Banner image courtesy of Loran Scholars Foundation. Chidi Umenwofor-Nweze, far right, stands with all of Waterloo's current Loran Scholars.

Earlier this year, Waterloo opened its doors to thousands of new students, one of whom was Chidi Umenwofor-Nweze, a 2019 Loran Scholarship recipient whose educational journey from the ice-capped mountains of Iqaluit to a small village in India has given her the ability to thrive as a young leader and make a positive impact in her communities.

Valued at $100,000, the Loran Scholarship is the country’s largest and most extensive undergraduate merit-based award. Of over 5,000 applicants across Canada, Umenwofor-Nweze was selected as one of 35 recipients, given a title of McCall MacBain Loran Scholar for this year’s group.

Chidi portrait

Graduating from The Mahindra United World College of India in Paud, India this year, Umenwofor-Nweze chose to pursue her post-secondary studies at the University of Waterloo, studying Systems Design Engineering. The scholar says she admired Waterloo for its hands-on, experiential approach to learning.


“Co-op was something that really attracted me,” she says. “I could learn theory in a classroom and be able to apply it right away.”

While the Loran Scholars Foundation currently has 25 partner universities across the nation, she credits the University of Waterloo’s more holistic approach to engineering issues as one of her deciding factors to attend.

“The University of Waterloo has a greater consideration to society and who they’re building solutions for and with,” she says. “There is a thorough look at the environment and things as a system, not just the technology itself.”

The Loran Scholars Foundation believes in youth as Canada’s greatest resource, and makes selections on the basis of integrity, courage, compassion, and a dedication to creating positive change. They emphasize character, service and leadership as well as meaningful risk-taking as core attributes of all scholars.

“The scholarship program ties itself to people who aren’t just leaders but those who act on their ideas,” she says.

Umenwofor-Nweze is particularly passionate about improving the standard of living in Nunavut. She worked for the territory’s government as a summer student with a focus on capital projects and came across a damaging infrastructure gap in many of the communities there.

“There are political, economic and managerial issues that contribute to the gap,” she explains. “I am interested in seeing how these processes can be made more effective for the unique context.”

On this issue and others, she wants to offer a different way of thinking about things. “I hope I can use my technical knowledge and other types of knowledge, like economics, to affect socio-economic systems for the better,” she says.

Throughout her undergraduate career, Umenwofor-Nweze will renew her scholarship and continue to strive to embody the Loran Scholars Foundation values of character and long-term leadership.

She understands her responsibilities as one of the 35 recipients and is eager to start making change. “They invest in us as young leaders to pay it forward in the world,” she says. “I hope to get out of it the ability to effectively make my ideas happen.”