Maria Alejandra Luna

2021 International Women's Day Nominee - Maria Luna

Give a brief bio about yourself/ your background/ your history.

I am originally from Ecuador, a small country in South America. My father, who is a military colonel in the Army, has always taught me that all goals can be achieved with love and effort. What I have learned from him is discipline, responsibility, hard work, and respect to others. I moved to Canada in 2014 as an exchange student where I completed my high school in Prince Rupert, BC. At the beginning, it was very difficult to adapt to another country and culture without my family. My first challenge was to overcome the language barrier. However, I had received the support of my teachers and friends throughout this experience, and I will be always thankful. After finishing my high school at Charles Hays Secondary School in BC, I decided to stay in Canada since it is a multicultural country, and its people are very kind and friendly. For this reason, I chose Manitoba and Brandon University to start my university career.

What education have you taken?

I started the high school in my home country, Ecuador and finished it at Charles Hays Secondary School, Prince Rupert, BC in 2015. In the same year, I decided to improve my English level, so I entered the EAP program here at Brandon University. In September 2016, I began my science degree at BU with a major in geography and minor in mathematics. In May 2020, I completed my university career and decided to continue my studies by pursuing a Master of Science degree. I am currently enrolled in the Master of Science Environmental & Life Sciences (MELS) Program at Brandon University.

What accomplishments are you proud of?

I am proud to have been the recipient of many scholarships and academic awards during my studies at Brandon University. Particularly, I am proud and grateful to have received the Brandon University International Undergraduate Student Scholarships following my first year, the department of geography’s 25th anniversary scholarship, as well as placed on the Dean’s Honour List. All the academic and financial awards I have received proved my effort and allowed me to only focus on my studies. I will always value the research and teaching assistant positions, volunteer, and leadership opportunities that I had at Brandon University. I joined Dr. Alex Koiter’s lab in 2019 where I gained academically relevant work experience as a student research assistant for a project implemented by Manitoba Association of Watersheds in partnership with Brandon University and Manitoba Beef and Forage Initiatives (MBFI). I am fortunate and excited to be a member of his incredible lab team!

I am also proud to have been recognized and featured by GeoLatinas Organization, which promotes, welcome, and empower the work and research of Latin women in Geosciences and Planetary Sciences around the world. I did volunteer work with the Hispanic Association of Manitoba Inc. (HAMI) for two years, where I was involved in helping Latin American immigrants to get established in Brandon. I also did some volunteer with Let’s Talk Science at Brandon University as well as tutored children at Sunday School. Likewise, I am very proud that in 2019, I launched my own brand of clothing & accessories “Ale Design” which is inspired by ancestral hand-made work. My brand’s objective is to support Indigenous women from South America who have been considered good artisans and have sustained their families by themselves. This entrepreneurship could not have been accomplished successfully without all the support that I received from my family, friends, classmates, the Brandon University Faculty of Science, and the School of Music for offering its facilities to host the official launch event of Ale Design. Finally, I would like to thank my nominator for this prestigious recognition as outstanding female student 2021 at Brandon University. It is something that I will always cherish!

How did you become interested in your field of study?

Coming from a country that includes the Galápagos Islands and having the opportunity to visit the Charles Darwin Scientific Research Station has been a motivation in my life to be passionate about Earth Sciences. Besides that, my brother, who is a successful architect in Germany has been my biggest inspiration to pursue a Science degree in a foreign country.
During my undergrad studies, I had the opportunity to meet magnificent professors, principally Dr. Alex Koiter, his spouse the expert in R programming Dr. Steffi LaZerte, and Dr. Gwynfor Richards who became my mentors, a great support as well as offered me their friendship.

What is your philosophy in life?

My philosophy in life is “To be happy is not having a perfect life. To be happy is to recognize that life is worthwhile despite all the difficulties.”

Where do you see yourself in the future?

In the future, I would like to pursue a PhD either in soil science or geomorphology. I want to practice my profession across Canada and maybe worldwide and provide my knowledge into geoscientific research.

What do you #ChooseToChallenge?

I #ChooseToChallenge femicide.

Nominator’s Comments:

Maria is from Ecuador, S. America, and came to Canada as an exchange student to complete her high school. After high school she came to Brandon University and graduated in 2020, majoring in Geography and minoring in Mathematics. She is presently a master’s student in the Master of Science Environmental & Life Sciences (MELS) program at Brandon University. Maria has been an active member of the university community, including being involved in volunteer and leadership programs. She has received scholarships and has been on the Dean’s Honours List.

In 2019, she launched my own brand of clothing & accessories named “Ale Design”. Ale Design is inspired by ancestral hand-made work made by indigenous South America women. Her brand’s objective is to support indigenous artisans to support their families by themselves. Maria has created a network of indigenous women and created an international market for their work. She considers it important for women, no matter their background, to be united in supporting each other in reaching equality for vulnerable women. This is the driving philosophy behind her company. Ale Design’s products are notably of high quality and very reasonably priced. Maria held a very successful fashion show at Brandon University in 2019 to launch her company. She has also received support from BU for her project.

Maria is an outstanding woman and has made a difference since arriving from Ecuador. It is a pleasure to recommend her to you.