Nov. 30, 2016

Rhodes scholarship applicants highlight some of our most outstanding students

Meet seven students who were shortlisted in 2016 for prestigious award
Elliott Reichardt, right, is a member of the Scholars Academy. Five of the seven students shortlisted are members of the Scholars Academy where they receive guidance on their scholastic applications. Students who are interested in the Rhodes Scholarship should contact

Elliott Reichardt, right, is a member of the Scholars Academy.

Caillie Mutterback, Scholars Academy

Last week James Thorogood became the 15th student in the University of Calgary’s 50-year history to win the internationally recognized Rhodes Scholarship and the fifth in the past six years. While only 11 Canadians may receive the scholarship each year, many talented students were considered.

The process to apply is lengthy; in addition to providing evidence of high academic achievement and contribution to society, students must submit a personal statement, a CV that includes awards, scholarships, extracurricular involvement and the names of six references. These applications are then reviewed by the university’s Internal Rhodes Review Committee, which is comprised of faculty and administration.

“The process of reviewing applications always amazes us,” says Juliet Guichon, assistant professor at the Cumming School of Medicine and chair of the Internal Rhodes Review Committee. “The students’ achievements, enthusiasm and dedication create real optimism about the future. The opportunity to come to know them and work with them is a privilege.”

The following are short biographies of the seven talented students and alumni who were endorsed by this year’s Internal Rhodes Review Committee. These students show exceptional character, leadership and achievement in extra-curricular activities in addition to proven academic excellence. Four students were invited for an interview by the Prairie Rhodes Selection Committee: Erika Friebe, Kaylynn Purdy, Leah Schmidt and James Thorogood, who went on to win the scholarship.

Erika Friebe, current Health Sciences student

Inspired by learning, Erika Friebe has pursued social justice through community engagement and extracurricular activities as well as in her academics. Friebe co-led 12 fellow students in a New Orleans food and justice program and was selected as a researcher with the Research and Global Health School in Tanzania where she worked with teachers in rural communities on health promotion and social entrepreneurship. A member of the Scholars Academy, a triathlete, former gymnast and artist, Friebe has travelled to Ghana and India and presented insights from her experiences at regional and national conferences.

Douglas Kondro, BSc in Mechanical Engineering 2016

Combining his passion for research and travel, Douglas Kondro took advantage of a diverse range of opportunities in Calgary and internationally during his undergraduate degree. As vice-president of the Biomedical Engineering Student Society, Kondro helped raise money for local scholarship, and organized numerous academic and social events to increase student engagement. A member of the varsity cross-country and track and field teams, Kondro has also raced in London, France and Switzerland. As an undergrad, he used 3D printing to create prosthetic feet so that a frostbitten rooster might walk again. His current master's research aims to generate clinically relevant quantities of microtissues for use in tissue engineering. 

Kaylynn Purdy, H.BHSc (Health Sciences) 2014

University of Calgary alumna, Kaylynn Purdy, helped co-found the Calgary World Health Organization Simulation (CalWHO), the first of its kind in Western Canada. Through CalWHO, students represent a country as they debate global health issues at an annual conference. This experience encouraged Purdy to engage in global health issues directly — she researched the impact of parasitic infections on Maasai children in a remote region in Tanzania. Now a medical student, at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, she was the school's Global Health Liaison and initiated the development of a global health certificate program for medical students. A road cyclist, Nordic skier and open water swimmer, Purdy has raised money for cancer including by cycling alone across British Columbia and later swimming 35 kilometres across the Straight of Georgia.  Purdy plays the trumpet, ukulele and is an amateur photographer.

Madison Jerhoff, current Environmental Sciences and Anthropology student

Madison Jerhoff is deeply committed to sharing her knowledge about the environment through mentorship and teaching. As an active volunteer, she works locally for Rehabilitation of the Brain Injured, has traveled to Ecuador to help build homes and volunteer at a local hospital. Jerhoff’s work in Thailand with abused and injured elephants inspired her to pursue a second major in Anthropology. She also visits Calgary schools where she delivers presentations on conservation efforts in Asia. Jerhoff is a champion box and field lacrosse player, and is an assistant coach with the Sabrecats Lacrosse Club.

Elliott Reichardt, current Health Sciences student

Elliott Reichardt is a founding member of the anti-tobacco advocacy organization, “Banding Against Menthol” and has met with media, interacted with government officials and presented nationally in a successful effort to ban menthol flavouring in Alberta tobacco products. Reichardt is an active volunteer at the Women's Resource Centre and has previously volunteered with ucalgarycares and the Mustard Seed; he has produced radio shows regarding the Syrian refugee crisis among other topics. Reichardt also serves as a soccer referee for Canadian Interuniversity Sport League. His current research investigates how inflammation mediates the development of brain tumors; in addition, he researches learning-disability diagnoses as they relate to self-understanding in university students.

Leah Schmidt, current International Relations and Women’s Studies student

Currently studying at American University in Washington, DC, on a Killam Fellowship from Fulbright Canada, Leah Schmidt is dedicated to human rights and the study of international relations. For three years, Schmidt was the coordinator for the Students’ Union Q Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity where she helped introduce the first gender inclusive washroom on campus and helped organize events, discussion groups, speaker series, panels and workshops on this topic, in addition to mentoring in-crisis LGBTQ+ students. Schmidt also served as president of the university’s model United Nations (UN) team, as the former undergraduate under-secretary general of the Department of Political Science's high school model UN conference, worked for Amnesty International USA and been a career peer advisor for Career Services, as well as competed internationally in Irish dance. 

James Thorogood, BSc in Mechanical Engineering 2016

James Thorogood is a mechanical engineering graduate who is passionate about water sustainability, food systems, and poverty reduction. During his undergraduate studies for a degree in mechanical engineering, Thorogood volunteered with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Canada. Thorogood engages in entrepreneurial initiatives at an international scale. Currently he is working with a start-up in Kenya to improve the livelihood of millions of smallholder dairy farmers who are entrenched in cycles of poverty. An accomplished songwriter, classically trained vocalist and violinist, Thorogood participates in rock climbing, squash and basketball.


The University of Calgary is a leading Canadian university located in the nation's most enterprising city. As we celebrate our 50th Anniversary in 2016-17, we are making tremendous progress on our journey to become one of Canada's top five research institutions, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university's Gaelic motto, which translates as 'I will lift up my eyes.’  For more information, visit