Category Archives: Feature Friday

Feature Friday: Support Systems

Written by HeatherMeet Jessica Tarka! A 3rd year student studying BioMedical Sciences, Jess is a leader because she is such a great listener! I wanted to chat with her for our Feature Friday section because of her role with the Student Support Network on campus – but she does so much more. In her first and second years on campus she was involved with Interhall Council, and currently volunteers with Wild Ontario, an environmental outreach program, where she works birds of prey like Socrates, the one-winged turkey vulture, and Whistler, the broad-winged hawk.

Jess Tarka

This is Jess!

I believe that a great leader is someone who is also a supporter. It turns out that Jess agrees! She got involved with the SSN almost a year ago because she is an advocate for student mental health. Working in residence helped her to see how isolating being a 1st year student can be at times, and she wanted to find a way to help them, along with all other students on campus.

What is the Student Support Network? Jess told me that it’s a drop-in peer-to-peer support service that is open from Noon-10pm on weekdays (that’s later than Counseling Services stays open!). It’s a safe space where students can go to receive support, or just to sit, no talking required. SSN also offers weekly support groups for students looking to develop a support network with their peers, and a telephone service if you can’t, or don’t want to, drop in.


Student Support Network. Let’s Talk. What’s on your mind?

Here are a few of the questions I asked Jess about the SSN and leadership in general when we sat down to talk:

What should we know about the Student Support Network?

“It’s for anyone, at any time, if they need someone to just listen. You can drop in for 2 minutes or 20 minutes, it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing too small or too big to talk to us about. People often say “I’m just stressed,” but they don’t believe that’s a valid reason to have someone sit and listen to them. It is!”

What is your favourite thing about volunteering with the Student Support Network?

“ I love supporting others, but I also love that I have gained a support system within my team. When I go to volunteer, someone always asks me how I’m doing. I think that the support network that the team provides is a unique aspect in a student organization.”

What does leadership mean to you?

“Leadership is giving other people the capacity to be the best selves they can be. It’s giving them the opportunity to grow, and through that you yourself can grow as well. It has very little to do with who the leader is, but how they affect those around them.”

What is your favourite leadership quote?

“Believe that you can and you’re half way there” –Theodore Roosevelt

What has been the most valuable thing that you have learned through your involvement at UofG outside of the classroom?

“Learning to say no, and not spreading myself too thin. You can’t give 110% of yourself to everything. I learned how to be a humble leader. That means knowing that your skills and talents are valuable, but other people also have those skills and talents, so it’s OK to sometimes pass things on to them.”

Jess’ passion for helping others is evident from the moment you meet her. Within minutes of speaking with her, you notice that she is actively listening to you, she is enthusiastic about your thoughts, and she makes a point to make sure that you feel comfortable. The SSN is fortunate to have such a supportive person on their team!


The SSN is located in Raithby House

I would like to take a moment to recognize the amazing work that the SSN volunteers do for UofG students every day. Without them, students wouldn’t have access to support services at such a wide variety of times. We know that being a student can be tough. Trying to fit in friends, family, volunteering, extracurriculars, and that one guilty pleasure TV show that you need to watch into your weeks on top of schoolwork can seem like an impossible challenge. Sometimes something unexpected comes up. Please remember that there are people out there who want to help support you through anything you are going through. Whether you visit the Student Support Network at Raithby House, go to Counselling Services on the 3rd floor of the UC, or you sit down to talk with someone in your life that you trust. Talking about anything that’s bothering you can make a huge difference!

I’d like a extend a great big thank you to Jessica for taking time out of her busy week to chat with me, and for be such a supportive leader all over campus!


Feature Friday: Fruits & Veggies

Written by HaileyMeet Sarah Smith. She’s an energetic and always friendly third year student in the Applied Human Nutrition program here at the University of Guelph. And I think she’s a wonderful leader!

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith

When she’s not busy with school, work, and volunteering, she enjoys pursuing her passion for food and nutrition by experimenting with recipes in the kitchen and exploring new restaurants with friends and family. (Our blog is about to see a whole lot more fruits and vegetables!).

