As the McEuen Scholarship Foundation selects Mathis Bourassa as its 2021 Scholar, it perpetuates its commitment to supporting exceptional young Canadian leaders in their studies at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. We met with Mathis Bourassa and 2018 Scholar Katherine Lacroix to learn about their accomplishments, their ambitions and what unites them.
While Mathis comes from a small town in southern Quebec and Katherine is a Montrealer, born and raised, these two exceptional students turn out to have many things in common. Even though Mathis and Katherine had only met once before, they both studied at Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf during their collegial years. They then became the only two Quebecers to win the McEuen Scholarship since 1995. Mere coincidence or symbol of a common will to embrace new challenges?
From Bromont, Québec to St Andrews, Scotland
Mathis recalls very well what led him to move to Montreal two years ago: “Even though I was living in the small town of Bromont at the time, I wanted to pursue my studies in a challenging academic environment.” Mathis says he developed his knowledge and skills at Jean-de-Brébeuf by keeping himself quite busy, both in class and outside of it. In a cheerful tone, he says that he considers himself to be “somewhat of a workaholic…in the good sense of the word.” One can undoubtedly see what Mathis means by taking a look at his resume. Only in the past few months, Mathis was elected treasurer of his student association, co-authored a book and co-founded an awareness campaign.
Since he started at Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, Mathis developed a strong interest in economics. He adds that he is always looking for “new ways to combine [his] passion for economics and finance with [his] will to create positive change in [his] community.” He recently did so through his role as treasurer of the Student Association of Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf by creating the college’s first student-managed investment fund. The interests generated by this fund are now being used to provide scholarships for students demonstrating leadership through community involvement and for those seeking financial support.
At age 19, Mathis also became co-author of his first book, Et si on se racontait?. The book promotes intergenerational relationships as a way to help seniors feel less isolated during the pandemic. After the book’s release, Mathis and his colleagues started the online awareness campaign Entre toi et moi to bring different generations together in these difficult times of pandemic. While this project started only as a telephonic campaign to offer companionship to seniors, it soon grew into a book and, later, into a provincial awareness campaign. He explains that “the idea behind the whole project was to help the people who were the most harshly affected by the pandemic. This book was meant as an invitation to build bridges between generations separated by more than a half-century in order to make our society more united and inclusive in these times of uncertainty.”
Devoted to social change and passionate about questions of economic sustainability, it is no surprise that Mathis chose to pursue the Masters of Arts in Financial Economics at the University of St Andrews. He hopes that his degree will provide him with tools to tackle issues of social inequality, environmental sustainability regarding industrial production, fairer economic development in emerging countries and much more. Enthusiastically looking forward, Mathis believes that “the greatest quality of any career in economics is to be able to use your knowledge to make a difference in society, to be able to improve political and social mechanisms through economic theory.”
Mathis expresses his profound gratitude to the McEuen Scholarship Foundation for providing him with what he calls “the opportunity of his lifetime”. Even though he has only been a McEuen Scholar for a few weeks, he is delighted to have been able to get already involved within the Foundation. He also points out that the McEuen Scholarship will allow him to get the most out of his time at St Andrews, deeply focus on his economics studies, and further enhance his social involvement.
When art and culture meet social engagement
Katherine Lacroix is currently a rising fourth-year student pursuing the Masters of Arts in Art History at the University of St Andrews. After three years in Scotland, Katherine reflects on her path: “this bachelor’s degree in Art History has afforded me new ways of thinking as well as an invaluable international experience. It has also allowed me to travel through my friendships, my studies and, of course, my time abroad.” Above all, Katherine’s interest in Art History stems from the discipline’s study of the intersection between art and social activism. She elaborates that “it is essential to integrate the arts and humanities into our conception of the core pillars of society, to understand art as an active field that not only reflects our society’s values but is equally creative of our social exchanges, myths and fabric.”
Following her graduation from St Andrews, Katherine hopes to embark on a career linked to the governance of cultural institutions, and she intends for her work to keep focusing on issues of equality and inclusion, to promote the importance of the humanities degree, and the power of art as a catalyst of social change. She expresses her belief that art can act as a crucial tool for peace in forcing the viewer to step outside of their perspective, to live through the eyes of another. She asserts that the performance of this ultimate act of empathy has the quality of connecting us to very different people from ourselves.
Like Mathis, Katherine was eager to create positive change in her community. This is how she became a member of the Lumsden Club during her time at St Andrews, a registered charity that provides invaluable services to women and children in situations of domestic abuse by sponsoring Fife Women’s Aid. Katherine also leads the philanthropic initiatives of the Carnegie Club, a dinner-debating society, in organising book drives for underprivileged homes to promote education during this time marked by confinement measures. She is also working to initiate mentorship networks between university students and underprivileged youth in Fife, the district in which is situated St Andrews. Most recently, Katherine engaged with questions related to feminist policy through her involvement as Head Delegate of Young Diplomats of Canada’s delegation to the 65th Commission on the Status of Women. She was charged with coordinating the delegation’s activities, setting up meetings with UN Women officials and NGO representatives, and submitting recommendations to Global Affairs Canada regarding their feminist approaches to domestic policy.
Katherine adamantly thanks the McEuen Scholarship Foundation for allowing her this exceptional adventure and the privilege of devoting herself exclusively to her studies and charitable work during her undergraduate degree. She encourages all young Canadians with an urge to discover, exchange and grow to apply for the McEuen Scholarship.