Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX student Claire MacDougall named a finalist for McCall MacBain Scholarship

February 3rd, 2021
Claire MacDougall (pictured) has been named a finalist for McCall MacBain Scholarship

St. Francis Xavier University senior physics and math student Claire MacDougall has been named a finalist for the inaugural McCall MacBain Scholarships, Canada’s first comprehensive leadership-based scholarship for master’s and professional studies.

The scholarship enables students to pursue a fully funded master’s or professional degree at McGill University while connecting with mentors and participating in an intensive leadership development program.

Ms. MacDougall will join 49 Canadian peers from 28 universities at virtual final interviews from March 11 to 13, 2021. She will participate in interviews with Canadian leaders from academia, business, government, and the social sector.

Over 735 people applied for the McCall MacBain Scholarships, and 132 participated in regional interviews with local leaders in November before the 50 finalists were selected. Up to 20 McCall MacBain Scholars will be chosen after final interviews.

Finalists were chosen based on their character, community engagement, leadership potential, entrepreneurial spirit, academic strength, and intellectual curiosity.

"I am so grateful and honoured to have been selected as a finalist for the McCall McBain Scholarship. This is an incredible opportunity for me, and I owe so much to the StFX community, my friends, and mentors for helping me these past four years," says Ms. MacDougall.

"Throughout my time at StFX I have been inspired to become involved in my community by my faculty and peers. To me, the most meaningful thing we can do in our lives is something that improves the lives of the people around us—no matter how big or how small."

Ms. MacDougall has already been celebrated for her community work and leadership potential. 

In 2020, she was one of only 10 students in Canada awarded the 3M National Student Fellowship Award, which honours full-time diploma and undergraduate students at Canadian post-secondary institutions who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in their lives at their institution. These students embrace a vision of education that enhances their academic experience and beyond. 

In 2019, she was the inaugural McKenna Leadership Project Development Grant recipient at StFX, which provides a student with a 12-week summer salary to work on a project that addresses a need in the community or at StFX. For her project, she collected new and gently used school supplies and in late summer 2019 hosted the inaugural pay-what-you-can Back to School Ice Cream Social event (a successful event she staged again in 2020, leading a team of 30 volunteers gathering school supplies for families in need. The team has provided supplies to 130 children in rural Nova Scotia.)

Ms. MacDougall says she had noticed that people threw out a lot of school supplies each spring, and that didn’t sit well with her. She wanted to prevent the waste from ending up in the landfill and she knew there were many who could benefit from the unused supplies. She had read a report from the Antigonish Poverty Reduction Coalition and was aware of the issue of poverty in the community and how expensive school supplies can be. 

Her project turned out to have such an impact that her work was honoured with the Kay Thompson Desjardins Award for Social Entrepreneurship from the Antigonish Chamber of Commerce. The award is named after one of the pioneers of the Antigonish Movement who worked for Moses Coady and StFX Extension. 

As a science student, Ms. MacDougall has chosen to follow a career path that incorporates her values of social responsibility and humanitarianism through a climate justice lens by involving herself in researching global warming effects of atmospheric molecules and pursuing a career in the field of atmospheric physics or sustainable energy engineering postgraduate. She has applied to study fluid dynamics in the mechanical engineering department with applications in tidal and offshore wind energy. 

As a woman in STEM, she works to break down barriers for underrepresented groups through outreach and advocacy both locally, at StFX and nationally, as Chair of the Canadian Association of Physicists Student Advisory Council, which recently created an online resource centre. She was also a member of the student organizing committee that hosted the 2020 Atlantic Undergraduate Physics and Astronomy Conference at StFX. 

From a young age, she has always been involved in sports. She competed in varsity soccer at StFX and hopes to inspire the same joy in others by coaching local youth and special needs persons in soccer and baseball.

“There is no typical McCall MacBain Scholar,” said Natasha Sawh, Dean of the McCall MacBain Scholarships. “We look for potential in students from all walks of life, with different academic and volunteer interests. What unites them is the inner drive to learn, lead, and make a positive impact in other people’s lives.”

Finalists who are not selected as McCall MacBain Scholars will be eligible for a $10,000 entrance award for their studies at McGill University.

The scholarships are the result of the 2019 landmark gift of $200 million, the single-largest gift in Canadian history at that time, by John and Marcy McCall MacBain. The McCall MacBain Scholarships will expand internationally over the next decade, with nearly 300 McCall MacBain Scholars selected by 2030.

StFX graduate Caitlin Thomas (BA’17), who is now completing a master’s degree at the University of Manitoba, was also named a finalist for the McCall MacBain Scholarships. 

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