Scholarship recognizes excellence in Indigenous studies

September 29, 2021 by Michael McKinnon - A&S News

An Arts & Science professor is paying tribute to his parents’ passion for social justice and his own love of languages through a scholarship in Indigenous learning. 

Created in 2019, the Mary & Wesley Rupp Scholarship in Indigenous Learning is awarded based on academic merit to undergraduate students in their third or fourth years, with preference given to Indigenous students. 

“My parents cared about social justice, and my mother in particular worked with Indigenous groups in Vancouver, where I grew up,” says Stephen Rupp, a professor of Spanish and comparative literature and a fellow of Victoria College, who created the scholarship in his parents’ names. “I thought this would be a good way to memorialize my parents.”

Rupp created the scholarship to help attract, support and celebrate students in Indigenous studies. The Indigenous studies program’s strengths in Indigenous languages also provided a nice connection to his own focus as a professor of languages and literatures.

“This scholarship will help recognize excellent students in Indigenous studies and shape leaders in this area,” Rupp says.

In 2020, Riley Yesno and Samantha Mae Giguere were the scholarship’s inaugural recipients. Giguere earned her honours bachelor of arts with high distinction from Trinity College in June 2021, with majors in archaeology and Indigenous studies.

“I am not exaggerating when I say the only reason I have been able to make it through my undergrad was because of financial assistance — and that includes the Mary & Wesley Rupp Scholarship,” says Yesno, who graduated with her honours bachelor of arts in political science and Indigenous studies in June as a member of Victoria College. She started her PhD in U of T’s Department of Political Science in September, with a concentration in Canadian politics.

“I have been able to graduate, as well as travel the country learning and working on Indigenous advocacy, thanks to the security provided to me through such scholarships. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities the Mary & Wesley Rupp Scholarship helped afford me.”

Yesno received a number of other awards, including the First Nations House Bursary, the Neal H E Buzz Scholarship and the President’s Award for Outstanding Indigenous Student of the Year. She says these types of scholarships are crucial to accessing and completing post-secondary education for many students. 

“Scholarships are important to give to underrepresented students because, most often, these students are not actually underrepresented, but rather systemically excluded,” Yesno says. “The years of subjugation communities have faced often result in a lack of intergenerational wealth or privilege that is necessary to ease the financial burden of post-secondary education. Scholarships can help mitigate that burden significantly, giving students like myself the necessary conditions to thrive.”

Please support our Indigenous Students' Scholarship Fund. For more information, contact Heather McLean, Director of Development, at or 416-978-1844.