This year’s Schulich Leaders are two women in STEM

Posted on Monday, December 2, 2019

The recipients of the 2019 Schulich Leaders Scholarships posing together.

Fifty Schulich Leader Scholarships are awarded every year to entrepreneurial-minded high school graduates enrolling in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math program at one of 20 partner universities across Canada. Every high school in Canada can nominate one graduating student each year to apply for this undergraduate STEM scholarship.

The recipients of the 2019 uOttawa Schulich Leader Scholarships are Neve Foreman and Ellen Perry, who share a common love of math, science and sports, and don’t let gender stereotypes get in their way.

Portrait of Neve Foreman

The Statistics major whose odds were in her favour

Neve Foreman is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Statistics at the University of Ottawa and contemplating a career as an analyst or a data scientist in politics, law or economics.

“I have an affinity for math, and I enjoy analysis, so statistics is a nice mix of both,” says Foreman. “The Stats program, as well as the research and the co-op opportunities, are what drew me to the University of Ottawa. If I end up working in statistics for the Government or something like that, Ottawa really is the place to be. Basically, I moved to Ontario because I want to be in on the action.”

Foreman moved to Ottawa from Smithers, British Columbia, a remote Northern town of six thousand people. Her family moved there when she was four years old so her father, a social worker, could work with the local Indigenous population.

“Growing up there, it’s a small community so you know everyone, but you’re really far from cities and what they have to offer,” explains Foreman. “The nearest city, Prince George, with a population of 80 thousand people, is a four-hour drive. But I really like to be active, and so my favourite part about growing up in Northern B.C. is the outdoors—skiing, hiking and figure skating, which was one of my main sports. I also played soccer and did wrestling, which I absolutely loved.”

In high school, Foreman felt a bit like an outcast. She studied hard and participated in math contests, which wasn’t considered a popular choice.

“I had kind of a negative reputation because I was interested in academia,” she says. “It felt like the student population there didn’t really understand me. I applied for the Schulich Leaders Scholarship because I wanted to have more networking opportunities and gain access to more academic-type events and conferences, but also because I wanted people to see that it’s possible for someone from Smithers to win something like this. I was hoping it might encourage others to think it’s possible for them too. I didn’t really have a nice long list of accomplishments; all I did in my application was be honest about myself and explain that I really wanted to contribute to community.”

Foreman is proud to be a woman in STEM. She is the first-year representative for science in the uOttawa chapter of WISE, a club for women in science and engineering, and wouldn’t dream of shying away from her passions.

“I have always felt strongly about the inclusion of women in all fields,” she says. “I know myself to be capable of doing many predominantly ‘male’ things, and the thought of restricting myself from wrestling or math is horrible. Wrestling is one of my absolute favourite sports and I have chosen to study Statistics because of the beautiful insight math provides.”

Portrait of Ellen Perry

The civil engineer will build her future on a solid foundation

Ellen Perry is in her first year of the Civil Engineering program at the University of Ottawa, taking her courses in French. She hopes to one day help build smart cities.

“I chose civil engineering because I thought it would give me more freedom of choice later on,” says Perry. “There’s a lot of infrastructure out there, and many different types, so I’ve got a lot of options. And because we’re facing huge environmental issues due to climate change, I like the idea of building smarter cities and helping communities access the resources they need.”

Perry came to uOttawa from North Bay, Ontario, a city known to many as “the gateway to the North,” with a population of about 52,000 people. Born in Virginia, USA, her parents moved to North Bay when she was five years old to be closer to family.

“I’m an only child and I lived with my parents and grandparents,” she says. “So, I grew up in a busy, but supportive household.”

Perry attended a very small high school, the only French public school in town, which provided her with many opportunities.

“You could be on any team you wanted because they needed everybody,” she says, laughing. “So, I did a lot of sports, especially Badminton. I competed in the Ontario Winter and Summer Games, and the North American Indigenous Games.”

Perry also took part in the Specialist High Skills Major program in Environment, a specialized career-focused program for high school students to gain knowledge and skills in an economic sector. As part of the program, she did a co-op placement at Nipissing University, helping biology students measure and catalogue tree samples for their research projects.

“I really got a feel for the academic and research environments of university,” says Perry. “Now, as an undergraduate student at uOttawa, I really like my classes and that I have the option to take them in French. I joined the Badminton team, I play Quidditch and I’m also interested in joining engineering clubs like Concrete Toboggan and Concrete Canoe. The Schulich Leader Scholarship really helps because I don’t have to stress about finances. It takes the pressure off and I can focus on having the best possible university experience.”

As a woman in STEM, Perry hopes to lead by example, and that means creating her own unique path.

“I’m following my dreams and living the life that I want to lead, even if it doesn't follow traditional gender roles,” she says. “For me, being a woman in STEM means being a leader and a role model. It means being inclusive and open-minded and trying out new things. If everybody did everything the same way, we’d never have scientific progress.”

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