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Melanie Bechard

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.

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


New Call for Proposals

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Following very successful QES calls for proposals in 2014 and 2016, Universities Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation, and Community Foundations of Canada are pleased to announce that a third call for proposals is being launched today.

The Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program (QES) was created 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. There are currently 71 projects being administered by 42 Canadian universities and with over 1000 scholarships already awarded.

2017 Competition
Canadian universities are invited to submit multi-year project proposals seeking funding of up to $300,000 CAD for projects of up to four years. Each Canadian university may submit one proposal to the 2017 competition. Approximately $6 million CAD will 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.

Please consult the following documents:

Program Guidelines

Application form

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have any questions, please contact Jeanne Gallagher, Manager, International Scholarships at The FAQ section will be updated on a weekly basis.