Arts & Science students among inaugural McCall MacBain Scholarship winners, modeled after Rhodes Scholars

April 29, 2021 by Peter Boisseau - A&S News

Two Faculty of Arts & Science graduands are among 20 student leaders chosen from across Canada for the inaugural McCall MacBain Scholarships.

Grace Ma and AJ Bimm were chosen from 735 applicants for the scholarships, which are modeled on the Rhodes Scholars program and include tuition and fees at McGill University and a living stipend of $2,000 per month.

Scholars are selected for their character, community engagement, leadership potential, entrepreneurial spirit, academic strength and intellectual curiosity.

A member of Trinity College, Ma will graduate this year with a bachelor of science with a double major in environmental science and English literature. She plans to pursue a law degree at McGill.

Ma is involved with Trinity’s literary arts journal, The Trinity Review, and co-leads a University-wide environmental action group, University of Toronto Environmental Action. She teaches violin to youth on a volunteer basis and spent her summers working as a trail analyst, tour guide and park outreach assistant in her hometown of Winnipeg.

Bimm is a member of New College who will graduate with an honours bachelor of arts with a double major in sociology and urban studies. At McGill, he will pursue a master’s degree in urban planning with a special focus on active transportation and access to housing.

As captain of the varsity track and field team, Bimm has represented U of T in national and provincial championships. He recently co-founded the BIPOC Varsity Association, a group for Black, Indigenous and people of colour student-athletes. Bimm has also been involved with a human-rights focused city planning agency.

We spoke to them shortly after the scholarships were announced.

Alexander Julian (AJ) Bimm

What does this scholarship mean to you?

I loved my time as an athlete here but I think over the years I’ve also made a commitment to being involved in my community wherever I can, and being recognized for that is very meaningful. I’m so grateful to be included in an amazing cohort and I’m elated for what's to come as part of such a passionate group of students who share a commitment to service.

How did U of T prepare you for this next stage of your life?

I was talking to my high school coach the other day about how coming to U of T was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, because I actually was ready to commit to Georgetown University to run in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Some of the mentors I’ve been blessed to be around right from the start include the older athletes and coaches who made me feel welcome, and that really shaped my own leadership approach in later years. And outside of track, after I came across the urban studies program, I had professors who were awesome about connecting their students to opportunities outside of school, which is why I think U of T is where I really found my passion for urban planning.

What would you tell students just starting out in your program?

Don’t be too hard on yourself, especially in your first year. The best way to succeed is to take advantage of the resources and activities that U of T has to offer and enjoy it. Also, find what you are passionate about because you will be happy and have a much higher chance of succeeding.

What do you hope to do after school?

I'd like to do research in urban governance, housing affordability and active transportation, pursue a career with urban planning and explore ways in which we can leverage land use planning to benefit communities. I'm leaning toward working in the public sector, preferably at the municipal level, because that's where I can ultimately have the most impact.;

Grace Ma

What does this scholarship mean to you?

It means incredible financial support, mentorship and opportunities to collaborate with other scholars on issues that matter to us. It's an incredible honour and a great privilege as well. It is not just “my” scholarship, but also belongs to my family, friends, peers and educators who have supported me throughout my life and my undergraduate years, across the highs and lows that have brought me to this moment.

How did U of T prepare you for this next stage of your life?

One of the big ones is the fact that within the Faculty of Arts & Science, I've been able to study English and environmental sciences. That flexibility has allowed me to study in very different modes and prepared me to be a critical thinker and a good writer and storyteller. All of these skills will hopefully prepare me well for my studies in law.
What would you tell students just starting out in your program?

I wish I could have been a bit more open minded and a bit less anxious, because I think I had very specific goals for myself. There are so many different opportunities and paths you can take inside and outside of university. Be confident and be reassured that whichever path you choose will be a good one, and will not be an exhaustive one.

What do you hope to do after school?

Right now, I'm really interested in environmental law. So environmental protection, environmental rights, climate change related litigation and such. But I have a really open mind; I know that going to law school can also open other doors and allow me to explore interests I'm sure I don't even know I have right now.

Additional Award Winners from U of T

In addition to Grace Ma and AJ Bimm, four other U of T students received McCall MacBain Finalist or Regional Awards.

McCall MacBain Finalist Award ($10,000) for use at McGill University

  • Nicole Machado, St. Michael’s College (BSc ’21): Machado volunteered at a hospital and a women’s shelter. On campus, she mentored other students and organized social activities. Machado is graduating with a bachelor of science in pharmacology.

McCall MacBain Regional Award ($5,000) for use at a Canadian public university

  • Hodan Mohamud, St. Michael’s College (BSc ’19): Mohamud volunteers with Visions of Science Network for Learning and chairs the Children’s Mental Health Ontario Youth Action Committee. She earned her honours bachelor of science in human biology.
  • Katherine Schneider, Victoria College (BA ’21): Schneider is president of U of T’s Canadian Politics Society and a vice-president of Survivors to Superheroes, which supports survivors of sexual violence. She is graduating with an honours bachelor of arts with specialist in political science.
  • Foti Vito, Trinity College (BA ’21): Vito is focused on developing and advocating for creative solutions to the challenges people face in accessing justice. Active in student politics, he is graduating with a bachelor of arts in international relations and political science.

The scholarships were established in 2019 by John McCall MacBain with his wife Dr. Marcy McCall MacBain.

“Talent is everywhere, but opportunities are not. John and Marcy McCall MacBain are deeply committed to providing students with opportunities to realize their potential and make a positive impact in the world,” says Julia Lo, Director of Marketing and Communications for the scholarships, who earned her honours bachelor of arts in 2010 as a member of Victoria College.

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