May 2, 2019 - 3:00pm
In recognition of their efforts to empower youth through education, Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation, and Peggy Woo, Strategic Advisor to the Foundation, will receive Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from VIU on Wednesday, June 5, 2019.
Two women who have positively impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of youth in Africa and, more recently, Canada, will receive honorary degrees from Vancouver Island University (VIU) in June.
The Mastercard Foundation believes everyone has the right to learn and prosper, regardless of their financial circumstances. For more than a decade, Reeta Roy, President and CEO, and Peggy Woo, Strategic Advisor, have been helping the Foundation work towards this goal, first in Africa and, more recently, in Canada. In 2017, the Foundation established a new learning partnership called EleV with Vancouver Island University (VIU), Yukon College, and Indigenous communities. The aim of the partnership is to better support Indigenous learners in their post-secondary educational journeys and beyond by removing barriers and providing wrap-around support services.
“From our first visits to VIU and with Indigenous community partners, we saw a rich opportunity to listen, learn and work together to co-create a learning partnership that would be grounded in reconciliation and inclusiveness,” said Reeta Roy. “With shared values and a vision of Indigenous youth empowered to achieve their aspirations, we are already seeing the powerful potential of our partnership and young people’s excitement and optimism for the future.”
For the tremendous impact their efforts have had on so many lives, including dozens of VIU students, Roy and Woo will accept Honorary Doctor of Laws awards at VIU’s Wednesday, June 5 Convocation ceremony starting at 10 am.
Roy’s dedication to the work of the Foundation is rooted in her personal experiences. Growing up in Malaysia, she won a scholarship to complete her education in the United States – an experience she says helped develop her capacity to listen and empathize. Under Roy’s leadership, the Mastercard Foundation has committed US $2.2 billion to programs that are improving the lives of 33 million people living in poverty across Africa. In 2018, Roy launched the Young Africa Works strategy to enable 30 million young people in Africa, particularly young women, to secure dignified and fulfilling work by 2030. The strategy sets out a transformative approach to develop national and regional programs that improve the quality of education, connect entrepreneurs and small businesses to financial services, and link job seekers with employers. Roy has also worked for the United Nations and is regularly called upon by the UN, the World Bank, USAID and international agencies to represent the philanthropic sector and contribute to global development strategies.
Woo, who previously led finance and controller functions in the private sector, joined the Foundation in 2007 as Chief Financial Officer (CFO). In this role, she has played an integral part in shaping the evolution of the Foundation from a small start-up with three employees to one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world. As CFO, Woo initiated and managed relationships that would become key to the impact and success of programming across Africa and North America.
“We’ve been honoured to listen and to meet with Indigenous communities and young people across Canada,” says Peggy Woo. “Reconciliation is a complex challenge and the need to move forward in a different way is essential if we want to create meaningful change. It is exciting to work with partners who are at the forefront of education and learning for Indigenous young people and who have a strong understanding and connection with local Indigenous communities. Together, we can build innovative pathways for Indigenous learners to access education and to successfully transition into employment.”
“I celebrate both Reeta and Peggy for their incredible commitment to empowering youth to achieve their dreams and the strong values base that drives this commitment – that everyone deserves a chance to better themselves through education,” said Dr. Ralph Nilson, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor. “The impacts of their investments in people, both in Africa and Canada, are far-reaching. For thousands and thousands of young people, the future is brighter and more hopeful than before thanks to their efforts.”
Dr. Sharon Hobenshield, Director of VIU’s Office of Aboriginal Education and Engagement, says the Foundation, under Roy and Woo’s leadership, have stayed true to the promise of allowing the partnership to evolve and adjust as VIU engages with Nations to determine their needs.
“You cannot design and implement Indigenous programming within an institution without a community voice – or else that’s colonialism all over again,” she says. “Mastercard Foundation has always been adamant that this is an opportunity to grow and move forward in a different way than before, and they’ve certainly lived up to that. It’s a new way of learning for all of us.”
Woo will be speaking at the ceremony and Roy will accept her degree via video message. Watch the Convocation ceremony live by going to VIU’s Facebook page.
Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University