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Melanie Bechard

Canadian, West African researchers get support to tackle national and global challenges

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OTTAWA, December 15, 2020 – Two hundred Canadian and West African researchers and advanced scholars will be receiving funding from the new QES Advanced Scholars West Africa program to work together to find solutions to the world’s increasingly complex challenges.

The funding supports research-focused exchanges for doctoral researchers, post-doctoral fellows and early career researchers in universities in Canada and West and Central African countries.

Each of the QES-AS West Africa projects focuses on (or clearly integrates) gender equality – the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5 – and puts particular emphasis on increasing partnerships between Canada and Francophone countries. All scholars will also participate in leadership development and community engagement activities and in the broader network of Queen Elizabeth Scholars.

Descriptions of the 11 supported projects at Canadian universities are on the QES website.

The Queen Elizabeth Scholars program was created in 2014 to improve global talent exchange between Canada and other nations. The program aims to develop the next generation of innovative leaders and community builders by providing enriched academic, professional and cross-cultural experiences and by facilitating lasting local and global community engagement.

QES is a collaborative initiative led by the Rideau Hall Foundation and Universities Canada. The International Development Research Centre first invested in 2016, with $10 million for a new component supporting advanced scholars (AS) along with $2.5 million from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Earlier this year, to coincide with the Centre’s 50th anniversary, IDRC invested a further $3.5 million to expand the QES-AS program to support doctoral researchers, post-doctoral fellows and early career researchers from eligible West African countries and Canada.

Since its inception, the QES program has offered more than 2,200 scholarships, engaged 44 Canadian universities in every Canadian province, and involved activities in more than 70 countries to build a community of young leaders through a global exchange of talent between Canada and other nations.



“As a 50-year-old Canadian organization with longstanding connections in West Africa, IDRC believes this new investment in the QE-AS program will increase opportunities for young researchers in the region as well as provide Canadian researchers with experience in the global environment. IDRC’s partnership with the Rideau Hall Foundation and Universities Canada bodes well for a lasting legacy of closer academic ties between Canada and West Africa.”

Jean Lebel, president of the International Development Research Centre


“The QES program has continued to move forward with these new opportunities for the benefit of our global scholars and researchers, despite the disruptions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Through QES, we are supporting the next generation of world leaders with a particularly Canadian perspective by focusing on the pillars of leadership development and community engagement.”

Teresa Marques, president and CEO of the Rideau Hall Foundation


“2020 has demonstrated that global connections are more important than ever. QES scholars are the next generation of innovative leaders and community builders in Canada and around the world.

Through their applied research, creative leadership, and professional networking, these scholars will contribute to stronger economies and prosperous societies, and significantly enrich the knowledge base within their respective fields.”

Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada


About IDRC

Part of Canada’s foreign affairs and development efforts, IDRC invests in knowledge, innovation, and solutions to improve the lives of people in the developing world. The research we support builds evidence to break the cycle of poverty, reduce inequalities and vulnerabilities, and help people live healthier and more sustainable lives. Learn more at

Media contact: Morgan Waters,

About Rideau Hall Foundation

The Rideau Hall Foundation is an independent and non-political charitable organization established to mobilize ideas, people, and resources across the country to tap into our national spirit and help realize our shared aspirations. Learn more at

Media contact: Mélanie Béchard,


About Universities Canada

Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, advancing higher education, research and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians. Learn more at

Media contact: Brenna Baggs,

Fifth Call for Proposals Launched

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Following four very successful Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program (QES) calls for proposals through which 95 projects managed by 44 Canadian universities have been funded, Universities Canada is pleased to announce a fifth call.

QES Advanced Scholars – West Africa

Thanks to the generous financial support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), up to $3 million CAD will be allocated via the expansion of the QES Advanced Scholars program, which will support doctoral researchers, post-doctoral fellows and early career researchers from eligible West African countries and Canada.

