‘Just show up’: R&I alumni Sam Jemison’s advice to prospective NC students


Sam Jemison is a 2021 graduate from the Mechanical Engineering Technology (Co-op) program. She worked with R&I from January 2019 to April 2020 as a Research Assistant with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC). You may also know her as the former President of the Niagara College Student Administrative Council (NCSAC) from May 2021 to April 2023. Read on to learn about her journey.

What year did you graduate and what program?

I graduated in 2021 from the Mechanical Engineering Technology (Co-op) program.

What led you to want to go to Niagara College in the first place?

Funny story – I learned about a total solar eclipse whose totality-ribbon would run through the United States in August 2017, and convinced my three closest friends to pile into my car and drive 14 hours to the nearest park that was in the coverage zone to watch it (Waterloo, Illinois to be exact). The eclipse was an experience unlike any other, and it really ignited a passion to explore the world and the universe. So, the next natural step of course was to look up how to become an astronaut – that seems reasonable! I investigated what credentials the Canadian Space Agency was looking for in candidates, looked up an education path that would combine college and university to get me there, and low and behold – I applied to the Mechanical Engineering Technology program at Niagara College (NC)! Little did I know that the program would ignite a separate, but equally bright, passion for all things engineering and student advocacy!

How was your experience with R&I helped prepare you for your current path?

Well, I’m not an astronaut, but my ambitions are still sky-high! For two years after graduation, I served as the full-time president of the NCSAC, where a true passion and talent for student advocacy presented itself. During that time, I also led the creation of a provincial-level student advocacy group, Ontario Student Voice, which is now the leading representative voice for Ontario college students in the province. This said, leading such a charge was almost like a full-time job on top of my already full-time presidency, and so now I’m enjoying a few months of rest, travel, volunteering, and personal development as I explore which career path calls to me loudest – college admin and student advocacy, or mechanical engineering and technical innovation.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

I think I had a running start in the skills WAMIC honed for me. I was lucky enough to have a bit of charisma to help in my WAMIC presentations and projects and so, I often raised my hand first for any opportunity to present or represent WAMIC to the world. This not only helped me develop the ability to translate technical language into easy-to-understand presentations, but exposed me to the business side of innovation, all while pushing the skills I learned in the classroom further and teaching me new skills and ways to integrate them together. WAMIC really gave me a push beyond the standard co-op, and I feel I grew as both a professional, and as an individual significantly during my eight months with WAMIC.

Do you have any special memories during your time as a student at NC?

The skills I learned during one specific WAMIC project holds a special memory. This project included integrating smart assistants with home automation in areas that had not yet seen automation introduced. It was incredibly satisfying because not only was I creating something completely new, but I was learning how to integrate various skills that work alongside mechanical engineering that are not taught in the classroom. This includes topics like the Internet of Things, electronics, and programming.

“WAMIC really gave me a push beyond the standard co-op, and I feel I grew as both a professional, and as an individual significantly during my eight months with WAMIC.” – Samantha Jemison

What advice would you give to a current student?

The advice I would give to a current student would be to get involved! Put yourself out there! Every effort I put into NC and into myself through NC was always rewarded. I grew as an individual an incredible amount and was able to see the cycle come full circle when eventually I became a mentor to those around me. Moreover, go to Diwali, visit the Indigenous office, run for the NCSAC elections, join the LEAD program. You gain so much more than you realize in the moment when you get involved and my happiest memories are almost exclusively from the non-academic side of my college journey.

What do you do in your personal time?

Oh, what a list there is! In the summer months I love to kayak, bike, hike, hang out with my dog, Athena (often on the kayak). This past summer I was lucky enough to explore a ton of Ontario during road trips, during consulting projects, and while volunteering. On the note of volunteering, I am a director on two not-for-profit boards, the OSV (Ontario Student Voices) board as an alumni director, and with OCQAS (Ontario College Quality Assurance Service) as the student/recent alumni representative. In the winter I love to ski even though I hate the cold and while I don’t watch movies or shows, I really enjoy story-driven video games during these times when it’s too cold to enjoy the great outdoors. A fun fact is that, to this day, I still hold the highest grade ever given out in the mechanical engineering robotics class! I think part of my success can be attributed to video games since the physical input controls are similar and so are kind of a transferable skill – who could’ve predicted that outcome!

Proudest achievement since graduating?

On the tangible side, the $1M Dollar Pledge NCSAC was able to make to support Student Scholarships is one of my proudest achievements. Though there wasn’t enough time to share the achievements details with the world, the meaning behind it is more than just creating more scholarships. The meaning was to carbon-copy all existing NCSAC scholarships that were funding-locked to domestic students, to create an identical scholarship fund for international students. Today, international students can apply to all the same NCSAC scholarships as domestic students can. This is going to have a huge impact and was just an incredible win that was years in the making. On the less tangible side, seeing the NCSAC student board members learn about good governance and effective student advocacy, and becoming independent and effective advocates for their peers was one of the most personally rewarding achievements since my graduation.

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

“Sam is great!” Just kidding. I have so many things I would want to share, but with NC in-mind, it would say, “Just show up”. Just showing up is 90% of most battles in my experience. Just showing up can let you learn things even if you’re not actively involved. Just showing up can make you meet interesting people and have those interesting people know who you are. Finally, just showing up shows you what the world has to offer in any niche. Just showing up was a key element to my success at NC, and beyond. Just show up.