Skip to main content
RBC
Dr. Eugenia Duodu joined Visions of Science as a volunteer. A year later, she was leading the organization. Fueled by a desire to give back to the community and create change for youth, Duodu has exponentially grown the team, the organization, and its impact.

Visions of Science exists to advance the educational achievements and personal development of youth from low income and racialized communities through meaningful engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). When Dr. Eugenia Duodu, named a 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Social Change Finalist, joined in 2011, she was looking for two things: Something to do while pursuing her doctorate in Chemistry at the University of Toronto, and a way to give back to her community.

Dr. Duodu’s passion for community engagement began with her community youth group several years ago. Working with Rathburn Area Youth, she worked with community mentors and peers to create change – whether it was through building a community centre or implementing local initiatives to create positive change. “In my youth group I was able to work in several different housing communities similar to mine – I was able to see what was happening across the city and saw the awesome potential of the people living here.”

Ten years ago, she was pursuing her PhD in Chemistry and was seeking a way to blend her two passions in life. “I was looking for an opportunity to give back to the community in a way that connected my passion for STEM with grassroots community development.” Visions of Science was the perfect fit.

A Path Paved by Support

When asked about her path to science – and specifically through to a doctorate in chemistry, Dr. Duodu describes it as a passion built over time.

“The first time I knew I loved chemistry was when I took a second year Organic Chemistry course. Usually that’s when people discover they don’t like it – but for me, it was the contrary. It clicked for me. I always liked chemistry, but I remember that the turning point was doing very well in the course and having professors who affirmed that for me. That’s been a theme of my life.”

Dr. Duodu explains that there have been many people who have supported her along the way, and would not be in the position she is today without the support of those who have come alongside her in her life, “through encouragement, pointing me to opportunities, holding my hand… it has taken a village. I am grateful for my community of support.”

In fact, it was through the support of the previous Executive Director of Visions of Science that Dr. Duodu came to assume leadership of the organization. After meeting Francis Jeffers on the first day she volunteered, it became clear to Jeffers that she would succeed him. “He was transitioning, and the opportunity came for me to help run the organization at an advisory level. From there, by way of opportunities and openings, I was able to assume leadership. The whole process took about a year.”

Expanding the Reach of Visions of Science

When Dr. Duodu joined Visions of Science in 2011, the organization served youth in grades 3 – 8 across six communities in Toronto. Under her leadership, the age catchment has expanded through both STEM clubs (for grades 3 – 7) and the STEM Leaders Program for youth in grades 8 – 12. This program provides youth with advanced immersive and STEM-based experiential learning opportunities, as well as a forum for community-based leadership skill development. “We ultimately want to empower youth from our communities to become leaders for change,” Dr. Duodu explains.

Dr. Duodu is modest about the role she has played in transforming the organization. “I worked with an awesome team and built off of what was there before. We explored ideas and looked at the different possibilities,” she says, which includes securing charitable status in 2015. “That change allowed us to transform what we were able to do for fundraising,” she says, citing that the funding support has enabled the team to test and try new ideas and make the impact they wanted to make.

Under her guidance, Visions of Science has grown the team from five core staff members and 40 volunteers to 33 staff and 150+ volunteers. With such a steep growth trajectory, it’s often difficult for organizations to find the talent they need quickly – for Visions of Science, however, hiring hasn’t been an issue. “We have been able to attract like-minded individuals – people who want to make a difference in the community. They reflect the communities we work in and bring their own experiences to the organization,” she says. Dr. Duodu is particularly proud of the circle of giving back that Visions of Science has produced. “Many youth who were in programs work for us now.”

As for being named an RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards finalist, Dr. Duodu is honoured – but again points to her team and shares the nomination with them. “I am proud to have had the opportunity to be part of this incredible work,” she says. “I don’t ever look at the work and think of what I have accomplished as an individual – rather, it’s about what I have been a part of. It affirms that I am part of the right thing. It’s wonderful to be recognized, but it’s even more wonderful that our work was recognized.”

The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards was celebrated at a virtual gala on November 18, 2020. Nominations for the 2021 awards open January 27, 2021. Learn more or nominate an outstanding female entrepreneur online.

More from the Canadian Women Entrepreneurs Series:

How Desirée Bombenon’s SureCall is Doing Good With Every Call

Read Next

Women Entrepreneurs: Making a Difference Through Leadership and Innovation

Read Next

RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards (CWEA): A Virtual Celebration of Impact and Achievement

Read Next

How Sylvia Parris-Drummond’s Business is Creating Change for African Nova Scotians

Read Next

#SmallBusinessRedefined: Muttluks Founder Marianne Bertrand on Running a Seasonal Canadian Business

Read Next

CANN Forecast + SheEO: Making a Difference Through Technology and Radical Generosity

Read Next

Catherine Metrycki on disrupting the flower industry with tech-based Callia Flowers #IMadeThis

Read Next

How Women Are Changing the Face of Business

Read Next

Lily Tse on Founding Think Dirty and Uncovering Truths in the Beauty Industry #IMadeThis

Read Next

Kathleen Quinlan on Founding Fiore Botanica From Her Kitchen #IMadethis

Read Next

The 27th Annual RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards: Celebrating Business Owners Making a Difference

Read Next

Jayne’s Cottages: Building a Luxury Cottage Rental Business Through Trust and Service #IMadeThis

Read Next

Heather Modlin on the Rewards of Creating a Non-profit Business- Key Assets Newfoundland and Labrador #IMadeThis

Read Next

Creating a Powerful Force for Women Entrepreneurs with SheEO Activator Dagmara Fijalkowski

Read Next

Jennifer Hamilton on Creating Oxygen Yoga & Fitness: #IMadeThis

Read Next

Founders of Routine Share How They Turned Their Clean, Natural Products into a Thriving Global Business #IMadeThis

Read Next

Saccade Analytics: Turning 30 Years of Research into Insight, a Testing Device for More than 200 Neurological Disorders #IMadeThis

Read Next

SheEO CAN Summit 2019: Celebrating the Women Who Are Influencing Change, Making a Difference, and Leading the Way to a Better World

Read Next

Founder of Lumel Studios, Luann Baker-Johnson, on Creating Art in the Far North

Read Next

How LeDaveed’s Andy Dale is Doing Business Differently #IMadeThis

Read Next

Innovation is Nothing Without Adoption: Q&A with Horizn founder Janice Diner #IMadeThis

Read Next

Founder of Knix, Joanna Griffiths on Building a Mission-Driven Business #IMadeThis

Read Next

Give Us Your Dirty Laundry: How Vaundry Is Solving a Tedious Chore Through Tech #IMadeThis

Read Next

Dr. Marjorie Dixon on Why She Founded Anova Fertility #IMadeThis

Read Next

Empowering Women Entrepreneurs Today, to Build a Stronger Tomorrow

Read Next

Toni Desrosiers on Why She Founded Abeego #IMadeThis

Read Next