Student Awards: A Gift with Impact

|  Alec McGuckin, Development Associate, University Advancement (Macdonald Campus)

Neil Brett and Stéphanie Bélanger-Naud are both athletes.

“I did my undergrad at the University of Alberta and I was on the track and cross-country teams,” says Neil, who came to the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition as graduate student in 2013.

Stéphanie, who completed her DEC at McGill in Farm Management Technology, is on the Woodsman team, which she has captained for three years.

They have another thing in common, too: they are both recipients of donor-supported student awards.

NeilNeil was fast-tracked through his Master’s program and is now working on a PhD. For the second consecutive year, Neil has been awarded the Donald Mackenzie Munroe Fellowship, created in 2006 by McGill’s former principal Heather Munroe-Blum and her brothers in memory of their father.

After finishing her DEC in 2014, Stéphanie began studying Agricultural Economics, focusing on Agri-Business and Production Agrology. In 2016, she won the J. William and Lorna K. Ritchie Macdonald Clan Scholarship. The scholarship was established in 2011 and is awarded to an outstanding full-time undergrad, entering U2, who is heavily involved in student activities on Macdonald Campus.

Both Stéphanie and Neil have felt the benefits of receiving financial support.

According to Neil, time is a commodity. “People wouldn’t necessarily think of this,” he says, “but it takes a massive amount of time to apply for scholarships and awards to stay funded. Before I got the fellowship I spent a solid month straight doing award applications. That’s time I can now use for research.”

Neil is studying the impact of vitamin D deficiency on children’s health. “Their vitamin D status will drop throughout the winter and we think that will have a negative impact on their bones, muscles and immune systems,” Neil explains.

In clinical tests, Neil fortifies the food given to children by adding vitamin D to cheese and yogurt. He then evaluates their health against subjects not receiving the supplemented food.

Neil hopes his research will effect a change in public health policy. “We’ve already met with Health Canada a few times and they’re broadly applying our findings, but they’re going to look at our further results and evaluate how it can apply to food fortification policy or public health policy in general.”

StephanieStéphanie, who grew up on a farm in Brigham, Quebec, has had a similar experience. “Having this scholarship means I can do more activities and get more involved in campus life,” she says. Stéphanie is currently a Woodsman and a member of both the Mac Judging Club and the Association des Futur(e)s Agronomes du Québec (AFAQ).

Stéphanie returns to Brigham on weekends to work on her family farm, a business she hopes to take over once she’s finished school. “The scholarship allows me to study and get back to the farm. I don’t know if I could do that as easily without it,” she says.

Improving the student experience is an important motivator for many of the University’s donors.

“Dad was passionate about supporting students,” says Bridget Colman, daughter of the late alumnus Stuart Horne, BScAgr’52. Mr. Horne, a long-time supporter of the University, funded a landscaping project aimed at providing students with attractive communal spaces on campus. He also helped to make renovations to the Macdonald Campus library a reality. After his passing in 2010, Ms. Colman, a member of the Horne Family Charitable Foundation, endowed the Stuart Horne Scholarship in Water Management. “Dad was extremely passionate about the institution and what it did for him,” says Ms. Colman. “We are proud to carry on his legacy of giving to Mac students.”

Both Neil and Stéphanie are grateful for the funding they received.

“My research and learning experience have been taken up a level, and I‘ve had some time where I’ve been able to impact the campus positively in my personal life as well,” Neil says. “It all draws back to that fellowship.”

Stéphanie was more concise. Asked what she would say to the donors who endowed her scholarship, she didn’t hesitate: “Thank you!”

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