Ask Rebecca Hansen about her interest in marine life and you’ll realize it’s more of a lifelong passion than anything.
The Reynolds senior volunteered with the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre when she was 11, worked with Ocean Networks Canada and the Seaquaria in Schools project, and took a two-and-a-half-week trip to see sealife in Antarctica with 75 other students in Grade 10.
It’s no wonder she’s heading to the University of Victoria this fall to take marine biology, on a full ride from the Schulich Leader Scholarships. Hansen was selected as one of 50 recipients of the prestigious $60,000 Schulich scholarships – named after Canadian businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich – for high school seniors looking to go into STEM fields.
“Marine biology has been something I’ve always loved,” said Hansen. “I think I was seven when I first thought, ‘This is what I’m going into,’ and I’ve been really fortunate to have tons of opportunities of working in the field I want to go into.”
Hansen was one of nearly 1,500 nominees for the Schulich scholarships – 25 for engineering and 25 for science, technology and mathematics – which are offered at 21 universities across Canada. The submission process required a 600-word essay on why she should make a great Schulich Leader.
“Writing that essay came really naturally because I had all of these really amazing experiences in environmental sciences and biology,” said Hansen. “I wrote about my background in science, my background in leadership and community work, my passion for science and where that passion has led me.”
Hansen received the good news on April 1, and once she confirmed it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, the shock really set in.
“I had just gotten home from rowing and I saw the email – I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “It felt like everything was coming together, but I couldn’t really process it for awhile.
“In the back of my mind, it had always been the perfect scenario, getting to go to UVic. I’ve grown up seeing all of the amazing work they do here and it’s well known for having strong marine biology programs.”
Patricia Daniells, the scholarship support teacher at Reynolds, said Hansen’s involvement in environmental volunteerism and activism made marine biology an easy career choice, but noted she can pursue and excel at anything.
“Rebecca is a scientist at heart, but she’s in band, she’s in French immersion – I call her the left brain/right brain student,” said Daniells.
In addition to the scholarship money, Daniells said being a Schulich Leader will open Hansen up to a mentoring network of professors and research specialists who can help her in her studies at UVic.
“It’s a tremendous honour for a school to have a Schulich leader,” said Daniells. “It’s very challenging to be selected. We’re very proud of her.”