Education foundation nearing $3 million mark in scholarships

The Ontario Professional Engineers Foundation for Education (FFE) is closing in on nearly $3 million in scholarships to engineering undergraduates over its 57-year history.

The foundation celebrated its latest achievements June 29 at its annual general meeting at PEO headquarters in Toronto.

Among the guests at this year’s annual meeting were PEO President Bob Dony, PhD, P.Eng., FEC, Ontario Society of Professional Engineers President and Chair Matthew Jelavic, P.Eng., Santosh Gupta, P.Eng., FEC, secretary of the Council of Ontario Deans of Engineering, Boris Martin, head of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), and Jocelyn Lee, engineering student and executive member of the Engineering Student Societies’ Council of Ontario.

In bringing greetings from the regulator, PEO President Dony said support of the foundation and engineering education in general benefits society by making the profession more secure. “The education foundation can definitely count on PEO’s ongoing support as the regulator approaches its 100th anniversary in 2022,” Dony said.

Marisa Sterling, P.Eng., FEC, FFE president, and assistant dean, inclusivity and diversity, Lassonde School of Engineering at York University, said the foundation has awarded 3350 student awards totaling $2.9 million over its almost six decades of operation.

The foundation annually awards entrance and undergraduate scholarships averaging $1500 per student. It also partners with the EWB in presenting the annual EWB Leaders of the Future Award worth $2000.

A typical year sees the foundation pass out 30 entrance scholarships, 72 undergraduate scholarships and 15 gold medals for high-achieving graduating students, in addition to the EWB award. The foundation distributed $153,000 to 102 engineering students in 2016.

The foundation also operates a benevolent fund for Ontario engineers experiencing financial hardship.

PEO members have the option of supporting the foundation by way of an online check-off box on their annual membership renewal form.

Sterling said the scholarships helped hard-pressed engineering students devote more time to their studies and formation by alleviating the need for them to take part-time jobs. “One $1500 scholarship saves an engineering student up to 130 hours working at a part-time, minimum-wage job,” Sterling said. “It represents a lot of time better spent doing their engineering pursuits.”

Student winners at the 2017 annual meeting described the honour of being selected and said each scholarship brings a sense of relief from the rising tuition costs.

“For many international students like me, we have a hard time figuring out success,” said undergraduate winner Arnav Goel of the University of Toronto. “I think the recognition from the award really helped me understand that it matters. Someone acknowledges the academic success and the extra-curricular activities I have done in university and sees my determination and passion to learn new things. The money was helpful, too, but I think the confidence it gave me was much more than the monetary value. The opportunity to meet esteemed students from different universities was more important than any prize.”

Similarly, Jackson White, a chemical engineering student at Laurentian University, and winner of the foundation’s entrance scholarship, was equally gratified. “The $1500 goes a long way, and it has allowed me to go into my second year of chemical engineering debt-free,” he said. “This endowment has now set me one step ahead of where I was prior to its donation, and I am able to continue my education with my mind at ease because the FFE has helped me on my journey.”

Besides Goel and White, other students attending the June 29 meeting included undergraduate scholarship winners Farhan Riaz (Ryerson University), Calvin Rieder (University of Toronto), Enakshi Shan (University of Toronto), EWB Gold Medal winners Gabrielle Sebaldt (University of Toronto) and Benjamin Brunson (York University), and leadership award winner Christine Bui (University of Toronto).