This past fall, the first cohort of McCall MacBain Scholars arrived at McGill to begin their fully funded master’s or professional degrees.
Launched in February 2019, by a landmark $200-million gift from John and Marcy McCall MacBain, the McCall MacBain Scholarship provides mentorship, coaching, and a leadership curriculum, while covering tuition and fees, as well as providing a living stipend of $2,000 per month.
Each member of that first cohort was chosen based on their character, community engagement, leadership potential, entrepreneurial spirit, academic strength, and intellectual curiosity. They are a diverse group, representing a wide range of interests and experience, ambitions and motivations.
With the 2021-2022 academic year drawing to a close, we caught up with members of that trail-blazing cohort of Scholars and asked them to reflect upon their ground-breaking experience.
As part of our Conversations with McCall MacBain Scholars series, we spoke with Hayley Newman-Petryshen, who is in working toward a Master of Arts in Political Science in Development Studies at McGill.
Newman-Petryshen graduated from the Global Studies co-op program at Wilfrid Laurier University. While there, she started a committee that engaged nine campus groups to discuss and work to improve menstrual equity at the university. She helped to run social justice initiatives through the public interest research group, volunteered with her university’s Rotaract chapter for four years – she served as president during her last year – and held part-time jobs on campus.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario.
What is your field of interest and when did you start developing your interest in it? Did you have any mentors along the way?
I have long been passionate about global issues and gender justice. When I began my bachelor’s degree, I was unsure about the program I was enrolled in and, fortunately, had an incredible professor who suggested I might enjoy International Development as a field of study. To say it was the best advice I’ve ever been given would be an understatement. I changed programs in time for my second year of university and spent the remainder of my degree studying international development, global gender justice, international human rights, and international public policy.
That journey has made me immensely passionate about trying to figure out ways we can “do development” better – in ways that are localized and embrace both gender and climate justice.
Further, it was in my Gender in a Global Context class where another professor introduced me to the ecofeminist school of thought. Since then, nearly all of my research has leveraged intersectional ecofeminism.
What was your reaction when you found out you had been selected as a McCall MacBain Scholar?
I was extremely excited! The most invigorating part for me was knowing that, with the support of the McCall MacBain Scholarship, I would be able to spend more time doing volunteer and advocacy work. Without the heavy weight of the financial stress of graduate school, I knew I would have more time and mental/emotional capacity to give my time and energy back to my community.
So far, what has been your favourite part of being a McCall MacBain Scholar?
My favourite part of being a McCall MacBain Scholar has, without a doubt, been getting to meet and build a community with the other scholars. Our retreat in August served as a way to make 19 friends in a couple of days, which was a beautiful experience.
Being part of the McCall MacBain Scholarship program has given me access to a network that reaches wider than I ever could have imagined. I have been able to speak with and learn from incredible people from across disciplines and fields of work and this has given me a lot of clarity about what my values and goals are and where I want to go with my career. Further, I am constantly challenged to reach out to people I admire.
With this, I have taken my learning far beyond the classroom. I am learning from people’s lives and experiences and words now, too.
Who are the other McCall MacBain Scholars? How does the diversity of the cohort add to your experience as a graduate student at McGill?
The McCall MacBain Scholars are an amazing group of people that I am constantly grateful for the opportunity to be in the presence of. They are kind, curious, and have a genuine drive to create a better world.
The diversity of programs and interests in the groups has been such a gift, whereby we are all able to learn from one another and our specific fields of interest. I don’t think it’s often you’ll get to have regular discussions about a given topic with people from field like engineering, public health, urban planning, law, philosophy, and geography, just to name a few.
I think this sort of cross-disciplinary discussion is something I will continue to seek out for the rest of my life.
What is the leadership development program like? What was your favourite session or learning moment?
The leadership sessions have presented us with a unique opportunity to learn from extremely interesting folks from a variety of backgrounds who privilege us with their life learnings. We meet on an almost weekly basis to collaborate, learn, and grow.
Aside from hearing from our incredible guests, my favourite part of these sessions is getting to hear the diversity of perspectives that each scholar brings to the cases. When you’re in a class full of students in your field of study, you can have an incredible conversation and talk about similar issues but, when you add people from different disciplines to the mix, you start hearing things that may have never even crossed your mind.
I always go home with a lot to think about.
Who is your mentor and what are they like? What are you hoping to get out of the mentoring relationship and other connections made through the scholarship program?
My mentor is Deepak Ramahandran – co-founder and CTO of FundThrough. Deepak has been extremely generous with his time and advice, and I have really appreciated being able to learn from somebody with such a different academic and career path from my own.
Can you tell us about the professional coaching you receive? What do you do with your coach?
The coaching has been a wonderful experience. Now that I have gotten to know my coach a lot better, I really look forward to our meetings. They both serve as a way to work through the things I’m facing in my day-to-day life, which is healing in busy times, and to think about my short- and long-term goals. She has inspired me greatly and has helped me imagine a life path for myself that I am extremely enthusiastic about.
Ohe has provided me with a lot of guidance in is leadership as a young woman. It is no easy feat, but she has provided me with a lot of support in terms of building my confidence as a leader.
Overall, how would you describe your experience in the scholarship program so far?
My experience with the scholarship program so far has been amazing and extremely formative. Looking back, it’s hard to believe the number of people I have met and the extent to which I have grown as a person in the past eight months. I catch myself regularly thinking about how incredible this experience has been and how profoundly grateful I am to be here.
What kinds of people do you think should apply for this program? What would you say to those prospective applicants?
I don’t think there any particular “kind” of person who should apply – we have all kinds of kinds in this program, from all sorts of disciplines and with all kinds of passions. If you are looking to grow – be that personally, academically, or professionally – then it’s certainly worth applying. When you apply, feel free to show your whole self and be earnest about what invigorates you.
What are your future plans?
My heart has always been in grassroots activism and non-profit work. After graduation, I hope to spend some time working for international development and humanitarian aid organizations in ways that allow me to ensure development and aid work is gender- and climate-just.