The Schulich Leader Scholarships – the largest and most prestigious Canadian academic award for students pursuing STEM undergraduate degrees – has reached a new milestone this year, by doubling the number of annual scholarships from 50 to 100.
The program is funded by the Schulich Foundation and administered by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. Each year, over 1,500 students are nominated by their respective high schools and 100 exceptional students, from a diverse range of religious and cultural backgrounds, are selected by the program’s 20 partner universities to receive the scholarship, valued between $80,000 and $100,000, depending on field of study. With the increase in scholarships, the Schulich Foundation will now be investing $9 million into the program every year. A similar initiative is conducted in Israel, where an additional 55 scholarships are awarded annually to STEM students.
Seymour Schulich, the visionary philanthropist behind this initiative, believes that giving direct support to students is one of the most effective vehicles in educational philanthropy. By covering all the students’ financial needs, these generous scholarships eliminate the stress of having to pay tuition so students can devote all their time and attention to their studies. Beyond the financial award, students join a growing community of elite STEM leaders, and gain a certain degree of prestige that comes with receiving such a competitive award.
Since the program’s inception in 2012, following a $100 million gift from Mr. Schulich, the scholarship has been awarded to 470 students, who are on track to becoming leading entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientific innovators. Mr. Schulich is an icon in Canadian philanthropy, having made a significant number of visionary investments in higher education, including through the Schulich School of Business at York University, which was one of his first major philanthropic endeavours in 1995. The dedication of the Schulich Foundation to empower future STEM leaders is ultimately an investment in the ideas and solutions that will make Canada – and the entire world – a better home for all.
Five high-achieving Jewish Schulich Leaders spoke with UJA Federation to discuss some of their accomplishments, future plans, and how Jewish values have played a role in their journeys.
A recent graduate from Toronto Prep School, Hayley Monson is a 2020 recipient of the Schulich Leaders Scholarship at McMaster University. She will be pursuing an honours degree in mathematics, which has been a lifelong passion of hers.
“I’ve always really loved math, ever since I was very young,” said Hayley. “It’s something I’ve taken up as a hobby – I do it in my free time, I love to solve problems and discussing them with other people. There’s a certain beauty to math, both in its depth and objectivity.”
Hayley was raised in a Modern Orthodox family, and she spent much of her academic career in Jewish day school, going from Associated Hebrew Schools to UTS, and then spending two years at TanenbaumCHAT before moving on to Toronto Prep School.
During her time at CHAT, she participated in the Chidon HaTanach contest, which she won for Canada in 2018. Once she started at Toronto Prep, she became involved with the school’s Jewish Student Union to “remain grounded in Judaism and Jewish values,” and was head of the school’s math club. “My experience at Toronto Prep was a really excellent one – I had some amazing teachers who encouraged me in my learning, and to explore different ideas and areas that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to,” she said.
During summer 2019, she participated in the United Hatzalah program in Israel, where she got to volunteer on ambulances and received training as an Emergency Medical Responder. In addition to all these extracurriculars, Hayley helped work on research in ophthalmology, even publishing several papers in a Canadian medical journal. She also volunteered as a tutor for underprivileged children and worked as a paid tutor.
With such a diverse set of experiences, Hayley said there are numerous career options open to her and she is going into university with an open mind to pursue various professional avenues. While math is her main interest, she said she loves all areas of STEM, including biology, chemistry, and physics.
“I’m so shocked and honoured that I received this scholarship,” said Hayley. “I’m really excited to have the opportunity to go to university with this scholarship and be connected to other recipients – I’m very excited for what the future will bring.”
Jacob Mausberg, a Grade 12 TanenbaumCHAT student, is one of the 2020 recipients of the Schulich Leader Scholarships at the University of Waterloo.
