Trinity College students Grace Ma and Foti Vito are en route to their future legal careers thanks to the support of the McCall MacBain Scholarship program.
Grace Ma is among 20 Canadians chosen as inaugural McCall MacBain Scholars, a program that provides a fully-funded master’s or professional degree at McGill University and a mentorship and leadership development program.
In addition, promising candidates who distinguished themselves at regional interviews have been offered an entrance award for graduate studies at any public university in Canada. Foti Vito is among these award recipients.
“We are so proud of Grace Ma and Foti Vito – not only are they incredible individuals who have contributed to fostering a positive environment at Trinity, they exemplify the best of academic accomplishment, community service and leadership,” said Prof. Mayo Moran, Provost & Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College. “The world needs thoughtful committed leaders and it is excellent news that they will have this generous support to pursue the study of such critical issues as environmental sustainability and human rights at law school.”
For both Grace and Foti, they attribute their success to the ones around them and for their university experience that has provided opportunities to meaningfully grow as a person, thinker and leader (also see the Q&A section below to learn more about Grace and Foti).
“This scholarship means so much to me – it is not just ‘my’ scholarship, but rather that of family, friends, peers and educators who have supported me throughout my life and my undergraduate years, across the highs and lows that have brought me to this moment here. The brilliant and diverse spirit of individuals and communities at the University of Toronto have really helped shape me into the person that I am today,” said Grace, who will enter the Juris Doctor and Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL/JD) program at McGill University where she hopes to explore environmental rights and environmental protection through the lens of constitutional law, Indigenous legal traditions and international law. “I feel immensely grateful, humbled, and honoured to be selected as a McCall MacBain Scholar. I am really excited to get to know the other scholars better, and to work together towards positive change in our respective and shared communities.”
Foti also credits much of his accomplishments to his parents, loved ones, and close friends who have uplifted him throughout his undergraduate journey. “My undergraduate education at Trinity has helped me identify the challenges people face in accessing justice, and I aspire to successfully develop and advocate for creative solutions to these challenges in the next phase of my life,” Foti said. “I look forward to starting my legal education at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law this fall, where I aim to pursue my interests in international human rights and global access to justice.”
John McCall MacBain and his wife Dr. Marcy McCall MacBain created these scholarships through a historic $200 million gift to McGill University: “Through this scholarship program, scholars will have opportunities to deepen their knowledge, develop their leadership skills, and create meaningful connections that will enable them to bring about positive change. We want to congratulate these students and recognize the hundreds of candidates across Canada who were considered for this scholarship.”
Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Program: English and Environmental Science
Grace has pursued two passions – humanities and environmental science – throughout her undergraduate studies at Trinity. She has been involved with The Trinity Review for three years, most recently as editor-in-chief, and co-leads UTEA, a university-wide environmental action group. She also demonstrated a sustained commitment to teaching violin to youth as a volunteer with Musical Minds Community Outreach. During the summers, she worked as a trail analyst, tour guide, and Parks Canada outreach assistant in her hometown.
Trinity College (TC): How did you get interested in environmental science?
Grace Ma (GM): My interest in environmental science was sparked by a research trip to northern Manitoba in the summer before my Grade 12 year. For two weeks, I studied permafrost and vegetation dynamics as part of the International Student-led Arctic Monitoring and Research (ISAMR), a coalition of students and educators from Winnipeg, Baltimore, and Churchill involved in long-term research of various aspects of tundra ecosystems. It was very easy to fall in love with the tundra – its infinite horizon, the wildlife, the ripe cloudberries we would snack on – and I also really enjoyed working with my peers as we measured permafrost, identified vegetation, and attempted to make sense of our data. Notably, we were trying to determine how permafrost and vegetation dynamics would change with the advent of increasing fires due by global warming. It is incredible to think how those two weeks significantly influenced the course of my life. Before ISAMR, I was a humanities kid through-and-through, but this trip taught me that scientific research could be creative and engaging—from then on I was quite determined to study environmental science in university.
TC: Why did you want to be a Community Advisor (CA) and how did you find the role this year?
GM: One of the main reasons why I wanted to become a CA is because my first-year Don, Ozlem, had an incredibly positive and reassuring influence on me, and I hoped to provide the same care and warmth to other students. Upon joining the CA team, I have also loved meeting the other CAs and Dons, who are all wonderful people and so easy to get along with.
The most reward aspect of being a CA is being able to directly support and help students, whether that is through a long conversation or preparing a fun and relaxing event. However, I have also found it quite difficult at times, especially given the circumstances of this year, to create and nurture community. If I could take on the role again I would certainly try to improve upon different aspects; luckily there are many layers of support (Dons, Heads, etc.) at Trinity, so it is never question of one person bearing the entire responsibility.
TC: What are your favourite Trinity memories?
