Recent StFX Graduates Receive Top Graduate Awards, Among the Highest Offered in Their Discipline

Two people standing together
Michael Thomson and Gabrielle Vasey

When it comes to student success, Michael Thomson and Gabrielle Vasey have each had incredible achievement. Now each has received graduate awards that are among the highest offered in their discipline.

“It’s a bit surreal,” says Ms. Vasey, 2014 StFX graduate whose exceptional scholarship has earned her a $306,000 five-year funding package to the University of Pennsylvania, where she will start an economics doctoral program at one of the top 10 economics PhD programs in the world.  

“It’s quite amazing to be afforded that opportunity as an undergraduate,” says Mr. Thomson, a 2015 StFX graduate whose standout academic achievement earned him a $44,000 awards package to Western University to complete an eight month Masters of Arts in economics.

Their accomplishments are stellar.

Mr. Thomson of Truro, NS graduated on Sunday, May 3 with a Bachelor of Science degree with joint first class honours in mathematics and chemistry. At Convocation, he received the University Silver Medal for the highest average in the final three years of an honours, advanced major or major degree program for the Bachelor of Science; the Governor General Medal for the highest average in the final three years of an honours program in the Faculty of Science; and the Dr. A.A. MacDonald Prize for Mathematics.  

Ms. Vasey of Victoria, BC graduated in 2014 with an honours Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics, recipient of the Dr. A.A. MacDonald Prize for Mathematics, and received a similar funding awards package to Western, where she is now completing her master’s degree in economics.

Both were quick to deflect praise away from themselves, and draw in the contributions of others, particularly their StFX professors across several academic departments.

“I’m really happy that I’ve been able to put everything I’ve learned to use, and that I can see results from it, for all the time that people have put into it (for me), it’s definitely not just me,” Ms. Vasey says.

“It’s not really our achievement. It’s an extension of what others allow us to do.”

“There are a lot of people who work behind the scenes,” agrees Mr. Thomson. 


Both had high praise for the contributions of their StFX professors, for their teaching and mentorship, and for the cooperation between academic departments.

“The big thing is how supportive the professors have been. They’ve always been willing to give us advice,” Ms. Vasey says. 

“They always want to help us succeed,” Mr. Thomson says.

Both students followed fairly similar paths at StFX, in their degrees, and in taking several advanced economic courses in their final years. Both consequently applied for graduate studies in economics. 

“What I really appreciated from my time at StFX is that faculty take the time and figure out a plan that works best for you. It’s been really amazing,” says Ms. Vasey. 

When she wanted to take more economics courses in her final year of her honours math degree, she says professors from the various departments were very supportive, and invaluable in helping her get the courses she needed. “Even the Dean of Science helped me figure it out,” she says.

Mr. Thomson says his professors were equally supportive. “They were able to fine tune for the end goal.”


“There are so many things at StFX that set us up really well for graduate studies,” says Ms. Vasey.

Both Mr. Thomson and Ms. Vasey worked as summer research assistants at StFX during their undergraduate degrees, experiences which they say helped their applications.

“It sets you up as a good candidate for research,” Mr. Thomson says. 

Faculty are good at understanding what each individual student needs, and genuinely care about their students, setting up a lifelong mentor connection, they say. 

“At Western, I know how to talk to the professors so much better because of my experience with the professors at StFX. That’s really helped,” Ms. Vasey says. 

“StFX also provided an amazing social foundation and opportunity for personal growth, to go out and be a leader and contribute to different activities,” says Mr. Thomson who also found time as an undergraduate to serve as a student representative on the StFX Board of Governors, with the StFX Students’ Union and societies and clubs.

“There were so many opportunities and fun groups,” agrees Ms. Vasey, who was part of the rowing team while at StFX. “That sense of community that is here, you feel so supported and feel people really care about you. That gives you confidence.”

“I’m really excited about the opportunity, the new adventure,” she says on starting her doctorate at UPenn. 

“They’re really good schools. It’s an exciting time to dive into that,” Mr. Thomson says.