Defy the Conventional gains momentum

Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Four students sit on grass with Tabaret Hall columns and stairs in the background.

The Defy the Conventional campaign for uOttawa is already making a difference for students, professors and researchers

By Mike Foster

At the official launch of Defy the Conventional: The Campaign for uOttawa, President Allan Rock said that the University’s ambitious drive to raise $400 million was always about more than just the money.

“It’s about the impact uOttawa will have on Canada and the world,” Rock said. “It’s about using our tremendous strengths in public policy, medicine and research to improve healthcare and build a better life for all Canadians. Our mission isn’t just to teach and support extraordinary research – we want to inspire people to serve society, their country and the world.”

Latest figures show that the campaign is halfway to its goal, with $200 million in pledges and donations as of June 2016. This funding is supporting priorities in every faculty, helping the university recruit and retain top talent, and enriching the student experience. It has established scholarships, helped more than 3,000 refugees through the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program and created the Forum for Dialogue, among other initiatives.

A Defy the Conventional banner in a flowerbed at a University of Ottawa entrance.


It is also funding research excellence. For example, neurosurgeon Dr. Adam Sachs at the uOttawa Brain and Mind Research Institute is using virtual reality and deep brain stimulation to see whether patients with Parkinson’s disease can learn to control their tremors. Robert Boyd, who holds the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Quantum Nonlinear Optics, is building minuscule structures that manipulate photons to harness the power of light.

“Under Allan Rock’s leadership, the University has launched its most ambitious fundraising campaign, built important and lasting relationships with donors and alumni, and reached an important $200 million milestone,” said Robert Giroux, chair of the uOttawa Board of Governors. “Mr. Rock may be ending his mandate as president of the University of Ottawa, but he has left us with a strong foundation on which to continue building and we are sure to rise to the occasion.”

With four years to go, the University is well on its way to achieving its Destination 2020 goals. The impact of this fundraising is being felt today by students, professors and researchers in various ways.

Supporting scholarships

Today, hundreds of uOttawa students receive financial support during their studies through scholarships funded by donors.

Medical student Laura McDonell is grateful for the generosity of the late Audrey Boyce, whose bequest is behind the Audrey J. Boyce Scholarship to support students in medicine and law.

“Selfless people like Audrey Boyce make you want to work harder and just channel their energy so that their work continues through you,” McDonell said.

For Alie Pierre, a graduate of the School of Social Work at the Faculty of Social Sciences, the Michèle Kérisit Scholarship was the light at the end of the tunnel.

“I’m a single mother with two children,” she says. “My scholarship was a big inspiration for my eldest daughter, who said, ‘Wow, mommy, you got a scholarship! That’s big. It makes me want to go to university, too.’”

Employees, too, are doing their part. One-third of uOttawa employees donated to the Employee Giving program in 2016, nearly doubling the 16% participation rate of 2012. Funds raised go to scholarships and activities supporting uOttawa students.

Unlocking student potential

Rebecca Klaassen

Rebecca Klaassen is currently working to help overcome gender inequality in South Africa

Thanks to support from the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement, which has received funding from the DTC campaign, Jennifer Divall and Rebecca Klaassen were among several uOttawa students who ventured afield to help others. Divall volunteered to teach English through Tibet World, an NGO operating in Dharamsala, India, while Klaassen is currently working to help overcome gender inequality in South Africa with an organization called Gender at Work.

Other initiatives that provide students with experiential learning opportunities, such as the Richard L’Abbé Makerspace and the Entrepreneurship Hub, are becoming increasingly popular and often serve in projects that benefit others. For example, engineering students Justin McLeod and Kristina Djukic used 3D printers to design an inexpensive pulse oximeter that could potentially help patients in the Gaza Strip.

Revitalizing campus

What used to be a drab parking lot in uOttawa’s inner core has been transformed into University Square, a multi-purpose, 4,000-square-metre plaza surrounded by trees and greenery. Last year, two heritage buildings on campus were preserved and renovated into the Alex Trebek Alumni Hall, which features a reception area suitable for lectures. The hall was funded in part by a $2.4 million gift from Alex Trebek (BA ʼ61).

Find out more about how Defy the Conventional: the Campaign for uOttawa is making a difference today by reading our impact stories.

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