School used to be a place where Ash Grover felt unwelcome, even rejected.
As a biracial child from a low-income, single-parent home, she was subjected to cruel taunting by her classmates and hurtful remarks from her teachers. She was told she would amount to nothing, likely to end up in prison.
But Grover, now a PhD student at Brock University, refused to let those hateful words define her. She pressed on, finding strength in her differences, excelling in high school and, ultimately, finding a sense of purpose in the world of post-secondary education.
One of 20 students chosen as the first to receive Brock’s Horizon Graduate Student Scholarship, Grover is now striving to create change in higher learning to ensure people of all backgrounds feel not only welcomed, but also worthy in their academic journey.
Her research has focused on a lack of inclusivity across the post-secondary landscape, and while she acknowledges there is work yet to be done, she is proud to be a part of the steps being taken at Brock.
“I do appreciate the efforts Brock University is making and I think this scholarship is a huge step,” said Grover, a wife and mother-of-two from St. Catharines.
Over the next 10 years, the Horizon Scholarship fund will provide $1 million to high-achieving graduate students from Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) and other under-represented groups. Twenty students from research-based programs will be chosen each year to receive a one-time award of $5,000. The scholarship is intended to help Brock attract top researchers and students from various fields while building a diverse and inclusive university community.
This year’s recipients represent various research disciplines from across the University, many of them born to immigrant parents or immigrants themselves, and nearly all first-generation post-secondary students. Many of them come from low-income households, and a handful identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. While they each have different inspiring backgrounds, they share the same level of passion for their graduate studies work.
To create a more inclusive environment, it’s important to talk about differences that exist in the lives of students and obstacles they must overcome as they pursue education, Grover said.
“For me, sharing your story is sort of a way to let the light in,” she said. “Shame lives in the dark and silence isn’t going to do anything to bring a community together or bring support to those who need it. This is how change starts, by talking about it.”
She hopes this scholarship opportunity encourages other members of the BIPOC community and other under-represented groups to pursue their passions while not shying away from supports available to them.
“It’s crucial that all of our students feel supported as they take on their academic journey and know the University is invested in their future,” said Suzanne Curtin, Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. “Our job is to remove barriers to higher education, making it accessible to under-represented groups of students and helping to create a path that encourages them to thrive.”
In 2018, Brock established a new Institutional Strategic Plan that, in part, prioritizes fostering a campus culture of accessibility, reconciliation, decolonization and inclusivity. The Horizon Graduate Student Scholarship provides an important step towards achieving these objectives.
“This scholarship will continue to support Black, Indigenous and People of Colour students and other under-represented groups in their pursuit of research excellence for the next decade as Brock University continues its efforts to build an environment of inclusivity on campus,” said University President Gervan Fearon. “My hope is that the establishment of the Horizon Scholarship will encourage students from a vast array of backgrounds to pursue graduate studies and bring their unique perspectives to advancing the dynamic research undertaken at Brock. At Brock, we are forging new possibilities and the courage and success of all the recipients of the Horizon Scholarship and all our Brock students will be our greatest legacy.”
Leela MadhavaRau, a member of the scholarship selection committee and Director of Brock’s Office of Human Rights and Equity, called it an honour to help choose the award’s first recipients.
“Reading the applications was a humbling process, albeit one overlaid with pride that these incredible humans are our Brock students,” she said. “Our students lead complex lives — their many academic accomplishments intertwined with personal circumstances that speak to their determination and resilience.”
Among this year’s recipients of the Horizon Graduate Student Scholarship are:
- Tram Anh Bui, PhD student in Educational Studies
- Joshua Clarke, PhD student in Chemistry
- Onika Forde, master’s student in Social Justice and Equity Studies
- Ash Grover, PhD student in Educational Studies
- Elvia Lopez, master’s student in Social Justice and Equity Studies
- Sarah Lukaszczyk, master’s student in Critical Sociology
- Sara Madanat, master’s student in Applied Health Sciences
- Sali Moieldin, master’s student in Social Justice and Equity Studies
- Nneka Onyeachonam, master’s student in Applied Disability Studies
- Teshawn Smikle, master’s student in Social Justice and Equity Studies
- Helena Tizaa, master’s student in Critical Sociology
- Anel Turgambayeva, master’s student in Biological Sciences
- Nwakerendu Waboso, PhD student in Child and Youth Studies
- Xiaoyang Xia, PhD student in Psychology