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Scarborough student is first winner of U of T international award

GLOBAL OUTLOOK: Eliza Jiang Chen wins prestigious international student award. (Photo by Ken Jones.)

A global perspective comes naturally to Eliza Jiang Chen.

Born in China, raised in Panama, and studying in Canada, Eliza seems ideally suited to be the recipient of a prestigious international student award. She speaks four languages --  Spanish, English, Mandarin and Cantonese – and she is also learning French.

Eliza served as president of the University of Toronto Model United Nations Club, a UN simulation that enables students to gain perspective and knowledge on current world issues through UN simulations. She and the U of T club members have met and debated with students from many other UN clubs, including groups from Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

A fourth-year management co-op student, she has also taken on the role of student coordinator on Hisapanoforum, a conference of Latin American and Spanish business people and entrepreneurs. By facilitating the admission of students to this event for the first time, Eliza enabled young people to meet Spanish-speaking professionals and to learn about intellectual and commercial exchanges between Latin America and Canada.

Eliza is the first winner of the prestigious Jon S. Dellandrea Award for International Students, a $25,000 award given annually to an international undergraduate student at U of T who demonstrates exceptional academic achievement and extracurricular leadership. The award was established in 2005 in recognition of Jon Dellandrea’s contribution to the university during his 11-year term as Vice-President and Chief Advancement Officer.

“I am constantly amazed by the quality of students around me, so I feel thrilled to have won this award,” says Eliza, 22. “To be surrounded by so many hard working, brilliant and diligent people, I could not believe that I had won, because it was a university-wide award.”

Aside from her excellent grades and her commitment to extracurricular activities on campus, she was also involved in charity work back home in Panama. She and her mother founded a charitable organization, the Association of United Friends, which runs charity events, fundraisers and toy drives, aimed at helping new or impoverished Chinese immigrants to Panama.  

“Academics are the most important thing for university students, but all of us should look for ways to gain life experiences while we are here,” says Eliza. “University is very challenging, so it’s not always easy to do extracurricular activities, but it’s important to seek out these opportunities, because the skills and relationships we build on campus will be for life -- they are a big part of our education as well.”

During her time in the management co-op program, she has become interested in international business and business law. She has particularly enjoyed the work experiences that the co-op program has brought, including placements at the Ontario Ministry of Finance, Rogers Cable and Toyota. The co-op experience helped to hone her interviewing skills, which came in handy when she faced a daunting panel of 10 people on the interview committee choosing the recipient of the Dellandrea Award. “Before I came to Canada, I had never done a resume or been in a job interview, and the co-op program really helped me to build my presentation skills and helped me to learn to think on the spot.”

Eliza’s undergraduate experience at U of T Scarborough has been fabulous, she says. “Although this campus has grown a great deal in the last year, it still feels like a small and close-knit community. The professors here are so accessible and I feel that I wouldn’t get that elsewhere.”

As a fourth-year student, she has taken on the role of Residence Advisor at Joan Foley Hall, the student residence, to help guide and orient younger residence students coming in. It is Eliza’s way of giving back to the campus from which she has gained so much, she says.

For her future career, she is still exploring her options. She may apply to law school, and is interested in international law and business exchanges. “I’m particularly interested in helping to form strategic alliances between businesses from different regions such as Latin America and China.”

Management professor Sandford Borins describes Eliza as an excellent student. “Her academic performance is superb, and she displays a keenness for learning that goes well beyond course requirements. Eliza has impressed me with her academic excellence, entrepreneurial nature, creativity, great sense of responsibility, and great aptitude for self-expression, both in writing and orally. She is the sort of student that U of T hopes to attract from other parts of the world, and it’s easy to predict that her career will unfold in a way that will be a great credit to our university.”


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