Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX grad David Eliot named prestigious Trudeau Foundation Scholar

June 7th, 2022
David Eliot

David Eliot, a StFX sociology graduate from 2020, is among 13 top PhD candidates from Canada and around the globe officially welcomed by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation as Scholars for its 2022–2025 scholarship and leadership program. 

The Foundation received close to 500 applications this year from 22 countries and every continent, representing 45 universities in Canada and 55 elsewhere. It also called in 30 finalists for individual and group interviews.

Throughout this long, demanding process, and before being officially named Foundation Scholars, all 2022 finalists were required to answer a number of difficult questions, take part in small group interviews and analyze fictional leadership scenarios. The results were evaluated by a distinguished selection committee composed of academics, a judge, a foundation’s president, board members and former Foundation Scholars.

“These 13 remarkable Scholars selected, representing 10 Canadian and international universities, were chosen not just for their academic excellence but also for their creativity, leadership potential, agility, resilience, commitment to a diversity of perspectives and, finally, their ability to engage in nuanced critical thinking about complex issues,” says a release from the Foundation.

The Scholars will embark on a three-year leadership program based on the Foundation’s leadership curriculum. The program created for the 2022 cohort will focus on the theme of Global Economies, enabling the cohort to expand their horizons beyond their own fields of study. It will give them opportunities to immerse themselves in a subject of critical importance at a time when economic systems are coming under great stress and the world experiences geopolitical strife.

In addition to leadership training, the Foundation will provide its 2022 Scholars with generous financial support over the next three years as well as academic resources, mentoring opportunities, training on the Global Economies scientific cycle and personalized leadership training.

“I was beyond honoured to have been selected for this prestigious award. Being shortlisted alone seemed unbelievable at the time. To be honest, I do not think I have fully processed this achievement yet,” says Mr. Eliot, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) researcher, athlete, activist, and entrepreneur from Kingston ON. 

While attending StFX for his undergraduate degree, he became heavily involved in the local climate movement, helping to organize a town hall, and numerous demonstrations. After graduating, he pursued a master's degree in sociology at Queens University focusing on Artificial Intelligence at the Queens Surveillance Studies Center. After his master’s he will attend the University of Ottawa to pursue his PhD as a member of the new Critical Surveillance and Security program, focusing on AI and data economies. 

Outside of academia, he operates an award-winning entertainment production company named Eliot Entertainment, through which he has produced and performed in over 200 magic shows across Canada. As an athlete, he competed at the provincial, national, and international level in the fencing. 

“I am especially proud of getting this award,” says Mr. Eliot, “as I was very open during my application about my dyslexia. In the academic world –and beyond– dyslexia is often seen as a barrier, especially in disciples that require immense reading and writing. In fact, I have been directly instructed to explicitly avoid the conversation of my learning disability during scholarship, and job applications in the past. 

“I hope that winning this award helps inspire other students living with dyslexia and helps to demonstrate to all that with proper accommodations, those with dyslexia can achieve at a high level, even in disciples that are heavily reliant on reading and writing capabilities.” 

Mr. Eliot says the Trudeau Scholarship is a multi-faceted program that will provide him with numerous takeaways. “I am especially excited for their Bilingualism+ program, which will provide me with funding and resources to become bilingual. Further, after learning French, I will have the option to learn an Indigenous language. I hope to learn Mi'kmawi'simk, if the resources for this specific language are available.”

Further, he’s excited that his cohorts’ theme is ‘Global Economies’ as it aligns with his research into artificial intelligence and data economies. “At the end of our three-year journey, we are expected to organize a conference on this topic. I am not only excited to bring my expertise to this task, but to learn, and be inspired by my colleagues in the 2022 cohort. Getting to be a part of such a diverse and passionate group will undoubtedly reveal research avenues, questions, and concerns that I would be unable to uncover on my own.”

Mr. Eliot says his alma mater had great influence on him. 

“StFX was a foundational step in my journey. First, I believe the social science, and liberal arts education available at StFX is world class. Not only are the professors passionate and knowledgeable, but they genuinely care about the success of their students. And more importantly, due to the small nature of StFX, the professors are actually able to build meaningful bonds with their students and provide resources that are not available at other institutions. I specifically need to thank the entire sociology department, as they supported me and my intellectual ambitions in a way that I do not believe would be possible at other undergraduate institutions. Specifically, I was able to enjoy multiple directed studies classes, where I was the only student in the class, and the class would be tailored to a specific social phenomenon. Further, numerous professors put up with me obsessively visiting their offices to discuss lectures, readings, and world news. I would also not be half the researcher I am today without the mentorship of Dr. Rod Bantjes,” he says.

“However, StFX is not just an academic institution. The culture of StFX molds leaders. We were told from the minute we entered StFX that we could become the next great leader in our field. That we could create social change at any level, if we truly set our minds to it. While at StFX I was inspired to become more involved in my community, and through a long process (that did not happen overnight) StFX, and the community at large, shaped me into the person I am today. Without StFX, and the lessons I learned from the school, and community, I do not believe I would be the person or leader I am today; or have accomplished numerous achievements which were vital for me to be named a 2022 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation PhD Scholar.”

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