This call will support projects contributing to advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with preference given to proposals that focus on or clearly integrate SDG 5 (gender equality) as a crosscutting or mainstream goal. QES-AS West Africa projects will focus on one or more of the following areas: climate resilience and sustainable food systems; education and innovation systems; ethics in development research; health equity; inclusive governance; and sustainable inclusive growth.

The program will require all scholars to participate in leadership development and community engagement activities and in the network of Queen Elizabeth Scholars.

More information is available here.

Scholars discuss value of international research collaboration

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Three Queen Elizabeth Scholars were recently interviewed on the podcast Beyond Canada: International Thought and Scholarship. The podcast “aims to talk to graduate students and professionals at Queen’s University in Kingston who are conducting research, work, and/or scholarship outside of Canada. Not only will this podcast delve into the details of their research and their own personal journeys, it will also discuss some of the challenges and opportunities that arise when doing international research.”

Queen Elizabeth Scholars Nuworza Kugbey, Phidelia Doegah, and Ryenchindorj Erkhembayar, who all recently completed their PhDs, talk about how international research collaboration has enriched their work and careers.

Listen to the episode here.

2019 QES Call for Proposals is now open

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Following very successful Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships (QES) program calls for proposals in 2014, 2016 and 2017, Universities Canada and the Rideau Hall Foundation are pleased to announce a fourth call for proposals.

2019 Competition

Thanks to funding provided by The Waugh Family Foundation, QES 2019 will support projects in Latin America and the Caribbean that focus on education, social services and health. Canadian universities are invited to submit multi-year project proposals seeking funding of up to $300 thousand CAD. Each Canadian university may submit one proposal to the 2019 competition. Up to $1,800,000 CAD is available through this competition.

Projects will support international internships for Canadian students and/or scholarships for incoming international graduate students. The program will require all scholars to participate in leadership development and community engagement activities and in the network of Queen Elizabeth Scholars.

Learn more about the project criteria and the application process here.

Profile of a Queen Elizabeth Scholar: Zohra Lakhani

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Zohra Lakhani had nearly finished the first year of her Master of Education program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto when she first heard about the Queen Elizabeth Scholars (QES) program through a student listserv.

“It was exactly what I was looking for,” she said.

Lakhani had deliberately taken a heavy course load in her first year of the two-year program to ensure she had a lighter load in her second year to allow her to do a placement abroad. Though she was not sure how she would manage it. She wanted to travel as part of her studies, but did not have the resources to finance the trip herself. For Lakhani, the QES program was the perfect fit.

The vision for QES -the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship – is to mobilize a dynamic community of young global leaders to create lasting impacts both at home and abroad through inter-cultural exchanges encompassing international education, discovery and inquiry, and professional experiences.

Scholars are selected by their home universities to contribute to existing projects with partner universities abroad to address important local, national, and global issues.

Lakhani had worked in Kenya before, and was hoping to do a placement there to further her research into Kenya’s recent curriculum reforms. And while QES allowed her to do that, her placement working with a professor at the University of Nairobi unexpectedly changed the course of her research, and her career goals.

Kenya has two of the largest refugee camps in the world: the Dadaab Refugee Complex in the east, and Kakuma in the northwest. Both camps have been in existence for more than 20 years, and some refugee families who first settled there in the 1990s are now raising children and grandchildren there. Providing adequate education is a constant challenge.

“There needs to be more investment in education [for refugees,]” Lakhani explained. “These are not temporary situations. We can’t leave people behind.”

Lakhani’s placement gave her the opportunity to do research in the area of refugee education, and gave her a first-hand perspective of how these challenges can impact a country that hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees.

“I now want to pursue my career in education in emergencies and refugee education,” she said.

Refugee crises often begin with political and economic turmoil. When citizens of those countries have to flee for their own safety, their opportunities for education are all but eliminated.

“How are you going to rebuild a country and develop leaders if only one per cent of global refugees have access to post-secondary education?” Lakhani asked. “Education provides the capacity to return home and rebuild your country.”

