Nov. 27, 2023

Queen Elizabeth Scholarship program concludes after 4 successful years

Scholars reflect on experiences and inspirations gained from involvement in international internships
Mary Elizabeth Smales at the University for Peace during internship.

Mary Elizabeth Smales at the University for Peace during internship.

The Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships (QES) fosters a vibrant global network of young leaders, facilitating impactful cross-cultural exchanges that leave lasting impressions both domestically and internationally. UCalgary International has worked in collaboration with various units across the campus and multiple global partner institutions to carry out four QES projects.

One of these projects is the Young Leaders in International Development (YLID) initiative, which started in 2018 and is set to conclude this year.

The project aimed at strengthening emerging leaders' capacity to become agents of change able to contribute to solving complex global development issues. Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the uncertain international mobility environment during most of its implementation, the project is on track for successful completion.

It awarded scholarships to 26 UCalgary students to pursue internships in Costa Rica (University for Peace), Ethiopia (Bahir Dar University), Kenya (Aga Khan University), and Uganda (Mbarara University of Science and Technology). Additionally, four graduate students from partner institutions undertook research placements on our campus.

"I have had the privilege of witnessing the positive impact that QES projects have had on students and researchers over the years, and how it has contributed towards shaping their academic and professional future," says Anayancy Solis, former senior international projects team lead who managed QES at UCalgary International. 

Mary Elizabeth Smales picking coffee cherries at a coffee farm, picking basket tied to her body.

Mary Elizabeth Smales picks coffee cherries at a coffee farm at Hacienda Alsacia, Alajuela, Costa Rica. The picking basket is tied to her body.

"By stepping out of their comfort zone to experience a new country and culture, students have returned from their assignments with enriched knowledge in their fields, broader perspective on global issues and innovative solutions, enhanced intercultural capacity and professional networks that span the globe."

Mary Elizabeth Smales, Bachelor of Arts, International Relations with a minor in Global Development Studies, was one of the 11 UCalgary students who completed a QES internship with the University for Peace in Costa Rica. She worked as a research assistant in 2022 with the Chair on Countering Illicit Trade and Preventing Transnational Organized Crime conducting in-depth research and analysis on the formulation of the UN Convention on Cybercrime and the positions of states and stakeholders.

"UPeace is small but incredibly diverse" says Smales of the experience. "The student population is from more than 45 countries. Costa Rica is an amazing country; not only is the land beautiful, but the culture is so lively, and the people are genuinely caring and always want to help.

"I had the chance to travel many times on my weekends off, seeing much wildlife, beaches, volcanoes, and hot springs. Working in a different culture has expanded the way I think and how I tackle issues in the workplace and everyday life.

"Living abroad significantly expanded my worldview, intercultural competencies, and overall independence. I was forced to make decisions on my own by using my instincts and personal experiences to overcome obstacles presented to me. This program experience has notably contributed to the passion behind my academic pursuits and my career goals."

Denisse Maria Soto on a trip to Banff during Canada Day.

Denisse Maria Soto on a trip to Banff during Canada Day.

Denisse Maria Soto, an incoming QES scholar from the University for Peace in Costa Rica pursuing her master's in conflict resolution, peace, and development, says her experience as a QES scholar was exceptionally enriching. The opportunity provided her with valuable learnings and posed significant challenges.

“Engaging with people from various parts of the world and interacting with them to share knowledge represented a unique opportunity for growth, both personally and professionally."

Denisse Maria Soto attend Sikh Awareness Day at McEwan Center.

Denisse Maria Soto attend Sikh Awareness Day at McEwan Center.

"My involvement in comparative politics courses, overseen by my supervisor and other esteemed professors, significantly enhanced my understanding of topics within my field of study. Furthermore, it provided me with the opportunity to share the outcomes of my research and offer insights into the history of my country, along with my personal experiences related to political conflicts. This contribution not only enriched my academic education but also added a distinctive dimension to my scholarly development.”

Soto adds: “Professor Pablo Policzer's mentorship played a pivotal role in the evolution of my analytical prowess. Under his guidance, I was encouraged to transcend conventional paradigms and delve into more innovative approaches to the subject matter.

“As a direct outcome of his mentorship, I have developed a robust and forward-thinking proposal aimed at addressing conflicts and facilitating peacebuilding. This proposal extends beyond the mere concepts of adaptability and transformability, venturing into the realm of transitional capacities as an integral part of building resilience.”

“It’s been wonderful to host and supervise Denisse during her stay in Calgary, says Dr. Policzer, PhD. “She’s working on the problem of resiliency in the Colombian peace process, using insights from complex adaptive systems theories. In Calgary she has received feedback and accessed resources she wouldn’t otherwise have had through her home institution, enriching her work.

Denisse Maria Soto visits Drumheller.

Denisse Maria Soto visits Drumheller.

"At the same time, she has also shared her extensive knowledge with fellow graduate students as well as with undergraduates as a guest speaker in a couple of classes, benefiting them. She has been the ideal kind of visiting student.”

Sylvia Leon Koberg, Project Management Office at The University for Peace says, “The program helped to increase diversity that enriched the educational experience for all UPeacers, exposing them to new perspectives and ideas. QES internships provide opportunities for students to participate in research that can bring fresh perspectives and new ideas to ongoing initiatives ultimately contributing to the advancement of knowledge in various fields.

"The QES program fostered the partnership between UCalgary and UPeace that has led to new forms of collaboration and opportunities to further student exchanges. By participating in the QES program, both universities demonstrate their commitment to global engagement and knowledge exchange.”

UCalgary’s Global Engagement Plan aims to increase diversity of the campus community, improve global and intercultural capacity within our campus communities, and enhance global partnerships. Visit the UCalgary International website to explore other international opportunities for students, faculty and staff.

Administered in partnership with Universities Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation (RHF), Community Foundations of Canada (CFC), and Canadian universities, the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship (QES) program operates through a unique collaborative framework. Its success is made possible through generous financial support from the Government of Canada, provincial governments, and contributions from the private sector.

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