Jacob is also part of the first graduating cohort of the Anita and Daniel Chai Engineering Academy at TanenbaumCHAT. It is tremendously validating that, in its first graduating class, TanenbaumCHAT’s Engineering Academy has produced a student that has won the top STEM scholarship in the country. Like Seymour Schulich, TanenbaumCHAT recognizes the impact that STEM has on the prosperity of future generations and emphasizes the importance of encouraging students to achieve their full potential in STEM subjects.
Jacob plans to study math and computer science at Waterloo, though he notes that he is going in with an open mindset to explore his interests. “The engineering program helped me develop creative problem-solving skills, whether through building things or computer programming,” said Jacob. “It’s definitely a skill I’m going to take with me to university.”
Throughout his time at CHAT, Jacob headed several clubs, including the math and chess clubs, served as a school ambassador and peer tutor, and took many of the advanced placement enrichment courses that the school offered.
He also participated in Weizmann Canada’s National Physics Tournament, as well as numerous mathematics competitions that were administered by the University of Waterloo. In addition, he was one of three Canadians accepted to an international research summer program in Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology, where he worked in a biomineralization lab. “It was incredible seeing the insane amount of innovation coming out of Technion, and Israel as a whole,” said Jacob.
Aside from excelling in his academics, Jacob has played soccer for most of his life through Maccabi Canada, and participated in the Maccabi Games in Israel in 2017. He helped lead the team to the best-ever Canadian finish.
With so many extra-curriculars and a challenging course load, Jacob attributes much of his success to the support he received from not only his family, but also the teachers he had at TanenbaumCHAT. “The teachers at CHAT truly care about their students, and they’ve been very encouraging this entire time,” said Jacob.
As he moves on to Waterloo in September, Jacob is looking forward to making more connections with like-minded individuals through the Schulich Leaders network, who share his passion for learning and exploring STEM subjects.
"I'm so grateful to Seymour Schulich for this scholarship, and giving me the confidence to go into university with an increased excitement to learn and innovate," said Jacob. "Knowing there are leaders in our community that are supporting me really instilled in me an obligation of tikkun olam and tzedakah, and I really hope to be able to come into that position and give back to the community that's given me so much."
Rivka Werner is a 2019 recipient of the Schulich Leader Scholarships and intends to start studying at York University’s Faculty of Science next September. The 19-year-old is currently living in Jerusalem, spending the year at a Beit Midrash for women, and immersing herself in Jewish religious texts and philosophy.
Growing up in a Modern Orthodox family, the value of education was always emphasized, as she said it is “one of the only assets that can never be taken away from an individual.” Her parents hail from the Ural region of Russia, raising Rivka and her four siblings in a Russian-speaking household.
Though her parents are both STEM-oriented — her father has a Ph.D. in computer science and her mother has a master’s degree in mathematics — there was always a big emphasis on the value of cultural awareness and engagement. Her parents gave her eight years of art and piano lessons, and she completed Level 8 studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music with first-class honours and distinction.
“As a kid, sometimes I would do math with my dad, and other times I would read Russian literature with him,” said Rivka. “This increased my knowledge of the artistic world of the subjective humanities and non-empirical human accomplishments, as well as the scientific explorations that characterize more quantitative reality.”
Throughout her high school career at Ulpanat Orot Girls School, Rivka led several fundraising campaigns for a non-denominational charity for children with special needs, which raised over $18,000. She also won Weizmann Canada’s 2019 National Physics Tournament, representing Canada in the international finals in Israel.
Rivka was valedictorian of her graduating class, has won top prizes in competitive public speaking, and spent two summers as a Tikvah Scholar at Yale University. “From a young age, I gained an awareness that reality is complex, and it’s important to constantly expand the frontiers of one’s mind, and gain experiences in different pursuits,” she said.
Currently enrolled in York’s cognitive science program, Rivka said she has recently gained an interest in neurology and neuroscience, though she is not exactly certain what career path she wants to pursue. She said her $80,000 scholarship will be a huge help throughout her four years at York, and hopes the vast network of Schulich leaders will open up many doors for her.
“I think it will really help me develop as a leader in my own right, however that manifests. This network will give me access to incredible leaders that will hopefully help me develop into the best me that I can be,” she said.
