McGill’s valedictorians are outstanding students whose strong academic performance, leadership and community involvement has earned the respect of their peers. This year’s cohort is remarkable for its diversity, each having vastly different backgrounds, experiences, passions and goals.
What they do share is ambition, curiosity, and a desire to have a positive impact on the world.
As with most students, McGill’s valedictorians were challenged over the course of their studies. But, with perseverance, dedication, and the support of people around them, they thrived. The University has benefitted just as much for having them as valuable, contributing members of our community.
As part of our Spring 2023 Convocation coverage, the Reporter is conducting a series of Q&A interviews this year’s valedictorians.
In this instalment, we feature Alex Kuijper Dickson, valedictorian for the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences ‘A’ ceremony, on Friday, June 2, at 10 a.m. Kuijper Dickson will receive his Bachelor of Bioresource Engineering with a minor in Agribusiness Entrepreneurship.
Where is your hometown?
I grew up in the Ottawa Valley.
Why did you choose McGill?
I chose to come to McGill because it was the only school that offered the program that I was most interested in. I was able to find similar programs at other schools, but none that seemed to encompass so many of my interests.
What were some of your impressions when walking onto campus for the first time?
My program takes place at the MacDonald campus of McGill. Once I had been accepted into the program, I went to the campus to check it out. The first thing I noticed was how much access to natural spaces there was. The river is right next to campus and there were trees and lawns everywhere!
What are some of the highlights of your time as a McGill student?
Five years gives you a lot of time to create highlights.
The memorable moments from my time as a McGill student most frequently are the ones I spent having fun with my friends.
I kept engaged with my curriculum by participating in clubs and competitions that was related to what I had learned or was learning in class. Competing in these competitions with my friends were real highlights. However, some of the best times I had were just enjoying the company of good friends in casual contexts.
Three favourite places on McGill/Mac campus?
- The Mac Campus Pollination Meadow
- The Horticulture Centre and Mac Market
- Paddle Mac – the paddleboard and kayak rental spot on the river
What’s next for you, both short and long term?
This summer I am working in the Bennett Lab helping to do research to try and get a better idea of how agricultural landscapes can be managed to support a higher number and quality of ecosystem services. In October, I plan on starting a year of traveling, working on farms, and visiting friends around the world. After that, I plan on finding engineering work related to ecosystem management and sustainable food production to try and achieve my professional engineering accreditation.
Tell us about your Faculty and your classmates. How important have they been to your overall McGill experience?
The people I have spent the last five years with are what made the degree fun. There are so many people with similar passions as me who are doing interesting things that I get to be a part of! I have felt very loved by this community and I look forward to visiting my friends wherever their adventures take them.
What advice do you have for new students to McGill?
Try and do things that align with your current interests. Don’t plan too far down the line because we are still at an age where things can change very quickly, and the world around us is also changing very quickly. It is impossible to predict the state of the world or your field of study in four years, so just do what you are currently interested in. What you are interested in doesn’t necessarily have to align directly with a career, because ultimately an undergrad is a jumping off point. Just focus on making real connections with people that have similar interests to you.
Do you have friends or family coming for Convocation?
My parents and maybe some other family members are coming to Convocation.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the world today? How confident are you that we can address these challenges and make a difference?
Different people face different challenges. There are certain challenges I care more about and am more interested in, but I think that is a very subjective question. I like working on environmental/ecological/food related problems such as how the restoration of certain landscapes or conservation of certain landscapes can lead to better food security. I think it is very possible to make a difference, it just depends on what scale you are working in. Improving food access for a community is hugely important and impactful, but will that prevent the polar ice form melting? Probably not.