directors has allowed me to learn about a new culture, the issues that East African communities face, and given me the chance to learn more about the non-profit sector. This organization inspired me to advocate for and support vulnerable children, help them meet their needs, and change their lives for the better.
2. Previously, you served as a Permanent Youth at Large on the Edmonton Youth Council Health and Wellness Committee. Describe the work that you and your team performed to tackle mental health issues.
The Edmonton Youth Council Health and Wellness Committee has led several initiatives to tackle mental health issues surrounding young Edmontonians. One of the problems that youth confront is the stigma surrounding mental health. This, in turn, hinders them from seeking care and accessing available mental health services. To combat this issue, the committee launched a social media program called “Mental Central, Breaking the Stigma.” The program aims to encourage youth and young adults who have mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety, to seek help. As a part of this initiative, an online platform was created to serve as a “safe place” where young Edmontonians can share their mental health journey. This is to support and inspire their peers who may be facing the same challenges and to break the stigma by openly sharing their stories. The committee has also led a Mental Health Panel where they further explored the barriers that the youth face when it comes to seeking help and the factors that influence the progression of mental illnesses. The discussion has paved the way for the committee to provide a report of recommended courses of action for the City Council to review. Previous initiatives include offering free yoga classes to youth and designing stickers containing information about several research-based health benefits of climbing stairs. The committee continues to design initiatives that will educate and promote mental health awareness.
3. What is the best piece of advice that you have received?
I actually have two pieces of advice from two different people that I would like to share:
When faced with tough decisions, ask yourself whether not doing something is going to make you spend the next 24 hours telling yourself “I should have.” If you think you are, then perhaps you should go for it!
If at the end you start regretting having done something, remind yourself that everything is just “practice.” If the outcome was not what you were expecting, it was just practice. Learn from your previous practice and practice again!
4. You have conducted undergrad research; what projects did you work on and what advice do you have for aspiring undergraduate researchers?
My general research interests include developmental science, language, and autobiographical memory. Currently, I am working on a research study related to language that has potential real-world applications to the healthcare. More specifically, this study looks at how certain linguistic cues, such as speech accent, and different forms of diagnosis can influence a patient’s affective responses and perceptions of healthcare providers. I am also very excited to have been granted approval recently to be involved in a project that investigates source monitoring in children.
For aspiring undergraduate researchers, my advice would be to select a question that you are genuinely curious about and that you would enjoy investigating. I would highly discourage students from joining a lab or a study for the reason that other people may find it “cool.” Remember, you are the one who will be doing the research! When you do something you enjoy, you get creative, you produce great work, and that attracts others. So, choose a topic that you are interested in and let your enthusiasm be naturally reflected in your work.
As Malcolm Shuster, an astronautics researcher, stated, “Research should be a source of joy, of exhilaration, and in many ways, an act of love. If it isn’t, then it may be difficult to endure the hardships that research entails.”
5. What has been the best experience of your undergraduate degree, thus far?
One of the best experiences of my undergraduate degree was my first research presentation at the University of Alberta, at the annual Brian Harder Honours Day Conference. During this event, I have had the privilege to talk about my research and receive feedback and insights from academic experts and laypersons alike. As a result, I have been inspired to work harder and to explore the underpinnings of my study.
Lorelei is happy to answer your questions about the University of Alberta, pursuing a science degree, and performing undergraduate research through our free National Young Leader mentorship program. Connect with her here.