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Volunteerism and community involvement drive Schulich Leader alumna Amanda MacLean
For 10 years, the Schulich Leader Scholarships program has been creating the next generation of technology innovators by supporting exceptional STEM students. To mark this milestone, Dal caught up with three Schulich Leader alumni to find out what they’re doing now and what the scholarship means to them. In this installment, meet Amanda MacLean.
Amanda MacLean (BEng’19) remembers exactly where she was when she got the “life-changing email” telling her she had been chosen as a Schulich Leader.
“I was standing in line in my high school cafeteria waiting to get lunch, and I just turned on my heel, walked away, and called my mom. I could not eat lunch that day.”
Launched a decade ago, the prestigious Schulich Leader Scholarship provides full four-year funding for exceptional students pursuing undergraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering or math at one of 20 partner universities in Canada. The program looks for students who are both promising scholars and innovative, entrepreneurial-minded leaders.
Spirit of giving back
At East Hants Rural High School, about 40 minutes northeast of Halifax, MacLean was recognized for her volunteerism and community involvements, including starting a choir when the school’s music program was cut back. And that spirit of giving back has stayed with her throughout her time at Dalhousie — and beyond.
“Seeing the newer students come through and giving them tips — if they want them — on how to succeed, and being there to guide them if they need any help is always really fun and rewarding. I had that from the people above me, so it's nice on the other end to continue that,” she says.
MacLean studied chemical engineering and now works as a data analyst for the federal government. While that may seem incongruous, she says, “Chemical engineering is very process-based… and if you take a step back, those principles seem very applicable to a lot of things.”
Reducing pressure, allowing students to excel
One of the aspects of the Schulich Leader Scholarship she particularly appreciates is that it is designed to support students throughout their studies. That provides a vote of confidence in students and recognition of their potential. Perhaps paradoxically, by taking off the pressure to continuously excel, it allows students to flourish.
MacLean explains: “You're selected for some combination of academic excellence, leadership and financial need. But you are still an 18-year-old who's never gone to university, and sometimes that's not a perfect, seamless transition.” She adds, “Knowing that if you do stumble, if something does happen, that it's not the end of the world — that you don't have to be perfect 100 per cent of the time to be worthy of this award — was really, really valuable to me.”
Networking and peer-to-peer support
While at Dalhousie, MacLean was recognized for her role in promoting engineering as a career for women, and she continues to do outreach work as co-chair of Engineers Nova Scotia’s Youth Engagement Committee. “I have always believed in supporting young people as they explore their interests and discover their passions,” she says. “My work and commitment to supporting women in engineering… has always been about doing my part to expose young people to the field in hopes they may see it as an interesting, vibrant career path.”
Looking back, MacLean says her life was “changed forever by the fact that I was given this opportunity” and “the freedom to do things that I otherwise wouldn't have been able to do.” But the networking and peer-to-peer support were just as important as the money. "I met a lot of really amazing people as a result, and being able to build a network of really great people my age who are doing really cool things was something I'll always be extremely grateful for.”
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