By Sally Collins
The Choquette family is helping University of Calgary students become better global citizens.
Through their foundation, Pierre and Brenda Choquette, BA’93, and their children, have committed a gift of $250,000 to establish the Choquette Family Foundation Global Experience graduate and undergraduate awards at the U of C.
Five scholarships worth $10,000 apiece will be awarded each year for the next five years to students who are interested in pursuing an international experience.
“If there is anything that our family could do with funds we never expected to have, it would be to help give Canadian students a broad exposure to allow them to become better global citizens,” says Pierre Choquette. “My wife, my three daughters and I all feel we benefited greatly from our experiences in other cultures and geographies.”
Choquette’s successful career in the energy industry allowed the family the opportunity to travel to and live in many different countries throughout the world, including the United States, Belgium and Switzerland, as well as numerous cities across Canada.
He spent many years with NovaCorp in Calgary and as the president and chief executive officer of Methanex Corporation in Vancouver before retiring in 2004.
The Choquette Family Foundation is run by daughter Suzanne (Choquette) Millette. They have established similar awards at other schools that are important to the family: the University of British Columbia, Laval University and Neuchatel Junior College in Switzerland.
Brenda Choquette attended the U of C while the family lived in Calgary, graduating in 1993. The first Choquette Family Foundation Global Experience awards were given out last fall.
Two students who have received Choquette Family Foundation Global Experience awards are currently studying internationally.
Why were you interested in studying abroad?
My grandparents lived in the Caribbean, so from an early age I loved travelling—perhaps an addiction to looking at National Geographic pictures helped fuel this. Studying abroad made sense because I want to improve my Spanish, but didn’t just want to travel mid-degree.
What have you learned that you would like to apply in Canada?
Spanish could have a myriad of uses in Canada—whether for working in international businesses, teaching or helping Hispanic immigrants. Perhaps the most useful thing is a better understanding of how it feels to be in a different country and the challenges that immigrants go through when they come to Canada.
What does being awarded the scholarship mean to you?
Beyond the obvious financial help, the scholarship created a real sense of pleasure that someone would be willing to help me do something that meant so much to me. Coming from a city where engineering and business is so important, it was nice to know that other people believe that learning about different cultures is also significant.
What made you want to study abroad?
I think that one can learn so much by living in a foreign country, as opposed to just going there on vacation. I wanted to go to Japan in particular, because I am fourth-generation Japanese and had never been here before.
What have you learned through your experience?
In school, I study Japanese and I think I learn it four times faster than in Canada because it’s so applicable to everyday life. But I would say that most of my learning takes place outside of the classroom. I have learned a lot about cultural norms and values.
What do you think you can bring back to Canada and apply here?
I have a deeper appreciation for what it’s like for immigrants to Canada, not knowing English very well. When I get back to Canada, I think I’ll have a lot more patience with people who are learning English.