GM: I have many favourite, and certainly salient, memories of Trinity. I will greatly miss conversations with friends and dining hall staff in Strachan, warm and sunny afternoons in the Quad, and studying under the yellow light of Graham Library. I will also miss the countless hours spent in friends’ rooms, talking about everything and nothing. Now that I think back, another favourite memory is giving some impromptu tours of the College to visitors (pre-pandemic). Once, I gave a tour to a couple from Brazil – later we connected on Facebook and they sent me a selfie the three of us took in the Quad!
TC: Who has helped you in your undergrad journey?
GM: There are too many to name; I am sure most know who they are. I feel very lucky and grateful for all the support I have received throughout my undergraduate years. Thank you to my friends who I have been able to share memories and laughter with through the always changing seasons; my professors and TAs for creating intellectual spaces to grow as an academic and practical thinker; the CAs, Dons, and staff at Trinity for making Trinity my home away from home for four years; everyone in the clubs and student organizations I have been a part of for showing me the strength of community; and as ever, my family, who were always only one call away.
TC: What do you look forward to the most about moving to Montreal and studying law at McGill?
GM: I am really looking forward to becoming a bit of a “Francophone” again – I grew up in Montreal and when I moved to Winnipeg I was very involved with the Francophone-Manitoban community. So, I am looking forward to speak more French, and to also see my family friends and childhood friends! I am also excited (and nervous) to start my classes at McGill Law, meet my peers, and try to make sense of both common law and civil law. And concerts. I really hope I will be able to attend concerts soon; there are a lot of Montreal-based bands that I admire, and I am impatient to see the Orchestra symphonique de Montréal live!
TC: Any words of advice for current students?
GM: The academic, extracurricular and professional opportunities at Trinity and U of T are really numerous. I think that as an undergrad, I often created a very narrow vision of what would be right and ‘best’ for me to do, and I would generate a lot of anxiety for myself by imagining not meeting those very selective goals (i.e. not getting into this specific club in this specific year; not achieving this mark for this class). Now that I look back, I realize that if some of those paths had not worked out, I would have been totally okay, I would have put my energy into something else. I know this may be hard to believe in the moment, but I hope this type of advice may help students cultivate some reassurance and confidence.
>> Grace speaks with Marie-Gabrielle Ménard from CBC Radio-Canada about the scholarship: Une Manitobaine reçoit la bourse McCall MacBain de l’Université McGill
Hometown: Tirana, Albania / Toronto, Ontario
Program: Double major in International Relations and Political Science with a minor in European Union Studies
Foti has focused on building community throughout his undergraduate years. As a three-term Executive of the Arts & Science Students’ Union and a former Co-Head of Non-Resident Affairs, his leadership has positively impacted the experiences of his peers. He was recently recognized for his many contributions as a recipient of the Trinity College Chancellor William C. Graham Award 2020 – for his commitment to improving the spirit of caring and fostering a positive environment in the Trinity community – and the U of T Student Leadership Award 2021, which recognizes graduating students for outstanding student leadership, service and commitment to the university. As a Trinity College Academic Peer Advisor this year, he has helped fellow students navigate the various social science programs at U of T. Along with his community involvement, he is incredibly grateful and honoured to be a recipient of the Nelson Mandela Award 2021 (University of Toronto), the Buscombe Award 2021 (Trinity College) and the Robert H. Catherwood Scholarship 2020 (Trinity College).
Trinity College (TC): What drew you to study International Relations and Political Science?
Foti Vito (FV): As an Albanian immigrant to Canada, I have always been intellectually curious and passionate about global citizenship. The stark contrast in opportunities afforded to citizens in Albania and Canada inspired my interest in pursuing an education where I can advance positive change on a global scale. This informed my undergraduate studies in International Relations, Political Science and European Union Studies as I knew these programs combined could help me develop the tools and confidence to begin tackling complex problems of global significance. Having studied peacebuilding abroad in Kosovo and conducted fieldwork on the rule of law in Georgia, I am grateful to have developed a global education through the opportunities provided by my programs of study.
TC: Would you like to thank any professors who have guided your undergrad journey and academic interests?
FV: I owe special thanks to Professor Robert Austin, whose guidance and continual support has significantly impacted my education, and Professor David Wright, who helped me re-affirm my interests in global affairs from my first year to my fourth year.
TC: Best lesson you learned this past year that you will continue post-pandemic?
FV: This past year has taught me the importance of cultivating kindness for yourself and others. This can take on different forms for different people, but for me it includes taking more breaks and spending time with my loved ones.
TC: What are your favourite Trinity memories?
FV: I made some of my fondest memories and closest friendships at Trinity, and I will never forget the amazing time I had serving as a Co-Head of Non-Resident Affairs (2019-2020). I will miss the Non-Resident Affairs Committee (NRAC) and commuter community the most, where I was fortunate to find an immediate sense of belonging as soon as I arrived at Trinity. Being able to help other Trinity students find a sense of belonging as a Student Head will always serve as one of the highlights of my time here.
TC: Any words of advice for current students?
FV: It is important to remember that you are running your own race, which means it is absolutely okay if your journey looks different from others. What matters is running your race with integrity and focusing on your passions and goals.