A passion for inclusion for all—in sport and in society—has earned StFX student Oliver Storseth a national honour.
The Antigonish, NS native and fourth year advanced major chemistry student is one of 10 students in Canada to earn a 2023 3M National Student Fellowship Award, which honours full-time diploma and undergraduate students at Canadian post-secondary institutions who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in their lives and at their post-secondary institutions.
“Oliver is an exemplary leader who speaks for those who cannot and leads the way showing us how individuals with all abilities can be included in sport and society. He will leave StFX in a better position than he found it with the work he has done,” says StFX human kinetics professor Dr. Angie Kolen, who nominated Mr. Storseth for the award.
“Inclusive, generous, valued, respected, infectious, determined, empathetic, kind, contributor, collaborator. These words describe Oliver Storseth and are the reasons I nominated him,” she says. “Oliver’s leadership makes StFX and his home community, Antigonish, a better place to be. “
“It’s a great honour,” says Mr. Storseth, who is also a centre midfielder on the X-Men soccer team, and who plans to pursue family medicine after StFX.
“It’s very exciting. I’m looking forward to meeting the other recipients in Charlottetown during a conference in July and doing some leadership building.
“I’m very thankful for the leaders and mentors I had in shaping me into who I am,” he says, “and for the invitation into the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) community.”
Helping create inclusion for all has played a pivotal role in his life since Grade 11 when Mr. Storseth began coaching Unified Sport basketball, a program that includes individuals of all abilities in sport using an equitable platform, where inclusion, not winning, is at the forefront. At the time, Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School teacher Joan Conrad was looking for students to become involved. He stepped up to coach Unified Basketball.
“It was the first opportunity I had working with people with disability and it kickstarted my passion for that,” he says.
Mr. Storseth says it was an eye-opening experience. Playing sport at a high level, he’s seen how sometimes the fun of sport can get lost.
“With Unified Sport, everyone’s on the same playing field, they’re equal and having fun.”
He says he enjoyed how appreciative and eager the participants were. “It was an awesome opportunity.”
Over the years, he sought employment and volunteer opportunities where he could make a difference.
He worked as a summer camp counsellor for L’Arche Antigonish, working with a team of four counsellors to support 15 children living with intellectual disabilities.
When COVID-19 cancelled camps, he reached out and did respite care with a couple of families.
“It was an awesome experience,” he says, recalling it was the first summer after COVID restrictions eased a bit. He saw how much the little things mattered. “Going for a walk meant so much.”
Mr. Storseth has also coached a Special Olympics soccer team, which won a provincial silver medal.
Most recently, he successfully started Unified at X at StFX, which brought people living with physical and mental disabilities together with StFX varsity student-athletes every second week to participate in various sports. Mr. Storseth wanted to start the program after seeing that not all activities had resumed for these community members after COVID-19 restrictions had lifted. He wanted to do something to help.
“I’m just trying to create opportunities for people to experience something they may not have had before, and to create equity and inclusivity. Everyone should be able to experience it,” he says.
“I saw the void and I wanted to help be a part of the solution.”
With a busy schedule keeping up with academics, athletics and volunteer activities, Mr. Storseth says he tries to stay organized.
“It helps when you are doing things you like. It doesn’t feel like a burden.”
At StFX, he has taken part in X-Chem Outrearch, is an elite leader in the StFX Student Athlete Leadership Academy, a formal program aimed at developing leadership skills, and has completed and delivered Bystander training to the X-Men soccer team. He also worked during the summer with Health Canada, mostly doing data entry but also sitting in on meetings.
Mr. Storseth says he is grateful for the opportunities he’s had so far, including at StFX where he is enjoying his time, learning from talented, supportive faculty in a tight-knit environment.
The Maple League of Universities Students’ Excel on National Stage
Two other students form the Maple League join Oliver this year – SunMin Park from Mount Allison University, Liam O’Toole from Bishop’s University. This brings the total to fourteen 3M National Student Fellows in four years, drawn from small, primarily undergraduate institutions, evidence that the Maple League of Universities – StFX, Acadia, Bishop’s and Mount Alison -- are increasingly differentiated in a sector that has seen growing class sizes, faced increased financial pressure, and witnessed the massification of universities. In contrast, these four universities in the Maple League have remained small by design, doubling down on mentorship, inclusive high-impact practices, smaller class sizes, and access to research and leadership opportunities that are much harder to access at larger universities.
In other words, 35% of nationally recognized student changemakers across Canada come from universities with fewer than 4000 students per campus, supporting our model of education – the very best model.