In addition to doing research, Lakhani had the opportunity to present her earlier research into Kenya’s curriculum reforms at two academic conferences, one in Embu, a more rural area. It was her first time presenting her research.

“The QE scholarship gave me the open door to be there at the right time to present my work to the people who were most interested in it.”

“This is the experience people need to have, to understand, to learn, to contribute,” she said of her QES placement. Experiences like this are “the most memorable and the most beneficial, especially for young Canadians.”

Since returning home from her three-month placement in July, Lakhani is keen to ensure her colleagues at OISE seek out similar opportunities.

“My goal is to talk about the [QES] program and tell colleagues to explore opportunities for internships or research opportunities abroad,” she said. “It’s an invaluable opportunity for Canadians to go abroad.”

When asked about her future plans, Lakhani says she will complete her MEd, then seek out career opportunities in her field.

“I don’t think I have one single, narrow path,” Lakhani said. “My path is growing wider.”

As a result of her research, she aspires to engage with organizations working in education in emergencies. But mostly, she hopes to deepen her knowledge of refugee education, and make a positive impact in the world.

“I’m still digging. I’m still learning,” she said.

* * * * * * *

The world is changing, and Canada needs its youth and future leaders to be equipped with global fluency to prosper. However, only 3.1 per cent of Canadian students per year go abroad on international study programs or exchanges, one of the lowest numbers among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

The Rideau Hall Foundation is proud to collaborate with Universities Canada and Community Foundations of Canada on the Queen Elizabeth Scholars program. Together we are helping to nurture young Canadians into global citizens while promoting Canada as a destination for the world’s top talent and attracting top talent and international research leaders to Canada.

Queen Elizabeth Scholars Phase 3 – Awarded Projects

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See below the complete list of the winning proposals for the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Program (QES 2017).

Mount Royal University Alberta Sport Leaders International Internship Program
University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ontario Incubating Global Careers as Queen Elizabeth Scholars
St. Francis Xavier University Nova Scotia Immersion Service Learning in Ghana
Wilfrid Laurier University Ontario Laurier-Ghana Partnership for Human Rights, Criminology, and Social Justice
University of the Fraser Valley British Columbia
Capacity Building for Policy and Planning in Kenya, Tanzania and India: A Focus on Food Systems and Urban Growth Management
University of Victoria British Columbia ASEAN Internship: Experience, Networking and Community (ENC) Program
Université de Montréal Quebec Renforcement d’un réseau mondial de jeunes leaders engagés pour le développement des communautés
University of New Brunswick New Brunswick Addressing Health and Environmental Challenges from a Youth Perspective in Malawi and the Caribbean
McMaster University Ontario Queen Elizabeth Scholars in Strengthening Health and Social Systems
University of Alberta Alberta Securing Our Shared Global Future: Student Leadership for Change
University of Toronto (Scarborough) Ontario Building Collaborative Learning Communities for Global Development and Justice
University of Calgary Alberta Young Leaders in International Development
Simon Fraser University British Columbia Interns and Scholars for a Sustainable World
Vancouver Island University British Columbia Building Resilience in Coastal Communities (BRiCC) Knowledge Network
University of Manitoba Manitoba Promoting Community-University Partnerships in Global and Indigenous Health
Queen’s University Ontario Building innovative, community-driven solutions for people with disabilities
University of Waterloo Ontario International Internships for University of Waterloo Students in Energy Access Social Enterprises
University of Prince Edward Island Prince Edward Island Integrating Innovative Research & Training for Improved Sustainable Livelihoods of Smallholder Dairy Farms – Phase 2
Université du Québec à Trois Rivières Quebec Formation scientifique d’étudiants indiens pour la recherche en énergie durable et en sciences biomédicales – volet 2
University of Saskatchewan Saskatchewan Experiential learning for the One Health/Planetary Health professional: A focus on Canadian and African communities-at-risk

Read the full media release here.

