Collage of three different photos: Will Kwan (left), Haleema Khan (middle), Danny McInnis (right)
Will Kwan, Haleema Khan and Danny McInnis. Photo by (Haleema) Natalia Dolan

Canada’s Next Innovation Leaders

The Schulich Leader Scholarships support talented science undergrads who are interested in entrepreneurship

Established a decade ago, the Schulich Leader Scholarships have enabled hundreds of Canada’s top students to earn a university degree in the sciences and math – with their tuition fully covered.

Recipients say the scholarship allows them to take risks and pursue opportunities they might not have otherwise considered. “Because the award alleviated the financial burden of paying for school, it let me try different things,” says Schulich Leader Danny McInnis (BASc 2020). “That has been instrumental in my learning.”

Founded by businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich, the scholarships are awarded annually to as many as 100 university students across Canada who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs; last year, 10 University of Toronto students received them.1 Science and math students receive $80,000 over four years; engineering students receive $100,000. All recipients gain lifetime membership in the Schulich Leaders Network.

The entrepreneurial coder

Will Kwan (BSc 2016 Trinity) was one of U of T’s first Schulich Leaders. A computer science student, he created a video game in the summer before fourth year. Knowing that the Schulich Leader Scholarship would cover his tuition, Kwan says he was able to channel his time and energy into his game, Frantic Architect, which hundreds of thousands of people eventually downloaded from the Apple app store.

Since then, Kwan, now a machine-learning engineer at Google, has established three tech startups. “The important thing about entrepreneurship is to try lots of stuff,” he says. “That’s why having a scholarship really helps. If you’re not too worried about making money in the short-term, you can try riskier things.”

Supporting women in science

The Schulich Leader Scholarship gave Haleema Khan (BSc 2020 Victoria) the opportunity to conduct research with some of the university’s top scholars in neuroscience and psychology. Now pursuing a master’s degree in biomedical engineering at McGill University, she is developing a new type of highly accurate, rapid DNA test for bacteria and viruses that could expand access to high-quality testing in remote and low-resource communities.

But perhaps just as importantly, the Schulich Leader Scholarship elevated Khan’s sense of her own capabilities: “It transformed how I valued myself.” Now, she hopes to extend that support to others. As vice-president, communication, of the Society of Women Engineers at McGill, she advocates for women and other underrepresented groups in the sciences.

David Goodman, the executive director of the Schulich Leader Scholarships, says McInnis, Kwan and Khan, as well as the hundreds of other members of the Schulich Leaders Network, will help generate the technology innovations that Canada needs to compete globally. “Good leadership matters,” he says.

Khan agrees: “I can’t wait to see what we accomplish in the next 10 years.”

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