An example of Sarah's recipe experimentation: Homemade Pumpkin Pie Green Smoothies: 🎃🍌 2 cups of pumpkin (canned or fresh), 2 cups of almond milk, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 avocado, 2 cups spinach, 2 celery stalks, 1/2 cup carrots, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 scoop vanilla whey protein (optional), 1 tbsp flax (optional), 1 tbsp hemp hearts (optional)

An example of Sarah’s recipe experimentation:
Homemade Pumpkin Pie Green Smoothies: 🎃🍌
2 cups of pumpkin (canned or fresh), 2 cups of almond milk, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 avocado, 2 cups spinach, 2 celery stalks, 1/2 cup carrots, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 scoop vanilla whey protein (optional), 1 tbsp flax (optional), 1 tbsp hemp hearts (optional)

Sarah has always seemed to have miraculous balance in her life and this is why I chose to feature her this week. When she came to the University of Guelph Sarah made the transition look so smooth and once here she seemed to balance her commitments effortlessly and even found time to go to the gym! Now in her third year, Sarah has added to her plate with a part time job at Thyme to Cook Fine Kitchenware here in Guelph and a variety of volunteer opportunities. And yet again, she has been able to balance these commitments and continue to possess a positive attitude and easy going personality. Like many wonderful gryphons, Sarah is an extremely hard worker, who demonstrates her determination when it comes to both school and work. What I admire about Sarah is not only her passion, but also her ability to step back and take a break.

Without further ado, I’ll share some of Sarah’s thoughts about leadership and maintaining balance and further introduce you to this kind hearted girl!

1. What makes a good leader? 

To me, it is important that leaders work with the other members of their team to effectively and efficiently complete a task. To be a good leader, in both school-related roles and in the working field, one must know when to step up and take the initiative by delegating roles in a group setting, but also when it is best to take a step back and let others make the decisions. Being a good leader means always being a team player who is respectful, supportive, and brings everything they can to the table.

2. What is your favourite leadership quote?

"Isn't it funny how day by day, nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different." -C.S. Lewis

Everything is Different

3. What or who inspires you?

What inspires me most is seeing and learning from professionals who have careers in the fields that I am passionate about. Whether it is going to my Clinical Nutrition lecture and learning from a professor who was once in my shoes or watching and assisting the chefs who teach cooking classes at my work—learning from people with the same interests and passion inspires me to learn from their experiences and career paths when thinking about my own unique path to my career.

4. What are you involved with on and off of campus?

On campus: This semester I’m enrolled in the Restaurant Operations Management course, in which I am working with a partner to plan a menu and run a lunch at PJ’s. Further, I am the Vice-President of the Applied Human Nutrition Student Association, in which I organize various fundraising events, carry out logo contests, and organize program clothing. Additionally, I am a member of the Canadian Association of Foodservice Professionals, for which I have attended networking dinners and met with professionals in the food service industry. Lastly, I am involved with a school-based organization called Garden 2 Table, a program directed towards teaching school-aged children (5-12 years old) about where their food comes from, the importance of local food, and basic cooking skills. 

Off campus: I volunteer on Wednesday mornings at Mitchell Woods Public School for their breakfast program and assist with the cooking classes that the Guelph Family Health Team holds for Guelph community members.

Vegetable Garden

5. How do you find balance between all of your commitments?

I have found that the key to having balance in my life is prioritizing my time effectively. I try and get most of my homework done near the beginning of the week so that I can spend my weekends enjoying time for myself. It’s important to let yourself take a break and have fun—otherwise you will just go stir-crazy! I have also found that knowing your limit in regards to how much you can take on without being stressed is also helpful with maintaining balance in your life. Sometimes you just have to say no, whether it’s taking on another extra-curricular activity or an extra shift at work during the week. If you overload yourself, you won’t be able to give full attention to your top priorities, but you also won’t be able to enjoy what you’re doing.

