$500,000 gift to support women in STEM, aspiring entrepreneurs

Women students and researchers working and studying in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), as well as those developing their own business ideas, got a substantial boost Wednesday thanks to a generous gift from Brock University Chancellor Hilary Pearson and her husband Michael Sabia.

The $500,000 gift — made in honour of noted Niagara politician, journalist and women’s rights leader Laura Sabia — will support students and researchers in the Yousef Haj-Ahmad Department of Engineering and in the Entrepreneurship Co-op program. Laura Sabia was the mother of Michael Sabia and a strong public advocate for women’s success in business and professional occupations.

“We are committed to supporting women students and researchers in kick-starting their careers and engaging in world-class research,” says Pearson. “The world needs more women in STEM and more women exploring entrepreneurship, and we can’t think of a better place for them to do that than at Brock.”

Part of the gift will expand and support the University’s entrepreneurial co-op program, which provides students with the opportunity to dedicate a paid co-op work term to developing and launching their business idea.

Laura Sabia Entrepreneur positions will include a four-month paid co-op, as well as coaching and mentorship from the Brock LINC, and will give students the time to further develop their business ideas and explore entrepreneurship as a viable career path.

Another portion of the gift will support the Laura Sabia Scholarships, provided annually to women students in STEM subject areas and, in the future, those applying to the Yousef Haj-Ahmad Department of Engineering.

The third part of the gift will fund the Laura Sabia Research Scholar awards for researchers in the Yousef Haj-Ahmad Department of Engineering, with a priority on women researchers or projects involving women students.

“This is a wonderful gift that will have a profound impact on Brock students and researchers,” says Lesley Rigg, Brock’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “I applaud Chancellor Pearson and her family for their foresight and vision, and on behalf of the entire Brock community, thank them for their generous support.”

Sabia was a founding member of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, was President of the Canadian Federation of University Women, and served on St. Catharines City Council from 1963 to 1968. In 1974, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada “for her devoted service to the cause of the status of women.”

Much of Pearson’s career in the last two decades has been spent advancing a culture of philanthropy in Canada. She served as President of Philanthropic Foundations Canada for 18 years, working closely with many of the country’s largest private charitable foundations. In 2018, she was named a Member of the Order of Canada.

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