When Brianne Kirkpatrick and her colleagues wanted to donate their workshop fees, Kate Dewasha, career and outreach development consultant at the Munk School’s Master of Public Policy program, knew exactly where it should go: the Munk School’s Black Student Excellence Scholarship.
The award — previously known as the Black Diaspora Excellence Scholarship — seeks to remove barriers for Black students in the Master of Global Affairs (MGA) or Master of Public Policy (MPP) programs.
The scholarship was initiated by Judith Nwachebelu, a 2020 MGA graduate hailing from Nigeria. While it is now open to all Black students, the first iteration of the award was specific to those hailing from African countries. “Because of the difficulties I faced securing funds for my education, I wanted to give back to African students coming to the program,” Nwachebelu explained. “I really wanted to make it a bit easier for them.”
The Munk School decided to transform Nwachebelu’s donation into a larger initiative. Since 2020, the Munk School community has raised over $21,000.
Amongst the benefactors is the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), a consulting firm whose mission is to help organizations apply behavioural insights in support of social purpose goals. As part of the Munk School’s Professional Development Week, BIT was invited to conduct a workshop for students on applying behavioural science to public sector programs and services. Brianne Kirkpatrick (pictured), a principal advisor at BIT and one of their workshop facilitators, is an MPP alumna.
“I really like working with Munk School students,” said Kirkpatrick. “I find that, relative to other forums, the students in these workshops aren’t afraid to ask challenging questions and seem really open to embracing new ways to solve problems, to break down policy challenges.”
In 2021, BIT asked Dewasha, to donate their $1000 workshop fee to an organization or initiative that creates educational or employment opportunities for Black and/or Indigenous people. Dewasha suggested the then-novel Black Student Excellence Scholarship, to which they enthusiastically agreed. In 2022, they decided to once again donate their fees to the fund. “I think it’s a great step towards diversifying leadership in government and other social purpose organizations,” Kirkpatrick said. “We were happy to continue to donate.”
Dewasha echoed the sentiments. “It is wonderful to see our alumni give back to the School by not only sharing their knowledge on policy-related topics, but also waving their fees to give back to future Munk School students.”
BIT were not the only contributors. While fundraising efforts were largely focused on Munk School faculty and staff, many alumni also got involved, including some for the first time. Kirkpatrick noted that she herself made a private donation to the fund and was excited that her organization could contribute more.
Marie-Reine Mukazayire, an MGA student from Rwanda, was the inaugural recipient for 2021-2022. She graduated with distinction from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Development in 2021. At the Munk School, she hopes to start important conversations about new forms of financial and economic decolonization in the Global South.
“The Black Student Excellence Scholarship has opened so many doors of opportunity for me on both an academic and professional level,” Mukazayire said. “By alleviating the financial burden, it has allowed me to dedicate my time to my studies and professional development. It has also given me access to spaces that encourage me to expand my horizons in ways that may not have been possible otherwise.”
The Black Student Excellence Scholarship will be awarded on a revolving basis, with an MPP student to be chosen this year. You can visit the giving page to donate to the fund, all of which will be going toward the student recipients. Your contribution — no matter the size — helps us to ensure that exceptional Black students from around the globe have access to the opportunities they deserve.