York graduate celebrates winning inaugural McCall MacBain Scholarship

Books and an iPad in the classroom
Books and an iPad in the classroom

At the end of a rigorous six-month scholarship application process, including two rounds of interviews, York University graduate and future positive changemaker Amanda Sears (BA ’20) joined a life-changing Zoom call.

Amanda Sears
Amanda Sears

On the call, Sears learned she was among 20 Canadians chosen as inaugural McCall MacBain Scholars, recipients of the country’s first comprehensive leadership-based scholarship that supports master’s and professional studies.

The scholarship enables students to pursue a fully funded master’s or professional degree at McGill University while connecting with mentors and participating in an intensive leadership development program.

More than 735 people applied for the McCall MacBain Scholarships; 132 participated in regional interviews with local leaders in November and 50 were invited to final interviews in March. Scholars were chosen based on their character, community engagement, leadership potential, entrepreneurial spirit, academic strength and intellectual curiosity.

Sears graduated in 2020 with a bachelor of arts in political science and philosophy from York. She worked part-time throughout her studies as a barista, a server and a research assistant for two York professors. She is now working in Montréal and will pursue a master’s degree in bioethics.

“Being a part of this scholarship and its mission is so humbling – and so exciting,” she said. “I think what the scholarship offers students is a sort of freedom – the freedom to be intellectually curious and adventurous, in a way that not many of us can when we have to balance academics with finances, and when we are navigating academia on our own.”

While at York, Sears served as editor-in-chief of Pro Tem, Glendon’s bilingual student newspaper, managing a team of 13. She also helped edit the Glendon Journal of International Studies. A proud York Lion, she credits York with providing many opportunities to develop and empower her leadership skills. “Many of the strengths and skills that I brought to the application process were developed during my undergraduate degree. This is especially the case for my leadership experience, which grew significantly within the university environment – you can learn a lot by maximizing your campus involvement.”

In addition to selecting 20 McCall MacBain Scholars, the McCall MacBain Scholarships program and McGill University offered 55 entrance awards to promising candidates. York University graduates Christina Hoang, Betty Nwaogwugwu and Kaitlyn Smoke were offered McCall MacBain Finalist Awards ($10,000) for their studies at McGill, and Berta Kaisr was offered a McCall MacBain Regional Award ($5,000) for use at any public university in Canada.

Sears, Hoang, Nwaogwugwu and Smoke were among 46 Canadian peers from 28 universities that were called to take part in virtual final interviews in March. Each finalist participated in interviews with Canadian leaders from academia, business, government and the social sectors.

“The global challenges we face as a society need the energy and entrepreneurial spirit of these scholars,” said John McCall MacBain, who, together with his wife Marcy McCall MacBain, created these scholarships through a historic $200-million gift in February 2019, the single-largest gift in Canadian history at that time. “Through this scholarship program, they’ll have opportunities to deepen their knowledge, develop their leadership skills, and create meaningful connections that will enable them to bring about positive change. We want to congratulate these students and recognize the hundreds of candidates across Canada who were considered for this scholarship.”

Outreach is already underway for the second class of McCall MacBain Scholars, with the application period opening in June. Canadian students and alumni can visit mccallmacbainscholars.org to learn about applying for Fall 2022 admission. Current York students and new grads are invited to join a McCall McBain Scholarships Information Session on Tuesday, April 13 to learn more about the awards and how to apply.