20 Canadian universities awarded $5.8M to cultivate next generation of global leadership

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(OTTAWA, ON) February 22, 2018 – The most recent round of the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program, often referred to as the Queen Elizabeth Scholars program (QES), will see $5.8 million of funding to support 650 students in 20 Canadian university-led projects. Undergraduate and graduate students will enrich their academic, professional and cross-cultural skills while contributing to global projects led by participating Canadian universities.

Now in its fourth year, the QES program is a collaborative initiative led by the Rideau Hall Foundation, Universities Canada and the Community Foundations of Canada, made possible thanks to contributions from the Government of Canada, provincial governments, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), universities, and a wide range of private sector donors. Launched in 2014, the QES program has engaged 44 universities in every province, with funding that will enable, in total, 3,000 scholars to participate in this global exchange of talent.

Through this latest phase of the QES program, an estimated 650 Canadian and international students will undertake internships and research in Canada and abroad. Canadian students will intern at some of the following organizations:

  • Centre for Urban and Reginal Excellence in India
  • Makerere University Field Station in Kibale National Park, Uganda
  • Bahir Dar Institute of Technology, Ethiopia
  • Caribbean Public Health Agency, Trinidad and Tobago
  • Partnership for Sustainable Development, Nepal
  • Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, Thailand

The impact of having an educational experience overseas is life-changing; students who have studied or worked abroad often return with a new sense of self and purpose.  Moreover, it’s becoming clear that the benefits of a global experience for Canadian students stand to impact our country’s prosperity and growth.  “As Canada looks to advance economic and political relations internationally, we need our next generation of leaders and innovators to have global core competencies, including knowledge of business culture, language skills and intercultural competence,” said Paul Davidson, President of Universities Canada.  

The November 2017 Report of the Study Group on Global Education called for a Canadian national strategy to encourage more Canadian students to participate in global learning experiences, citing the multiple benefits of doing so, stating that global learning is a vital instrument to achieve national priorities, including economic growth and trade, social and economic inclusion, and Canada’s influence in the world. “The QES program is proud to serve as a uniquely Canadian vehicle and platform for public and private funders as well as the university community to come together and offer students the opportunity for global learning, service and impact,” said Scott Haldane, President and CEO of the Rideau Hall Foundation.

Scholars participating in the QES program become part of a global network of leaders who continue to engage with their communities locally and around the world.  “The QES program has truly created a dynamic group of young people who are changing our world and are instrumental in enhancing the work of community foundations at home and abroad,” said Andrew Chunilall, CEO of Community Foundations of Canada.

Please visit for a full list of participating universities and projects funded.

About Queen Elizabeth Scholars program

The Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program aims to mobilize a dynamic community of young global leaders across Canada and around the world to create lasting impacts both at home and abroad through cross-cultural exchanges encompassing international education, discovery and inquiry, and professional experiences. To learn more visit,

About Rideau Hall Foundation

The Rideau Hall Foundation was established by the Right Honourable David Johnston during his mandate as governor general of Canada (2010-2017) to strengthen the ability of the Office of the Governor General to better serve Canadians through a range of initiatives linked to leadership, learning, giving, and innovation. Together we are building a better Canada. To learn more visit

About Universities Canada

Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, advancing higher education, research and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians. To learn more visit

About Community Foundations of Canada

Community Foundations of Canada is the national network for Canada’s 191 community foundations which help Canadians invest in building strong and resilient places to live, work, and play. To learn more visit


Media Contacts:

Mélanie Béchard
Communications Officer

Universities Canada
Brenna Baggs
Communications manager
613-563-3961 ext. 255

Community Foundations of Canada
Geneviève Vallerand
Director, Communications
613-236-2664 ext. 302

Expanding the Scope of the QES Program to support Advanced Scholars

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An international educational experience has many proven benefits, as described in the recent report Global Education for Canadians: Equipping Young Canadians to Succeed at Home and Abroad, released in November 2017. These benefits include fostering skills like adaptability, resilience, teamwork and intercultural awareness, as well as building global connections, and reinforcing the values of openness and inclusion that are essential to Canada’s success as a diverse and prosperous society.

The Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship Program, often referred to as the QES program, is an international student mobility program designed to cultivate the next generation of global leaders. The QES program was born from the desire to celebrate and honour the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne in 2012. Three organizations – the Rideau Hall Foundation, Universities Canada, and Community Foundations of Canada – came together to design the program, and three years later the first Queen Elizabeth Scholars began their journeys of knowledge exchange throughout the Commonwealth.

Since then, through the first phase of the QES program, Canadian universities have sent nearly 800 students for three-month overseas work and study placements, and have welcomed 240 international students to every province in Canada.

IDRC logo

In 2016, generous funding from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) helped to expand the scope and reach of the QES program beyond the Commonwealth, beyond the primarily undergraduate and graduate student level, and with emphasis on incoming mobility from the global South.

This expansion to the original QES, known as the Queen Elizabeth Advanced Scholars (QES-AS), built on IDRC’s long and distinguished experience as one of the world’s principal institutions supporting development research, has created a unique two-way exchange: doctoral, post-doctoral, and early career researchers in low- and middle-income countries have greater access to the advanced education, training, and mentorship that are vital to cutting-edge innovation. Likewise, Canadian researchers are gaining more exposure to development contexts, research networks and academic and industrial sectors in the Global South – precisely the international interactions they need to become leaders in globally competitive work environments.

Another distinct feature of the program are the direct opportunities recipients have to engage with key stakeholders in development, including contributing to local capacity building to improve health, access to education, adapting to climate change, and economic development.

“IDRC is committed to supporting the leaders of tomorrow who will develop solutions to increasingly complex national and global challenges,” said Jean Lebel, President of IDRC. “By joining forces with the Rideau Hall Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada and Universities Canada in the Queen Elizabeth Advanced Scholars program, we are ensuring that the next generation of innovative leaders will contribute to stronger economies, more prosperous societies and large-scale positive change through their applied research, innovations and collaboration.”

SSHRC logo

Thanks to a visionary $10 million contribution from IDRC, as well as another $2.5 million from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Centre (SSHRC), this second phase of the QES program is expected to engage an additional 450 researchers in international research projects, strengthening the exchange of global talent between Canada and other nations.

See the full list of winning proposals for the Queen Elizabeth Advanced Scholars.

The QES program is made possible through the leadership of the Rideau Hall Foundation, in collaboration with Universities Canada and Community Foundations of Canada.

From tropics to tundra: A Queen Elizabeth Scholar’s tale

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By Marina Melanidis

If someone had told me when I was about to start the first year of my undergraduate degree at UBC that I would have conducted research in India and explored the Arctic on an ocean liner before I even graduated, I wouldn’t have believed them. The transition from my local secondary school to UBC’s size-of-a-small-town campus was exciting but it was also overwhelming, and amongst so many inspiring people and incredible opportunities I was stricken with a fear of not being good enough. I could hardly imagine classes of 200 people, much less places thousands of kilometers away.

I can definitely imagine both of those now.

My name is Marina Melanidis. I was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, where I am also currently pursuing a BSc in Natural Resources Conservation in the Faculty of Forestry as a senior undergraduate student at UBC. During the second year of my degree, I was fortunate enough to receive an opportunity to intern at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) as a Forestry co-op student through the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship Program (QES). QES is managed through a unique partnership of Universities Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation (RHF), Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) and Canadian universities, and is made possible with financial support from the Government of Canada, provincial governments and the private sector.

UBC student Marina Melanidis was a forestry intern at the Wildlife Institute of India through the QES program.

I spent three and a half months in India in the summer of 2015. For the first five weeks I took a field course, and I interned with WII for the rest of the summer. I was wildly outside of my comfort zone. I had never been away from home without my family, and I had never experienced a place so different from where I had grown up. To say that I was hit by culture shock would be an understatement. For the first time I found myself unable to understand the language of the majority of people around me. Crowds were the norm instead of something only expected during special events, and monkeys were a hazard to be considered when hanging laundry to dry outside. I was hesitant and unsure, but I also found myself captivated by the vividness of the colours and by the people that were as diverse as the landscape.

