VIU students win Premier's Scholarships for study abroad

June 12, 2012 - 8:14am

Three Vancouver Island University students are among 22 post-secondary students in BC to receive Premier’s Scholarships for study abroad.

Katie Durvin, a Bachelor of Arts, Global Studies and Economics student, received $6,000 to study in Malawi, Africa. Hospitality Management student Bobbi-Anne Piercy and Bachelor of Arts, Global Studies and Anthropology student Celia White received $6,000 each to study in Finland and India respectively.

The awards come from the Irving K. Barber British Columbia Scholarship Society.

The award will help Durvin, 21, cover expenses during a four-month internship in Malawi which is among the world’s most least developed nations and dependent on foreign aid. As program assistant for the World University Service of Canada's Student Refugee Program in Malawi, Durvin lives with a local family and works in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp each day to help prepare students to come study at Canadian universities.

Her passion to help others began at Wellington Secondary School where she volunteered with a clothing drive, a food drive and raising money for an orphanage in Uganda. After starting university at VIU, Durvin traveled to Uganda to help out at the orphanage and began selling hand made jewelry for the benefit of the Ugandan women who made them. The internship provides enough credits to complete her undergraduate degree.

Celia White graduated from Wellington Secondary in 2008 where she also contributed to many community oriented projects. She was a founding board members of the Village Medical Project for Sierra Leone, and involved with the local organization Alianza which raised money for health care in Guatemala.

Once at VIU, White became involved in projects related to local environmental sustainability and food security such as the Campus Food Strategy Group. She just took over as co-Chair of the WUSC committee after several years of volunteering in a number of fundraising activities for the various projects of the organization.

White is currently in India, using the Irving K. Barber British Columbia Scholarship to cover costs of a Global Studies internship where she is contributing to an agricultural project that fosters local food security and environmental sustainability.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have taught students like Katie and Celia,” said Dr. Catherine Schittecatte, a professor of world politics who has chaired the VIU Global Studies program since 2006. “I cannot think of two individuals more deserving of this award.”

“I am confident that both Katie and Celia will continue to make a difference in the world and put their education to good use. They have already set their objectives for the long term. Katie’s ultimate goal is to work for “UNHCR (United Nations Refuge Agency), UNOSDP (United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace, UNIFEM (doing fieldwork and project management in the global south. For her part, Celia sees her future work as contributing more to her local community in a way that will have broader global impacts by focusing on food security and human rights.

“Both of these young women have already dedicated much of their young lives to causes they feel passionate about,” added Schittecatte. “ Since starting their studies at VIU, their passion and volunteer work have not waned in spite of a demanding academic schedule and high academic achievements.”

Reflecting upon what she has achieved to date, White said, “I always felt very strongly about volunteering and being involved in what I believed in, and what I was passionate about, even when no one would notice and there was no form of recognition available.”

For her part, Durvin said, “I am incredibly lucky to be well nourished, have a permanent roof over my head, and live in a peaceful country that respects my human rights. It is clear that my passion and duty in life is to empower others who for whatever reason have not been able to have these same experiences and to help them realize their highest potential.”

VIU Hospitality instructor Ginny Miller said Bobbi-Anne Piercy, the third VIU student to receive the Irving K. Barber scholarship who is currently studying in Finland, “is one of those rare young people who has a keen understanding of how to go after life’s possibilities.”

“She has already lived in Brazil and learned Portuguese, and is so curious about the broader world. We had a number of great conversations about travel and about meeting and working with people from other cultures. I'm really delighted Bobbi is reaching out for this opportunity; she will bring her considerable intelligence, questioning nature and friendly, energetic personality to this experience.”

A total of $148,000 was awarded to the BC public post-secondary students. Premier’s Scholarships are funded from the returns on a $13-million endowment fund established by the Province of BC. for international education. They are part of the One World international scholarship program managed by the Irving K. Barber British Columbia Scholarship Society. The Minister of Advanced Education, Naomi Yamamoto announced an additional $2 million for the program May 28.

Hugh Gordon, chair of the Irving K. Barber BC Scholarship Society welcomed the new funding – noting that this year marked a record number of applications and scholarships granted in the Premier’s Scholarship program.

“There’s a growing recognition of the value of the international exchange of knowledge and culture,” said Gordon in a government news release. “These experiences are invaluable in a world where success depends on international partnerships and an understanding of global markets and issues.”

The Irving K. Barber B.C. Scholarship Society works with the Victoria Foundation to manage a series of scholarship and education award programs that support BC students attending public post-secondary institutions both throughout the province and outside the country. Since 2006, the society has awarded more than $3.9 million from six programs.

To read Katie Durvin’s ongoing travel blog from Malawi, go to:

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