Feb. 11, 2021

Two students named as finalists for McCall MacBain Scholarships

National award competition recognizes Graham Bennett and Cindy Zhang for academic strength, community leadership, and leadership potential
To the left is Cindy, a student with dark hair and wearing a purple sweater. To the right is Graham, who has medium brown hair and is wearing a dark blue zip up cardigan with a light blue button up shirt. Both are looking at the camera and smiling.

University of Calgary students Graham Bennett, BA’21, BHSc’21, and Cindy Zhang, BSc’21, have been named finalists for the inaugural McCall MacBain Scholarships, Canada’s first comprehensive leadership-based scholarship for master’s and professional programs.

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.

Stiff competition for prestigious scholarships

Bennett and Zhang will join 48 other finalists from 28 universities at virtual final interviews with Canadian leaders from academia, business, government, and the social sector March 11 to 13. Up to 20 McCall MacBain Scholars will be chosen after final interviews.

Over 735 people applied for the McCall MacBain Scholarships, and 132 participated in regional interviews with local leaders in November before the 50 finalists were selected. Finalists were chosen based on their character, community engagement, leadership potential, entrepreneurial spirit, academic strength, and intellectual curiosity.

Graham Bennett credits experience in Scholars Academy

A former competitive swimmer, Bennett coached with and helped run WeSwim, a program providing personalized swim experiences for children with disabilities. As the communications executive, he increased child and volunteer enrolment in the program. Bennett also created a club to introduce students to the concept of effective altruism, understanding how we can use our resources to help others the most. Bennett is completing two bachelor’s degrees, in biomedical sciences and economics at the University of Calgary with the goal of starting a Master of Arts in economics.

I would attribute a large part of my drive to having been a member of the Scholars Academy program on campus,” says Bennet. “The program showed me the value of a community of like-minded individuals coupled with dedicated mentorship and enrichment opportunities — something I see as a key component of the McCall MacBain Scholarship. Further to this, I was afforded fantastic research opportunities across multiple disciplines at UCalgary that have deepened my interest in graduate studies.” 

Cindy Zhang has a heart for music, volunteering, science and engineering 

While giving free piano lessons to children through the Heart of the City program, Zhang took the initiative to create an annual summer music camp for the program participants. She also performs music at a retirement living home and volunteers weekly with the student medical response team on campus. Zhang works part-time as a piano instructor, in addition to her volunteer work, and spent a summer working as a research intern for a lab in Germany. After she completes her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience, she plans to start a master’s degree in neuroscience, biomedical engineering, or physiology.

I'm excited to pursue an interdisciplinary neuroscience project at McGill while also being part of an interdisciplinary community outside the lab,” says Zhang. “The McCall MacBain Scholarship brings together people from a huge range of disciplines and offers career support from mentors from outside the lab and classroom. I'm honoured to have the opportunity to meet such a motivated and diverse group of peers and professors through the McCall MacBain application process.”

Both students are members of the University of Calgary's Scholars Academy.

Ambassadors in the community

“Cindy and Graham are not only outstanding students in their academics, but active members in both the university and Calgary communities,” says Dr. Jessica Cohen, Scholars programs co-ordinator with the Student Success Centre. “They serve as incredible representatives of the university in the McCall McBain Scholarships’ inaugural year.”

“There is no typical McCall MacBain Scholar,” says Natasha Sawh, dean of the McCall MacBain Scholarships. “We look for potential in students from all walks of life, with different academic and volunteer interests. What unites them is the inner drive to learn, lead, and make a positive impact in other people’s lives.”

Finalists who are not selected as McCall MacBain Scholars will be eligible for a $10,000 entrance award for their studies at McGill University.

The scholarships are the result of the 2019 landmark gift of $200 million, the single-largest gift to a university in Canadian history at that time, by John and Marcy McCall MacBain. The McCall MacBain Scholarships will expand internationally over the next decade, with nearly 300 McCall MacBain Scholars selected by 2030.

 — With files from Nouran Abdellatif, UCalgary Student and Enrolment Services