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Sonoma Brawley: Making the Most of University

Updated: Jun 28

Sonoma Brawley is making the most of her university experience. The recipient of the 3M National Student Fellowship, Sonoma just completed her second year of Music Performance and English at Bishop’s University. She is actively engaged in the Bishop’s arts community, serving as Humanities Senator on the Bishop’s University Student Representative Council (BUSRC), Junior Co-Captain of the competitive dance team, and Co-Lead of the Bishop’s University Music Society.

Sonoma is currently serving her second term as Humanities Senator on the Bishop’s University Student Representative Council (BUSRC)—a position she finds to be incredibly rewarding. “As a first-generation student, I found academic systems to be very complex and had a bit of a hard time managing them,” says Sonoma. Hoping to help other students like her, when the senator opportunities arose, she jumped at it. “It’s been one of the most incredible experiences as a student so far. It has opened my eyes to the value of the humanities and how they can bring us all together.” Sonoma is specifically focused on ensuring the stability of BUSCR programs and has set out to design initiatives that foster collaborations between different groups on campus, including various clubs. 

One of the biggest roles Sonoma has taken on since beginning her undergrad is that of an Online Learning Technology Consultant with the Bishop's Teaching and Learning Centre. In this role, Sonoma has worked with professors across faculties to help design more empathetic classrooms and syllabi. “The program started in 2020 in response to COVID and the need to support faculty and students as everything quickly shifted to online learning,” explains Sonoma. “But it carried on because of its core value of designing with empathy. I’ve learned so much about how we can design every classroom, syllabus, learning experience, and even Moodle page with empathy and thought towards accessibility.” 

Sonoma first learned of the 3M National Student Fellowship the summer before starting at Bishop’s when she participated in a summer Shakespeare course. Shakespearience is a course that takes students and other members of the Maple League to Stratford to experience the world of drama and Shakespeare, led by three 3M National Teaching Fellows: Dr. Jesscia Riddell, Dr. Shannon Murray, and Dr. Lisa Dickson. Already knowing of the Fellowship—and with a strong support system in place—Sonoma dived right into her application this past December. “I worked with a previous 3M Student Fellow through the Maple League Mentorship Program, which was so helpful in creating my dossier,” says Sonoma. “Having another student who had gone through the process who I could bounce my ideas off was invaluable as I was putting together the application.” 

When she found out she had won, Sonoma was delighted. “I mean, I was in complete shock and denial for a week. It still feels kind of wild.” Sonoma is currently attending the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Annual Conference in Niagara Falls, where she is getting to meet other 3M student fellows. Over the next year, she is excited to return to class and her extracurriculars, as well as develop a project with funding from her fellowship. “I’m grateful for all the support from the mentors, professors, and partners at Bishop’s and in the Maple League who helped me through the process, not just in writing my application but also in celebrating this accomplishment!”

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