As our Centennial year comes to an end and Brescia begins its second century, Qiaoyu Wu (Grace Wu), an international change maker from the class of 2019, would like you to remember one thing – like the Ursulines, you have the power to make an impact on our world.

While Grace was completing her undergraduate degree in Brescia’s Non-Profit Management program, she discovered her personal leadership potential and the ability to make effective change in her community. Since graduation, Grace has shared her Brescia story widely and is making a bold impact on a global scale.

Why did you choose to Brescia for university?

I went to a Canadian international high school in Chongqing, China and knew I would go to a university in Canada; however, it wasn’t until I attended a Universities Fair that Brescia came to be my focus. When I spoke to a representative from the recruitment team, I learned about Brescia’s leadership module and the University’s speaking contest, “Take the Lead”. Not long after, I was invited to visit campus to participate in the contest, where I was inspired by other students speaking to the importance of women in leadership – this encouraged me to consider my own leadership potential.

While I was in London I fell in love with the beautiful campus, delicious food and compassionate staff and faculty. It was then I knew Brescia was something I wanted to be a part of.

Why is being an international student leader important?

In Canada, and particularly at Brescia, we have an opportunity to voice our opinions to make change. When I was a student, it was important to me to represent international students as a whole creating a connected voice and increased inclusive community.

Over my four years at the University, I represented international students in multiple community initiatives such as the London Youth Advisory Council (within the city) and at Brescia, I was a Student Ambassador. Through these roles, and many more, I learned to understand the impact of social development on a small scale.

What path led you to your role at as a Banking Advising Intern at RBC?

Actually, through Brescia! Last summer, I participated in The Francolini Summer Leadership Experience where I was placed working with RBC to partake in their “Future Launch” program. This program is designed to help students gain the skills and experience for jobs that will exist in the future – which is exactly what it achieved for me. There, I was able to make lasting connections with RBC’s leadership team leading me to an employment opportunity.

I can confidently say, I graduated with a well-rounded degree in the Non-Profit Management program because I was taught applicable skills I can apply to many careers.

What are some of the most important learnings that you have been able to take away from your time at Brescia and apply to your career?

During my undergraduate degree I took multiple courses in leadership, business and sociology, and there I learned the influence of cultural competency which allowed me to think in an alternative way by considering others. I remember one of my professors, Colleen Sharen, held engaging class discussions where I was able to learn from my peers and understand their past point of views in a supportive environment. I apply this critical thinking skill everyday in my career through relationship building.

Also, I contribute one of my personal values of empathy to my Brescia experience. I am very grateful for the Brescia’s foundresses, the Ursuline Sisters, who gave me the opportunity to receive an amazing education. Because of this, I want to give back and help people who are vulnerable. At RBC, I am able to connect with people from around the world and empathize with their individual needs.

Lastly, at Brescia, I learned it is very important to look ahead and predict where the future is headed – I definitely picked this up from the faculty. In all of my classes, they taught me to always consider forward-thinking ideas and concepts, reminding me to consider my long-term goals. This gave me confidence to develop both personally and professionally regardless of where I am working.

What attributes do you feel led to your early professional success?

I know it is cliché, but the most significant attribute I feel led to my professional success is hard work. Now-a-days, many people pursue post-secondary education; however, for me, it is about working hard and working smart to ensure you are getting the most out of it! For example, right now I am an intern, and as a trainee I need to be a good follower to ensure I can achieve leadership success for my future. By doing so, I can focus on helping others to find their own potential and individual values. Leadership can be both leading and following to support whatever the goal is.

Now, this also coincides with being my authentic self. Through following my own personal principals, I stay true to myself and others, and this I feel has led to my professional success.


What advice would you give to current Brescia students?

I have a few pieces of advice:

  1. Regardless of what you are studying, develop your own opinions. Having your own opinions, to me, raises more value than greed or your future income.
  2. The meaning of education is not about changing your own life, but about changing the lives of others. I want students to know, the four years they spend at Brescia, gives them the potential to change the world.
  3. Remember, try new things. Get involved as a student leader at Brescia, or within the London community. When I did this, it helped me learn much faster and build my character and skills outside of the classroom.
  4. And finally, don’t be afraid of being different.

How do you define leadership? Or, what characteristics make a great leader?

In a perfect world, we are all our own leaders. Everyone in Canada is encouraged and supported to make their own decisions freely, but the fact is our world is not perfect – yet. A leader is someone who senses the urgency of inequality and decides to create a better future for all. Leadership happens when people start to believe it‘s worth the effort and time, and commit to make change happen together.

What are your hopes for Brescia in the next 100 years?

I really believe Brescia changed my life and I want the same for others. In the next 100 years I hope the University’s mission can go global! I want women outside of Canada, like myself, to have the opportunity to experience the power of Brescia’s education so the women of tomorrow can tap into their own limitless potential.

As Brescia continues to build its legacy, I want to give back, and I hope my fellow alumnae will do the same.

Become Part of Brescia's Living History

How do you encapsulate 100 bold years of women leading? By sharing the stories of those who lived and breathed it. Become part of Brescia’s living history by adding to our Online Memory Album.

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