Alumna named Trudeau scholar
For Erin Aylward, it’s a “game changer.”
That’s the Faculty of Arts alumna’s reaction to being named a newly minted Trudeau Foundation Scholar.
“I was elated when I got the call and could feel the adrenaline just coursing through my body,” she said.
Ms. Aylward is one of 16 new scholars named by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation on June 9. The honour is one of Canada’s most lucrative scholarships. The three-year doctoral scholarship includes a $60,000 annual package, as well as a $20,000 travel and networking allowance.
It all adds up to an opportunity of a lifetime, says Ms. Aylward, who grew up in Mount Pearl and graduated from Memorial in 2010 with a bachelor of arts honours degree with a double major in political science (honours) and Spanish. She is currently completing a PhD in political science and gender and women’s studies at the University of Toronto.
“This scholarship is a game changer because of the possibilities it creates to do really good, rigorous research,” she said. “My research looks at lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) advocacy movements globally and particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over the past decade, we've seen inspiring gains as well as some frightening push-back against LGBTI rights in different contexts around the world and I'm interested in better understanding which factors influence local and global advocacy movements' likelihood of successfully advancing LGBTI rights.
“My research will be focused in Sub-Saharan Africa, and will probably involve drawing on a few country case studies,” she added. “I'll be in Zimbabwe for July to do some preliminary work in collaboration with an LGBTI organization based in Bulawayo.”
As a Trudeau Scholar, Ms. Aylward will collaborate with global mentors and activists as well as travel to Africa to complete extensive research. Ultimately, she says, she would like to better understand and influence policies close to her heart.
“It's incredible to have this kind of support to help ensure that my research does actually have impact outside of academia,” she said.
Solid Memorial education
Profoundly proud of her Memorial roots, Ms. Aylward volunteered with the United Nations Populations Fund, Oxfam Canada and several Latin American women’s rights organizations while completing her undergraduate studies. She also founded a non-governmental organization, the Global Citizenship Initiative.
In 2012 she created, funded and filled the position of gender advisor to Engineers Without Borders Canada. Based in Ghana, Ms. Aylward supported the organization in developing gender-sensitive policies and programming across four programs. She has worked with Oxfam Canada hosting a global delegation of LGBTQ activists from Cuba, Vietnam, Pakistan and Zimbabwe during WorldPride in Toronto, Ont.
Ms. Aylward credits the Faculty of Arts to helping her succeed as a student and researcher.
“Memorial University was absolutely critical to my success story in so many ways,” she said. “Memorial was also pivotal to my success because it provided me with so many opportunities to develop as a leader, a feminist and as a social justice advocate. The MUN Oxfam campus club helped build my understanding and analysis of social justice issues, and provided with so many leadership opportunities to take action.”
Ms. Aylward says she eager to continue her doctoral research in Africa.
Named as a living memorial to Canada’s former prime minister, The Trudeau Foundation has awarded 187 scholarships since 2003. More information about the foundation and its scholars is available online.