But India was not the end of my adventures as a Queen Elizabeth Scholar. In January of 2017 the Faculty of Forestry at UBC notified me about an opportunity from Community Foundations of Canada to participate in the 2017 Students on Ice Arctic Expedition as a QES alumnus. I sent in my application, and the next thing I knew I was on a plane to Resolute Bay, Nunavut for the experience of a lifetime, for a second time.

Students on Ice is an educational foundation that gives youth the opportunity to experience the poles. On the 2017 Arctic Expedition, I was one of over 120 secondary school and university students that traveled from Resolute Bay, Nunuvat to Kangralassuit Greenland via the MS Ocean Endeavour, stopping along the way to participate in educational workshops, go on hikes and Zodiac cruises, and explore the landscape. More than 80 experts joined us on the expedition from every field, including scientists, musicians, Inuit community leaders, industry executives, artists, and explorers. They shared their knowledge with us through workshops, as well as through casual conversations that would occur over meals, on Zodiacs, and during hikes. The expedition was two weeks long, but contained months worth of learning and growth. Every day was a new incredible landscape and I was overwhelmed and inspired all at once.

India and the Arctic may seem like opposites at first glance, but I left the two with the same impression: climate change is about people, and connection is necessary for understanding.

I am a science student. While my degree is multidisciplinary, I had always thought about my interest in climate change and my passion for conservation from a scientific perspective. I had operated under the idea that humans and the environment can be separated, and that focusing on the scientific and technological aspects of the climate crisis is the most effective way to address it. I approached my experiences in both India and the Arctic with this perspective. I was excited to see the ecological landscapes of both places and to understand how mass extinction, pollution, increasing temperatures, and changing weather patterns are affecting the various ecosystems. While the cultures of India and the Arctic interested me, it was not the driving force motivating me to embark on these adventures. Ultimately, I was there for the science.

As a QES alumnus, Marina had the opportunity to join the 2017 Students on Ice Arctic Expedition with more than 120 high school and university students.

However, when I found myself back home after both experiences the impressions from the landscapes and the ecosystems are not what lingered – instead it was the people. I now realize that my entire perspective was based on a false assumption. Humans and the environment, climate change and culture – these things are inherently connected. Climate change is human, and we cannot hope to address it effectively without first fully understanding that, and implementing it into our solutions.

While understanding may be necessary to develop effective solutions, connection is necessary to foster understanding. This is what traveling allows for – it reduces the cognitive distance of a place by building real and personal connections to that place. As a QE Scholar, I developed a stronger connection to the world, to the people that live on it, and even to myself. Both experiences offered moments where I had to push through fears and uncertainty, but it was often in those moments where I felt the most connected to the people around me and the world we are all fighting for.

Climate change is a global problem – it has impacts that reach across borders, and it requires solutions that will do the same. As a Queen Elizabeth Scholar, I can no longer go through my life being satisfied with staying in one place. I can no longer be satisfied with being comfortable. I have a new drive to keep expanding my horizons, pushing past my fears to make connections in other places, and to keep discovering the human causes of climate change so that I can help find solutions. Moving forward, I plan to travel, pursue a graduate degree in international environmental policy, and work with communities to develop programs that will reduce our global environmental footprint in ways that work for people. Most importantly, I plan to continue to challenge myself and my perspective on the world, and to take the energy of India and the Arctic everywhere I go.

Geoff Green, the Expedition Leader and Founder of Students on Ice, said this to us during one of the afternoon programs: “The future of great explorers are those that find new ways of living sustainably.”

I plan to be a great explorer.


Learn more:

Students on Ice

Queen Elizabeth Scholars tagboard

UBC Forestry Co-op Program