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Imani Murray, part of the University of Alberta's ELITE program, on what she learned about herself while studying STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine).

Imani Murray has always been interested in science, especially the last “M” in STEMM — medicine. That’s what led her to the Experiential Learning in Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship (ELITE) Program for Black Youth through the University of Alberta.

“ELITE is a program for Black students in STEMM who aren’t necessarily represented well in these fields,” she says. “Dr. André McDonald put this program together, partnering with different companies and faculty, labs and organizations to give us a chance to get those professional and vocational skills so when we’re ready to enter the workforce, we’ll be able just to be exceptional.”

During her two years interning, Murray made an impression. Dr. McDonald nominated her for the inaugural RBC Future Launch Scholarship for Black Youth, a program that provides financial support, mentoring, and other opportunities to outstanding Black students in Canada. Murray was one of 20 students selected to receive the prize.
Now in her last semester before earning her Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology, Murray’s reflecting on the top 5 things she learned along the way—in her own words.

1. Appreciate the journey, not just the destination.

When I started out at U of A, I thought I was just going to get my degree in physiology, but I discovered so many other interests like engineering and research along the way. I didn’t see it beforehand.

You pick up lessons along the way, figuring out where you're heading, and that's going to make you who you're supposed to be. I wish I'd known to take my time and just enjoy that journey.

2. Seek help from those around you.

This one was kind of a big one for me. I always felt like I had to figure everything out on my own; that’s just how I grew up. Now I’ve realized that I have more to gain by asking those around me to help me achieve my goals. No one is an island. You need your friend groups, you need your study groups. You need to reach out when you need it — it just makes a big difference.

3. Life doesn’t only revolve around school.

I’ve had this mentality that I just had to focus on my work, but there are just some things that school can’t teach you. Having a social life is super important. When I think about some of the best memories that I’ve had here at the university, it’s not in a lecture. It’s with the people that I’ve gained connections and relationships with, it’s that social component. I’ve found that having that balance is super, super important and it even helps you with things you want to achieve academically. Not everything has to be school, school, school.

4. Find strength in what makes you different.

I don’t see a lot of people who look like me in my faculty or my department.

As a Black student, I'm different but that doesn't make me any less than.

It can feel isolating and lonely, but if I could talk to my younger self, I’d say, ‘Don’t be hard on yourself about it. Find your flow, find a different path and travel along it.’ You won’t be the only one on it. You’ll find a community of people that share your ideals. It’s okay to be different.

5. Through hard work comes good results.

I think I really underestimated how difficult it would be to get through school. Especially that first semester! You get hit in the face with university and even just adulting. It can be overwhelming. But I remember that nothing good comes easy and if it was easy, everybody would do it. You learn to adapt, to change based on the things you learn. The challenges you go through make you better equipped for the harsher challenges that will come ahead.

The ELITE program offers Black Canadian youth aged 15-22 hands-on learning and work-integrated training in STEMM fields and entrepreneurship. Learn more

Learn more about how RBC is helping empower young people for the jobs of today and tomorrow through RBC Future Launch.