Kargiannakis off to meet the Queen

Melissa KargiannakisKargiannakis, a master’s student in the Health Information Science program, is one of three Canadians to receive a Queen’s Young Leaders Award for 2015. As a recipient, she will travel to the UK with other winners from around the world in June to receive the honour from the Queen herself.

While meeting the Queen may be the pinnacle of the experience, Award recipients are also provided with an array of additional opportunities to broaden their leadership capabilities and help them achieve their individual goals.

“It’s cool, crazy, far beyond my wildest dreams,” said Kargiannakis of winning the award. “I will have just turned 25. It’s completely ridiculous.”

All winners have been enrolled in an online Leading Change course administered through the prestigious University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education, which runs from January until December 2015.

There is also a week-long residency overseas from June 21 - 28, where participants will have intensive, tangible, hands-on training designed to help them pursue the projects that they are involved in.  

Beyond receiving their awards from the Queen at Buckingham Palace, other meetings include Prime Minister David Cameron, the BBC World Service, UK Twitter HQ, and the High Commissioners. They will also be spending some time at Cambridge culminating their course progression thus far, where Kargiannakis will be resurrecting other talents, singing an operatic aria by Puccini.
“I’ll be meeting with all these great young leaders from across the world, which is going to be fantastic, because I’m so excited to have that global perspective,” explained Kargiannakis.

“To kind of hear, well what are the challenges in your context? What works really well in your context? And learning from each other.”

Kargiannakis has been paired with mentor Dr. Mark Salopek, who has a PhD from Cambridge University and expertise in strategic management, marketing, e-business, and history. He will be able to provide further guidance with online information development systems—perfectly relevant to Kargiannakis’ most recent initiative.

The Queen’s Young Leaders Program was launched in 2014 as a means to discover and celebrate exceptional young people leading change in their communities and across the Commonwealth. Recipients have to show that they are dedicated to bettering their communities and making lasting changes for the benefit of all.

Kargiannakis, who has won many honours and spearheaded numerous projects over the last several years, had no shortage of things to draw from or people who would write her reference letters, and so it’s no surprise that she was chosen out of almost 2,000 applicants as one of the first ever recipients of this prestigious Award.

Between January and September 2014, she was a Studio Y Fellow at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto. The 8-month fellowship is intended to help develop participants into the leaders they strive to be.
As part of the first cohort in Studio Y, Kargiannakis helped to shape the experience for those following her. It also allowed her to work on several major projects within her sphere of interest.
She co-founded the Sci-FY: Science and Reading for Youth program in Sault Ste. Marie in Northern Ontario with local Algoma University student Cynthia Burmaster. Sci-FY is a peer-to-peer mentorship program between university and grade 5 and 6 students that develops foundational skills in Science, Numeracy, Literacy, and healthy lifestyles.

Elementary students gain an awareness of higher education programs through their mentors, who arm them with the skills to get there. The program is based on similar programs already running in Southwestern Ontario: S.E.E.D.S. Science for Life and Western’s own Learning It Together program from the Faculty of Health Sciences.

She is also working on a project which was directly inspired by her Master of Health Information Science class in Knowledge Translation, taught by Professor Anita Kothari.
Kargiannakis would like to harness the dynamic nature of the Internet to develop a cognitively customized web experience that makes online information truly useful, not just available, to individuals by tailoring it to their needs.

On her Linked In profile, Kargiannakis says her main career goal is “to revolutionize healthcare and education systems.” Most of her activities, including working towards her master’s degree in HIS, are in pursuit of that mission.

“I am particularly passionate about Health Informatics; anything related to how health information is disseminated, managed, processed, analyzed, and leveraged within and between organizations, patients, and health care providers,” she writes on her profile.

The benefits that come with winning the Queen’s Young Leader award will certainly provide Kargiannakis with more tools, experiences, and people to help her accomplish her goals. She has already been connected with potential project partners and gained access to Edtech Europe.
And getting to shake hands with Queen Elizabeth II? That’s a motivating experience she’ll be able to carry with her for a long time to come.

** Post-script:
Melissa traveled to England and met with Queen Elizabeth II on June 22. For photos and a video clip of the event, see "Kargiannakis receives Young Leaders Award from the Queen."