While fiercely proud of this country, Thomas Kierans, O.C., LL.D. is a little at odds with the government on the topic of immigration, particularly when it comes to highly-educated students.
So, he’s decided to help new Canadian students himself.
Earlier this year, the Massey College Senior Fellow, and Distinguished Fellow of the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, established the Thomas E. Kierans and Mary Janigan MGA Scholarship. This award will provide new Canadian students with enough funding to cover the full cost of tuition for both years of the Master of Global Affairs (MGA) degree program.
With an initial donation of $150,000, he’s already ensured that over the next six years, three students with financial need will be able to complete the program. (The scholarship consists of $25,000 per year for two years.)
“I got involved because I have no influence on immigration, and it’s a big deal to me,” he says.
Kierans met with immigrant students through a mentorship program at Massey College called, Options, Choices and Trade-offs, offering guidance and insight to help them find the right academic path.
In doing this, he was moved by the stories of the difficulties immigrant students often face when trying to complete their graduate studies.
Struck by their quiet determination and perseverance, Kierans heard tale after tale of struggle and hardship in advancing their education. The more he heard, the more his resolve grew to act.
“That’s what grabbed me. To see the perseverance in young immigrants is mind-boggling,” he says.
The obstacles that impede them from getting an education in their home countries, paired with the challenges of a complex immigration process didn’t sit well with Kierans.
“If you’re an immigrant, and you’re well educated and you’re on your way to getting further educated, it’s tough,” he says.
“There’s also an attitude in Canada that if you come from a third-world country, you’re not educated — that’s not the case,” continues Kierans.
Many developing countries have outstanding education systems, and “they are full of young people who want to get out and advance.
“Part of the motivation is just getting out of the country. But the other part has to be motivation from thinking you have a fighting chance at realizing your potential in the country to which you are going — and that’s why I established this scholarship, to give immigrant students an easier road to the top.”
“Mr. Kierans’ generous gift will play a crucial role in helping the Munk School ensure that the very best students are able to study for the MGA independent of their financial means,” says Randall Hansen, interim director of the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy.
“It’s particularly appropriate, in a country that welcomes some 250,000 immigrants every year, that this scholarship allow new Canadians to join both the school and the next generation of global leaders,” he adds.
Kierans hope others will join him in supporting immigrant students aspiring to study at the Munk School. “Maybe someday we’ll have ten students instead of one each year,” he says.