Yaakov Green is currently in his third year at the Yale School of Medicine, and was part of the very first cohort of Schulich Leaders back in 2012. He completed his undergraduate degree in biology at York University, and is working on completing a dual degree in medicine and a master’s in business administration, known as an MD/MBA.
Though Yaakov has always known he wants to be a doctor, he hopes his career will involve some level of healthcare leadership, such as hospital administration and management, or through entrepreneurship. “The idea of making an impact really inspires me,” said Yaakov. “In particular, if I could do something that addresses the social determinants of health that can create better and healthier communities, that would be the perfect dream.”
Raised in a Modern Orthodox Jewish family, Yaakov grew up with a deep connection to Israel and a love of Judaism. The importance of tzedakah and volunteering was underscored throughout his childhood, and is something that followed him in all of his endeavours. “I grew up with an understanding that the fundamental unit of Judaism is not an individual, but family and community,” said Yaakov. “It’s about the social ties that connect us and the value that we place on each other. That’s been a huge thrust in everything I do.”
He attended Yeshivat Or Chaim, where he led the Chesed Committee, which focused on community service and volunteering. “That was big — we took on a lot of projects and raised a lot of money for organizations,” said Yaakov. “We mobilized many volunteers for several different organizations throughout the community, like UJA Federation and Yachad, and we branched out to non-Jewish causes, like Free The Children.”
While in high school, he also participated in a research program called SciTech at the Technion Institute of Technology, which exposed him to the world of scientific research. Yaakov frequently spent his summers in Israel and even spent a year at a yeshiva before starting university. “I always saw Israel as this beautiful combination of the realization and manifestation of our Jewish identity, along with this beacon of economic, technological, and social progress,” he said.
During his time at York, Yaakov started the “Random Acts of Kindness” project, which became one of the largest student clubs on campus with well over 1,000 members, executing several large-scale acts of kindness initiatives throughout the school year. He started the club with another Schulich scholarship recipient, and through their Schulich Leaders network, they were able to open new chapters at other university campuses across the country.
Yaakov notes that the common denominator in all his endeavours is his desire to improve communities and help people through leadership. “I love the idea of creating things, leading organizations, and making a large impact,” said Yaakov. “No matter what I do, I want to make leadership and management a big part of my career.”
Currently in his first year in the engineering science program at the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto, Adam Glustein is a 2019 recipient of the Schulich Leader Scholarships. A graduate from Northern Secondary School in Toronto, Adam had the highest academic average in his high school, and was named a national biology scholar with distinction.
In addition to his academic achievements, Adam kept busy with numerous extracurriculars. He served as president of his school’s DECA business association, vice-president of the Athletic Association, and competed in the “Reach for the Top” trivia competition, even making it to provincials. Adam also led a children’s program for the City of Toronto and volunteered as a math tutor for Canadian newcomers.
Adam is interested in software engineering, having done a lot of coding in high school, as well as genetics and nanotechnology. Though he plans on exploring various career avenues, he sees himself working in the field of biotechnology, and creating programming for medical applications in biophysics laboratories, as well as for medical imaging and surgery tools.
Raised in a traditional Jewish family, Adam grew up attending public school while also going to supplementary Hebrew school on Sundays. “I’m not a very religious person, but I have a strong Jewish identity instilled in me,” he said. “I make sure I don’t forget my roots, and where my family is from.”
Adam appreciates the fact that the Schulich Leader Scholarships are administered through UJA Federation, and that Seymour Schulich himself is a member of the Jewish community, as it demonstrates the profound impact the Jewish people have on Canadian society.
“It’s very much a merit-based scholarship that is benefiting everyone, regardless of who you are,” said Adam. “It shows that charity and helping other people is an intrinsic Jewish value, and a fundamental element of Jewish identity. That’s the important takeaway that I got from this scholarship, and I want to incorporate more philanthropy in my life, as I move forward in my career.”