USask graduates Julia Morelli and Minh Au. (Photos: Submitted)
USask graduates Julia Morelli and Minh Au. (Photos: Submitted)

Two USask alumni awarded prestigious McCall MacBain scholarship

Thanks to a landmark $200 million gift in 2019 by John and Marcy McCall MacBain, University of Saskatchewan (USask) graduates Julia Morelli (BA’23) and Minh Au (BE/BSc’23) will be pursuing fully funded master’s degrees worth $100,000 each at McGill University, while participating in mentorship, coaching, and a leadership development program.

“We are so proud to have not only one but two of our USask students awarded this prestigious scholarship,” said Russell Isinger, interim vice-provost, Teaching, Learning and Student Experience and university registrar at USask. “We are committed to seeing our students graduate as leaders the world needs, and that’s exactly who these two outstanding graduates are.”

This is the second time a USask graduate has been awarded the McCall MacBain scholarship: Last year, Nikaela Lang (BA’21) earned this exciting opportunity. This is the first time USask will celebrate two recipients. Morelli and Au are two of 20 Canadian recipients of the award; 10 international students also received the scholarship.

Morelli was emotional when she received the phone call in the middle of her Monday morning seminar class.

“As cliché as it sounds, it felt like a dream come true. I was speechless,” said Morelli. “Out of the million emotions I felt in that moment, the strongest one was a sense of pride in myself and the enormity of what I had just accomplished. I am so excited to be a part of a program that will challenge, support, and accelerate not only my growth as a leader in making positive change, but as a person, too.”

Au felt a wave of elation and relief wash over her when she received the news.

“This is something I hoped for and worked toward for the better part of this year. It is reassuring to know that my work and effort are seen and acknowledged, and that they see so much potential in me.”  

Each scholar was chosen based on their character, community engagement, leadership potential, entrepreneurial spirit, academic strength, and intellectual curiosity.

Originally from Viscount, Morelli will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in political studies and works as a constituency assistant for two Members of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. She also helps first-year students learn to conduct research and is a seasonal farmhand for the family business. Morelli played on the USask Huskies women’s hockey team and gave back to the hockey community as an assistant coach and on-ice instructor. Her academic interests include decolonization, Indigenous-settler relations, and Indigenous self-determination, and she will pursue a master’s degree in political science at McGill. The selection committee was so impressed with her potential, it placed her in the top 20 of nearly 700 applicants.

Engineering physics student Au leads a student group dedicated to design and innovation in biomedical engineering. She has worked and volunteered as an editor for the university’s student-run newspaper, tutored students at a Vietnamese language school, and managed social media for a financial literacy club. During the summers, Au worked in research and taught kids at a science camp. She spent last summer conducting research at CERN, the largest particle physics laboratory in the world, and plans to study experimental particle physics at McGill.

Both students underwent a rigorous seven-month selection process involving two rounds of interviews.

“Final interviews in Montréal were incredible,” Morelli said. “I am so thankful I had the privilege of meeting so many unique individuals from all over the world. The diversity of the finalists’ backgrounds, disciplines, impacts, and experiences was breathtaking.”

“I am honoured and determined to do my best to be a force for good,” said Au. “Not only is the financial aspect much appreciated, the leadership and mentorship program as well as the camaraderie with fellow scholars are some things I look forward to, in the context that I want to go beyond my field of study to make a positive social impact. There is a lot I have yet to know, and I am beyond excited to learn through the opportunities provided by the McCall MacBain Scholarship.”

“Julia and Minh’s selection is a tribute to the time and energy they have each put into improving the lives of others,” said Natasha Sawh, dean of the McCall MacBain Scholarships. “Our volunteers looked not only for academic strength, but for leadership qualities like integrity, kindness, grit, and an ability to motivate a team to address tough challenges.”

To recognize additional talent, the McCall MacBain Scholarships and McGill University also offered 96 entrance awards ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 each to top candidates who were not selected for the cohort. In total, this year’s 126 scholarships represent an estimated commitment of nearly $3.3 million in tuition and living costs alone, which will be complemented by mentorship and leadership development programming.

Applications will open in June 2023 for September 2024 admission.

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