Changing the world by investing in talent

Waterloo ranked first among the Schulich Leader Scholarship university partners for number of candidates

nicole pitre

Nicole Pitre (BMath ’17) became a sales engineer, ignoring those who told her that women can’t do math. Now, she’s a role model to other women in tech. Emily Pass (BSc ’19) is a PhD candidate at Harvard University where she’s deepening our understanding of distant stars. And new grad Colin Daly (BSE ’21) envisions a future where virtual and augmented reality become tools for discovery and healing.

These three Waterloo alumni are also recipients of one of Canada’s most prestigious academic awards for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students: the Schulich Leader Scholarships. Now in its 10th year, the program empowers people to fulfill their ambitions and, in doing so, make an impact on the world.


A solution for urgent problems

The Schulich Leader Scholarships are the result of a gamble by Canadian business icon and philanthropist Seymour Schulich. In 2011, Schulich invested $100 million to create the program, convinced that the best hope for solving Canada’s most urgent problems lies in emerging STEM leaders.

“Over the last decade, the Schulich Leader Scholarship program has helped hundreds of talented young minds pursue their passions and dreams of an education and career in STEM. This next generation of talent is already creating a tremendous impact in Canada and globally. Students like Nicole Pitre, Emily Pass and Colin Daly from the University of Waterloo set a shining example of what the future has in store,” says Judy Schulich, executive vice-president of The Schulich Foundation.

Every year, the program awards scholarships of up to $100,000 each to 100 entrepreneurial-minded high school graduates who are entering STEM programs at select Canadian universities. The awards encourage students to choose coursework, extracurricular activities and co-op terms unfettered by financial constraints, says David Goodman, vice-president at The Schulich Foundation.

emily pass“The scholarship gave me the freedom to pursue astronomy research opportunities that weren’t necessarily the best-paying but fit my interests,” Pass says. During one of those research terms, she developed technology that allows scientists to measure the size and orientation of an object passing through space.

Pitre, a member of the inaugural class of Schulich Leaders, says, “I would not be where I am now if not for Waterloo Math and The Schulich Foundation.” Receiving the scholarship gave her the confidence to try new things, including her first computer science course.

Meeting other high-achieving women in the class helped Pitre realize she did indeed belong in math. Today, she has a successful career at a software company in Germany, and mentors students in the scholarship program. “There’s 10 years’ worth of inspiring Schulich Leaders now, people from so many different places and backgrounds,” Pitre says. “It reminds us that STEM is for everyone.”

Growing a global network

Since 2012, Waterloo has ranked first among the scholarship program’s 20 university partners for number of candidates and qualifying applicants. As a result, the foundation recently increased the number of awards for incoming Waterloo students from four to 10. As the global network of Schulich Leaders grows, graduating students are reaping career benefits.

“We’re already seeing alumni with their own startups recruiting other Schulich Leaders because they know the program is a great source of talent. Dozens of Fortune 500 companies are also beginning to tap the network,” Goodman says.

colin dalyAccess to that network helped Colin Daly land a role as a software engineer at Google. He dreams of founding his own startup one day, perhaps one that uses virtual reality in new ways. “Everyone dreams of being teleported,” Daly says. “But a real breakthrough would be to develop practical ways to use virtual reality in surgery or space exploration.”

Goodman says: “The program allows students to thrive in unimaginable ways. At its core is the belief that you can change the entire world by changing the life of a young person.”

Judy Schulich says, “At a time when our country and our world needs it most, these future thought leaders, innovators and inventors will help shape Canada’s future prosperity and chart new frontiers of discovery. The Schulich family is deeply impressed with the fulfilling experiences Waterloo provides Schulich Leaders – past, present, and future – and we look forward to continuing this wonderful partnership into our second decade.”