Nov. 27, 2019

Two UCalgary students become Rhodes Scholars

Manpreet Deol and Emily Boucher the 17th and 18th scholars to date for university
Emily Boucher and Manpreet Deol
Emily Boucher and Manpreet Deol

The University of Calgary has not only one, but two Rhodes Scholars heading to the University of Oxford.

Fourth-year Schulich School of Engineering student Manpreet Deol and first-year Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) student Emily Boucher secured two of the three spots for students from the prairies. They will join nine other Canadian scholars at the University of Oxford next fall. Both have been part of Scholars Academy, a UCalgary program designed to extend the potential of high-achieving students.

“A heartfelt congratulations to Emily and Manpreet on this exceptional accomplishment,” says President Ed McCauley. “In addition to their outstanding academic achievements, both of these students have dedicated themselves to lifting up others and improving quality of life. I am excited to see them continue to excel as Rhodes Scholars, and I am confident they will represent UCalgary with distinction wherever their journeys take them.” 

The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest and perhaps most prestigious international scholarship program, enabling outstanding young people from around the world to study at the University of Oxford.

Manpreet Deol is a recipient of the Schulich Leaders scholarship and is in her final year of mechanical and biomedical engineering. Inspired by her younger brother, Deol has a passion for innovation and how it can help individuals with learning disabilities. From a young age, she has been fascinated with the role that language and technology play in enabling humans to communicate. To that end, Deol intends to pursue a Master of Science in applied linguistics and a Master of Science in computer science.

“Technology has been criticized for isolating individuals, but I want to use it to empower and connect,” she says. “Helping someone find their voice is one of the biggest gifts you can give.”

Attending Oxford will be a continuation of the work she has already been doing. Deol launched an online platform to give individuals with disabilities a safe place to connect. She spent a year as an intern with Garmin as part of their innovation team – creating fitness wearables to allow people to take control of their health. She also took part in the Shad Canada program and has competed in national and international engineering competitions.

Deol also has a strong sense of community and has mentored other students through the Women in Science and Engineering Club, the Special Olympics and Best Buddies. Giving back is another passion of hers and one she hopes to continue to pursue with the help of her Rhodes Scholarship.

“Mentorship has been critical in helping me realize my potential,” says Deol. “Seva is a concept in Sikhism that means to give back. I want to use (this scholarship) as a way to give back, mitigate human struggle, serve the community and be the role model I didn’t have growing up.”

Deol says she is grateful for all the support she has received. “I share this honour with everyone in my life who’s helped me — my parents, my siblings, my teachers and my mentors,” she says, noting the support from the UCalgary community. “It’s allowed me to be creative and define what innovation means to me outside the classroom, and that’s empathizing with humans first.”

“On behalf of the engineering faculty, I want to congratulate Manpreet on this remarkable achievement,” says Dr. Anders Nygren, PhD, acting dean of the Schulich School of Engineering. “From her many academic accomplishments to her drive as an entrepreneur, Manpreet is showing us how engineering innovation can make a positive difference in the world.”

Emily Boucher is in the first year of a three-year MD program at the CSM. She completed her Bachelor of Health Sciences (Hon.) in June. Boucher has been an avid researcher since high school when she first came across peer-reviewed journals. She has sought to combine her love of research with hands-on experience and, as a result, has worked with two distinguished researchers in the CSM and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

“Without that mentorship early on, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get involved in research,” says Boucher. “My mentors have helped me to change my thinking and explore new ideas and interests. Mentorship has been important in getting me here.”

Through her practical research and volunteer experience, Boucher has come to want to serve and address gaps in research, medical education and policy for an often-marginalized group — older adults. As a result, Boucher plans to pursue a DPhil in Population Health at Oxford and complete her MD program when she returns to Canada.

“It means a lot to me to get that high-level training and be part of a community that wants to make these changes,” Boucher says. “I’ll also get to bring what I learn back to Calgary, my home.”

She has championed this population and other vulnerable populations through her volunteer work through organizations such as the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association. She is also the co-founder of a non-profit called the Campus Community Closet – which provides students access to free clothes, toiletries and school supplies – and has set it up for financial sustainability through a textile recycling program.

For Boucher, applying for this scholarship highlighted how supported she has felt at UCalgary.

“I’ve realized how tight-knit the UCalgary community is and how willing people are to support your goals and ideas,” she says.

“Already published in a peer-reviewed journal and a Bachelor of Health Sciences valedictorian, Emily is a shining example of how the Cumming School of Medicine is creating the future of medicine,” says Dr. Jon Meddings, dean. “Congratulations Emily on a remarkable achievement that speaks to your exceptional work ethic, determination and intelligence.”

The University of Calgary has 18 successful scholars to date, including Boucher and Deol. The first Canadian Rhodes Scholars took up residence at Oxford in 1904.