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Valedictorian Kate Palmer immerses herself in student life and helping others post-pandemic

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on May 3, 2024

Category: UNB Fredericton

Valedictorian Kate Palmer

University of New Brunswick (UNB) valedictorian Kate Palmer spent the first year of her undergraduate degree learning from her childhood bedroom in Rothesay, N.B., during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Four years later, the isolation of her first year is a distant but formative memory.

As someone who finds purpose and fulfillment in helping others and making the world a healthier place, adjusting to UNB’s Fredericton campus in her second year was both briefly challenging and highly rewarding. To “find her place”, Palmer immersed herself in student life by becoming an orientation leader, joining the UNB Student Union as Women’s Councillor and later founding and chairing the UNB Menstrual Health Society to reduce period poverty by providing access to free menstrual and wellness products.

Palmer achieved all this and more all the while actively working to find balance in her daily life.

On May 15 in Fredericton, Palmer will graduate with a bachelor of science in psychology, minor in biology, and a specialization in neuroscience. This August, she will dive headfirst into medical school at Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick.

Kate, tell us your story and how you ended up here today.

Both my parents and both of my siblings are graduates of UNB. From a young age, they've always been huge advocates of the university. I’m also from a pretty small, close-knit, community-oriented place. I've always loved people and I’ve always known that I want to help people, make a difference and work in the community.

I started my university career during the pandemic. I was learning from my childhood bedroom and kind of questioning where I belonged. When I came to campus for the first time in my second year, I was a little intimidated because I felt like I hadn’t transitioned yet. I wanted to put myself out there, find ways to get involved and make some sort of a difference. That's what brought me to the UNB Student Union (SU), and through the SU I started working with the Menstrual Health Society and other organizations around Fredericton and beyond. Those experiences intertwined allowed me to develop greater skills of empathy and compassion and be more aware of other people's wants and needs.

At UNB I’ve been able to be part of so many different communities with so many diverse people. And I'm grateful for that because it's given me such a broad perspective.

Do you have any one memory from your time at UNB that stands out from others?

One notable memory was something that I did through my journey with the Menstrual Health Society. Last year, we started an event called Spring Pickings (with one in the fall, too). The goal of these events is to provide students with a multitude of self-care, wellness and hygiene items around exam time because we know what a busy time that is for everyone, but especially if you're fighting different barriers – like financial and access barriers – it’s even more stressful.

Our goal is to reduce some of that stress for students and to provide them with those necessary items. At the most recent one in March of this year, we had over 100 students come in.

It sounds like you always have a lot on the go! How do you find balance for yourself?

Well, I love that question. I've had different points in my life where I feel like I have balance and, you know, there are ups and downs in life. It honestly took me so long to find balance and it’s something that's so important for university students. You can't really thrive academically and with extracurriculars until you find that balance and put yourself first.

There are a lot of things I like to do. I love being outside, especially in the sunshine. It just flips a switch inside of me. I love going for walks and exercising in general. I love cooking and reading, and I live with four roommates and have for the last three years, so spending time with them and the other friends I've met on campus.

Who or what are you most inspired by?

I'm most inspired by those around me and some of the people I’ve met through initiatives I’ve been involved with. Seeing the impact they can have on someone’s life is inspiring.

If you had a motto, what would it be?

Life is not linear.

It's so easy in university or in the workplace to look at those around you and think, oh my gosh, I should be doing what they're doing. But in life, there are meant to be ups and downs. The reason this journey is so memorable is because you're learning lessons along the way, gaining resilience, and building important relationships.

Who you are now and who you will be in ten years.

Now, I feel like I can say that I am my most authentic self; someone who cares for and is empathetic to others, and who is able to find balance in my life. In ten years, I hope to stay true to myself and hopefully be very happy.

What’s next?

I was just recently accepted to Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick. I'm excited to stay in New Brunswick, my home where I've always been and will be for the next four years, at least. From there I hope to continue working on social issues through my role as a physician.

I want to keep pursuing my passion for reducing health inequities, improving access to health care and addressing the social determinants of health.

Kate Palmer will deliver her valedictory on May 15, at 10 a.m. at The Richard J. CURRIE CENTER.