Shiva Mazrouei-Seidani
Shiva Mazrouei-Seidani, during her internship with Children of Bududa.

Learning beyond the classroom

When you think back on your university experience, you probably remember classrooms, desks and laboratories. For today’s McGill students, however, on-campus learning is just one part of an education that can include a wide range of real-world experiences, from building safe water purification systems for needy communities in India, to helping Ghanaian women who are victims of violence transform their lives, to promoting exercise among people with autism and developmental disorders just steps from campus in Montreal.

Last summer, Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies student Shiva Mazrouei-Seidani travelled to Eastern Uganda to work with Children of Bududa, a child-sponsorship program. “My job consisted of visiting the children’s homes, assessing their living situations and making suggestions for improvements,” Mazrouei-Seidani says.

Her experience was made possible through the Arts Internship Program, which allowed over 200 students to work with organizations in their fields of study in 47 countries and on four continents last year alone. Many of those internships, Mazrouei-Seidani’s among them, were supported through philanthropy.

“The internship gave me a much stronger connection to what I am studying and exactly why I am studying it,” says Mazrouei-Seidani, recipient of the David Tarr and Gisele Chèvrefils Arts Internship Award. “It further fuelled my passion for helping others, because it puts faces, names and stories to the situations I hope to help with in my future career.”

In the Faculty of Engineering and the Desautels Faculty of Management, the Rio Tinto-Richard Evans International Exchange Awards, created by Rio Tinto Alcan and named in honour of former company president Richard Evans, take students into the heart of different cultures through international exchanges, internships and research projects.

Students at Macdonald Campus are benefitting from Campaign support as well. Marc Bieler, DipAgr’58, BA’64, also known as Quebec’s “Cranberry King” and a stalwart McGill benefactor, gave $1 million to create an internship office for students to gain experience in the workplace and in the field – in some cases, literally.

The internships “can either help students narrow down what they want to study, or tell them, ‘Okay, I definitely don’t want to do that!’” explains Internship Officer Lindsay O’Connell, BA’05. In three years, O’Connell has placed 100 students in internships. “The numbers double and double and double from one summer to the next,” she says. Some students even go on to work full-time at the company where they intern, she added.

Bieler’s intent was to help students gain a foothold in the workforce. “It’s important for McGill to forge ties with Canadian and especially Quebec enterprises and for students to get involved with companies that are here,” he says.

From Mascouche to Mali, and from the farm to the boardroom, philanthropists are helping introduce McGill’s talented students to the world, while bringing the world to our campuses.