While juggling all of her commitments, Sarah even has time to pack healthy lunches for campus

While juggling all of her commitments, Sarah even has time to pack healthy lunches for campus

6. What keeps you motivated?

What keeps me motivated is my drive to have a career in a field that I’m passionate about. I’m willing to work harder now so that I have more options in my future and attain a job that I look forward to everyday, not just one that gets me through paying my bills month to month with no enjoyment.

Fruits & Veggies7. What do you hope to do after graduating?

After graduating, I hope to either gain clinical skills by doing a dietetic internship at a hospital in order to become a registered dietitian or get into a Masters of Nutrition with an integrated internship program. I would love to become a registered dietitian in a hospital setting, working with patients who struggle with how to achieve a well-balanced diet that fits with their lifestyle and specific disease. After obtaining experience in the clinical world of dietetics, I would love to move into the community and be able to facilitate cooking lessons which teach people with nutritional diseases how to cook for their specific disease and how to substitute ingredients for healthier alternatives.


Sarah’s passion for nutrition and helping others is extremely evident. She demonstrates a wonderful balance between her rigorous program and her many extra-curricular commitments, while maintaining an easy-going and charismatic demeanor, making her a tremendous leader and role model to both me and those around her.

I’m looking forward to both tasting her delicious New York themed food at PJ’s on the 27th of March and continuing to learn from the leader that is Sarah!

Who are leaders in your life? Who inspires and motivates you? We’d love to hear!

Feature Friday: Lights, Camera, Action – backstage!

Written by Chantale Meet Emma Helfand-Green. She is a 4th-year Psychology student, well-rounded campus leader, dedicated student employee in Student Life, compassionate volunteer activist, and a world-class juggler. (By ‘juggler’ I mean a master in multitasking, but I have no doubt that she could take up another hobby!)

Emma Hefland-Green in Student Life!

Emma sharing her enthusiasm with Student Life!

Needless to say, Emma does it all. You would never know the true extent to which she has immersed herself into the University of Guelph because of her humble character and commitment to working in a cave of creativity: backstage at Curtain Call Productions. Intrigued? I certainly was, and it is this kaleidoscope-of-a-snapshot into Emma’s initiatives that inspired me to interview her for our first edition of Feature Friday!

For those of you just joining us now, Feature Friday is an outlet for us to illuminate student leaders on campus who are infrequently in the spotlight. Furthermore, we believe that these student leaders are the epitome – the Willy Wonka’s – of those sweet, endlessly-appreciated lollipop moments that leave meaningful impacts on others.

Emma works magic backstage as an Executive Producer for Curtain Call Productions.

Emma works magic backstage as an Executive Producer for Curtain Call Productions.

Despite Emma’s constant “go” schedule, she consistently exudes positivity and a contagious, bubbly aura. These traits are refreshing to have on campus; truly, they have the ability to leave you with more energy than you had before your interaction. This is particularly evident when Emma talks about her journey with Curtain Call Productions, a registered club under the Central Student Association (CSA) that develops artistic talent and appreciation for the arts through musical theatre.

Emma joined with an interest in theatre, and assisted with set-building and lighting in 1st year (Jekyll and Hyde) and 2nd year (Rent). In 3rd year, she fulfilled larger responsibilities as the Stage Manager (Cabaret). Finally, this year she is the Executive Producer (Drowsy Chaperone). Through Emma’s tremendous efforts and skill, she has climbed to a level that enables her to collaborate with a team of 20 executive members, host fundraising events, and oversee budget and marketing plans.

Emma's favourite leadership quote: “Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better. “ - Bill Bradley

Emma’s favourite leadership quote: “Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better. “ – Bill Bradley

Diving a little deeper, I captured a sneak peek of Emma’s thoughts on leadership, inspiration, her exciting engagements on and off campus, and keeping life in check as an involved student leader.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership is the ability to motivate people to work together to achieve goals. It’s about being a team player, thinking big, and being a support to people around you!

What is your favourite place on campus? Why?
My favourite place would be the library. As a Peer Helper, we have our own workroom on the first floor, so it makes for a great study space since it can be difficult to study at home. It is great to see friendly faces, meet new people through the Peer Helper Program, and utilize excellent great resources such as the textbook reserve, IT desk, and the fuel for studying – food!

