During spring convocation each year, the University of Lethbridge awards medals to recognize graduate and undergraduate academic achievement and performance. The recipients of these medals are the most distinguished graduates in their faculty or program.

Sam Gerrand (BSc '22) is the recipient of the 2022 undergraduate gold medal (science) for the Faculty of Arts & Science. Sam was inspired by a wildfire that burned near his childhood home to better understand the effects of wildfires on landscapes. This curiosity led to two original and creative research projects during his geography undergraduate career funded by NSERC grants: the first an exploration of carbon loss from tree roots and soils from the Kenow wildfire in Waterton; the second, which culminated in his honours thesis, studying the effects of seismic lines in the Oil Sands Region on peatland fragmentation contributing to the heightened risk of wildfire. He has been accepted to two master’s planning programs to continue his work on fire management through community planning.

What does this academic recognition mean to you?

I asked to be considered for this award based on my undergraduate research and my involvement in the university community. Gaining this academic recognition for the contributions I made feels wonderful. It shows me that the work I completed had value to others and I feel proud to have had an impact during my time at ULethbridge.

What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience?

A favourite experience was finding a sense of community at school in the Department of Geography & Environment. I remember finding friends in class, bonding on some field trips, and becoming close by working though labs together. Finding a community of people is a memorable part of anyone's life and I was lucky to find that at ULethbridge.

What is the most important lesson you learned during your time at ULethbridge?

It was quite cool to experience for myself how much I could accomplish by being consistent. I did not always stay that long in the library, but I was able to do a lot of things I'm proud of because I was consistent. I tried my best to accomplish my goals every day and stuck with them. I now feel that I can accomplish many things if I choose to put my best effort in and be patient with myself.

Is there someone specific who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?

Yes, Dr. Laura Chasmer from the Department of Geography & Environment had a big influence on my time at ULethbridge. She got me interested in doing research and provided me with some amazing opportunities I don't know if I would have had anywhere else. More than this, Dr. Chasmer gave me the trust to complete good work and to take things on by myself; this was so valuable to me professionally and personally.

What are your hopes/plans for the future?

After leaving ULethbridge, I took some time to myself to travel to Patagonia and to work. I then decided to build on my undergraduate experience and am currently studying for a Master’s of Community Planning at Vancouver Island University. I plan to blend my scientific background from ULethbridge with more people-focused community planning. I hope this will give me the balance to make a difference in our communities. I want to improve the environments we live in, which have a huge influence on our lives. Specifically, I am researching how we can best adapt communities for climate change.

What advice would you give those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?

There is lots of good advice out there, and lots of helpful people at ULethbridge have great advice to offer. I think my tip is just to be open to learning from other people and to be excited to ask questions.

Congratulations, Sam!

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