For as long as Gifty Owusu can remember, people with disabilities were looked down upon in her hometown in Ghana.
They were written off, counted out and essentially deemed unable to contribute to society.
Even though she was just a teen, Owusu refused to accept this status quo. She began learning more about living with a disability and helped those facing such challenges in her community to gain useful skills to support their independence.
Owusu also made it her mission to teach people about disabilities and the importance of treating everyone as equals.
Now, with the help of Brock University’s Horizon Graduate Student Scholarship, she is continuing her work in the field as a Master of Applied Disability Studies student specializing in Applied Behavioural Analysis.
Owusu is one of 20 recipients of the 2021-22 award, which supports high-achieving graduate students from Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) and other under-represented groups. Recipients are selected from research-based programs to receive a one-time award of $5,000.
Launched in the 2020-21 academic year, the Horizon Scholarship fund will provide $1 million to incoming students over 10 years. The scholarship is intended to help Brock attract top researchers and students from various fields while building a diverse and inclusive university community.
The scholarship’s recipients come from different inspiring backgrounds, overcoming a variety of challenges in order to pursue their passion for their graduate studies work.
The Horizon Scholarship funding offered a sense of relief to Owusu, allowing her to focus on her studies and not worry about the financial burden associated with furthering her education.
A first-generation post-secondary student raised by a single mother, she said it meant the world to be able to call her mom and share news of the scholarship.
“It has come with a lot of challenges along the way, but my mom is proud I’m here and I’m making a difference,” she said.
Owusu’s research is focused on using virtual reality to teach pre-service behaviour analyst intervention skills, an approach that will allow learning from a home setting, rather than a clinical one, and break down access barriers.
Once her studies are complete, she hopes to bring her newfound knowledge back to Ghana to help create change in her community.
Owusu’s work is a shining example of the difference students can make in the world when barriers to higher education are removed, said Suzanne Curtin, Vice-Provost and Dean of Brock’s Faculty of Graduate Studies.
“There is limitless potential among Brock students to impact society in so many ways,” Curtin said. “That positive change begins by making education accessible and ensuring all students feel supported throughout their academic journey.”
Brock Interim President Lynn Wells said the University remains committed to fostering a culture of accessibility, reconciliation, decolonization and inclusivity, and the Horizon Scholarship is an important step in achieving this objective.
“Though it’s only in its second year, the Horizon Scholarship has already helped many bright minds from a wide variety of backgrounds to pursue their dynamic research at Brock University,” Wells said. “With diversity comes strength, and the Brock community continues to grow stronger every year.”
For Camille Rutherford, Brock’s Vice-Provost, Strategic Partnerships and International, sitting on the Horizon Scholarship selection committee was an inspiring experience.
“In addition to highlighting the significant challenges many applicants have had to overcome on their journey to becoming graduate students, reviewing the Horizon Scholarship submissions revealed the individual tenacity and dedication to higher education of all of the applicants,” she said. “It was a great honour to gain insight into their journey to Brock and to be part of the process to support these emerging scholars.”
Among this year’s Horizon Graduate Student Scholarship recipients are:
- Sultan Mussakhan, Biological Sciences PhD student
- Lulu Larcenciel, Child and Youth Studies master’s student
- Nazurah Khokhar, Applied Disability Studies master’s students
- Kosar Dakhilalian, Studies in Comparative Literatures and Arts master’s student
- Wantao Xiao, Biotechnology PhD student
- Medha Avadhani, Management master’s student
- Melanie Burgess, Applied Health Sciences master’s student
- Linda Eronmhonsele, Studies in Comparative Literature and Arts master’s student
- Emese Graham, Social Justice and Equity Studies master’s student
- Luv Khandelwal, Management master’s student
- Zohreh Salaribaghsangani, Applied Linguistics master’s student
- Gifty Owusu, Applied Disability Studies master’s student
- Danilo Oliveira, Biological Sciences PhD student
- Marwa Mohammed Iqbal, Applied Disability Studies master’s student
- Elifsu Tanyeri, Interdisciplinary Humanities PhD student
- Sarwat Islam Dipanzan, Computer Science master’s student
- Dinmukhamed Shakhman, Chemistry PhD student
- Matthew Hayes, Child and Youth Studies PhD student