Horizon wide open for UVic Schulich leaders

Science, Engineering

- Michael Kissinger

Wylee Fitz-Gerald hiking Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Park. Photo supplied

Having logged hundreds, if not thousands of hours, on the high seas conducting research on microscopic marine algae, former Schulich Leader and earth and ocean sciences graduate Wylee Fitz-Gerald has some advice for weathering sea sickness: “Get lots of fresh air and keep your eyes on the horizon.” It’s a prescription the University of Victoria grad has learned to live by, thanks in no small part to the Schulich Leader Scholarship she received in 2015.

Established in 2012 by businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich, the Schulich Leader Scholarships are awarded to high school graduates enrolling in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) undergraduate program at 20 partner universities across Canada, including the University of Victoria. To date, over 500 students have received Schulich scholarships—$80,000 to pursue a science degree and $100,000 towards an engineering degree. There have been 20 Schulich Scholars so far at UVic, with My Huy Lim and Denaisha Kraft joining the community in 2021. Currently celebrating its first decade, the Schulich Leader Scholarships program is well on its way to achieving its immodest goal of “creating the next generation of technology innovators.”



‘Responsibility to give others opportunities’

For Fitz-Gerald, who is now pursuing a Master in Science in Oceanography at the University of British Columbia, receiving the prestigious Schulich Scholarship not only meant financial stability to help reach her academic goals but instilled in her the importance of mentorship and giving back.

“With the Schulich Leader Scholarship, one thing it taught me is that if you’re given all these opportunities, you’re also given the responsibility to give others opportunities. It’s like if you get up the ladder, you turn around and pass down your hand to help the next person up.”

Fitz-Gerald says what makes the Schulich scholarship different from other awards is that it builds community.

“It pushed me to reach farther because there was so much expectation on me and because people put you in this box where they raise you up, and you want to fit in that,” Fitz-Gerald says. “So I ended up mentoring the new Schulich Leaders coming in… and it really empowered me to make a difference and involve myself in the university.”

Community of scholars

Fascinated with technology and computers at a young age, UVic grad Robert Lee says receiving a Schulich Leader Scholarship for engineering in 2016 enabled him to dedicate his time to his passions in STEM without worrying about any financial pressure.

“When I first received news that I won the Schulich, I was ecstatic. It was a whirlwind of so many feelings. There’s not only a sense of achievement and recognition of my hard work and dedication, but also a reaffirmation that my journey in life was on the right path,” Lee says. “It also served as a reminder that I should continue pursuing my interests such as giving back to the community and continuing to strive for a deep understanding in my courses.”

In May, Lee graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in computer engineering with a specialization in computational intelligence, and has been working full time for Microsoft for the past six months as a software engineer. He’s worked remotely from Victoria since starting at Microsoft but plans to relocate to the company’s offices in Redmond, WA, USA in the coming months.

Although his time at UVic is behind him, Lee says what he learned during that period of his life and the impact of the Schulich scholarship continue to guide him.

“The Schulich scholarship has connected me with an incredibly inspiring community of scholars—10 years of them now,” Lee says. “Having that community and support network, not only when you have questions—previous alumni who are a few years ahead may have figured out the challenges you’re currently trying to navigate—but also later sharing my advice and experience to future Schulich scholars, that is a really important and unique aspect of the Schulich Leader Scholarship program.”

Visit schulichleaders10.com for more Schulich Leaders spotlights.

If you’re a company looking to hire Canada’s top STEM talent, contact the Schulich program via this form.



In this story

Keywords: alumni, oceans, partnerships, philanthropy, arctic, award

People: Wylee Fitz-Gerald, Robert Lee

Publication: The Torch

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