Where do you get your inspiration from?
My parents inspire me. They always motivate me to be my best and show that they are proud of me in my academic and student roles. This may sound cheesy, but they are always a phone call away; especially during times of stress at school, their help has been greatly appreciated. Also, group work involves people relying on one another to get things done; this has been my motivation to contribute to my team and be productive.

Emma with the cast of Cabaret (2013) from Curtain Call Productions.

Emma with the cast of Cabaret (2013) from Curtain Call Productions.

Besides Curtain Call Productions, what are your involvements on and off campus?
As a Peer Helper in Learning Services, I help struggling students build a variety of academic skills. Additionally, I work in Student Life, and have served in facilitator positions for Back-on-Track and Mamma Never Told Me programs. During school preview weeks, I lead campus tours as a University of Guelph ambassador (UoGA).
Off campus, I work at the River Run Centre and volunteer with Family Child Services of Guelph and Kortright Hills Community Group, working with students and their after-school program.

How do you find balance between all of your [AWESOME] commitments?
It’s difficult! [laughs] It’s been the biggest struggle I’ve had over the last three years. Making time for breaks between school work and knowing when to say ‘no’ is key. I definitely experienced the stress of spreading myself too thin in leadership roles, but it’s something you have to figure it out for yourself…it’s a learning curve.

The Drowsy Chaperone. Show is running March 5-8th at 8pm in War Memorial Hall

The Drowsy Chaperone. Show is running March 5-8th at 8pm in War Memorial Hall

Evidently, you do not need to be in the spotlight to be a leader or to contribute to meaningful change. As Emma illustrates through her actions backstage with Curtain Call, there are immeasurable experiences, skills, and contributions you can offer just by getting involved: isolate that cause, organization, or group you are passionate about and let your ambition do the rest.

Indeed, the exciting part about connecting with students who do not necessarily identify themselves as leaders – they ‘just DO’ – is that you can make them aware of the fact that they are fantastic individuals making positive change. So, here’s my public acknowledgement: The spotlight is on you, Emma. Keep on managing and innovating theatrical magic backstage, sharing your contagious enthusiasm, and last but not least, keep juggling!

Now it’s your turn: who will you recognize for their efforts, rockin’ personality, and accomplishments on our campus?

Introducing… Feature Friday

Written by HeatherThere’s a whole lot that I love about being a student at UofG; lots of courses to satisfy my wide variety of interests, profs who are knowledgeable, interesting, and often hilarious, loads of green space, the food, the endless opportunities for extracurriculars (seriously, inner-tube water polo is an option!), to name a few of those things.

However, my favourite thing about being a student here is pretty easy to pinpoint; it’s the amazing Gryphons that I’m surrounded by on a daily basis! I’m sure that I’m not alone in saying that the people I have met and continue to meet on this beautiful campus have a huge impact on my life. Some have been a source of motivation, a helping hand, or a lens to keep things in perspective. I mean, let’s face it, you Gryphons are pretty great!

It’s that greatness that we want to showcase in our new segment for The Leadership Office. We spent some time last term exploring what you, students of the University of Guelph, thought made a great leader. You came up with a vast array of answers, further supporting the idea that there are so many qualities that can make a person an effective leader. In our newest segment, Feature Friday, we’ll be interviewing Gryphons that we think show leadership in their daily lives. As you may have noticed, here at The Leadership Office we looooove the idea of everyday leadership, and so many of the people that we will be Featuring may not have positional, or traditional, leading roles on campus.

'Whatever you are, be a good one.' Abraham Lincoln   (Source: Pinterest)

‘Whatever you are, be a good one.’ Abraham Lincoln (Source: Pinterest)

We hope that you enjoy the interviews and that you find these fabulous Gryphons as inspiring as we do! Finally, if you know someone on campus who you think exemplifies everyday leadership and should be recognized, please give us a shout in the comments section of one of our posts, or e-mail us at