Leikuan Rongdao Lai is a Buddhist monastic, PhD candidate and lecturer in Buddhist Studies at McGill.Photo: Allen McInnis
Much like the TV show Cheers, the Faculty of Religious Studies is a tight-knit place where, quite literally, everybody knows your name.
“This is a great community,” says Ian Henderson, a Religious Studies professor who volunteers his time with McGill’s Campus Community Committee. “Our professors and staff truly care about each other and our students.” Professor Henderson and his colleagues have put their heads together and generated their own grassroots fundraising project: the Religious Studies Student Dissertation Fund, which will raise money to assist doctoral students.
“The reality,” Henderson explains, “is we ask our students to do quite a lot, which means they don’t have time for outside employment. As a result, most of them are living very lean by the time they complete their PhD.” Currently, only 13 out of the 80 doctoral students in the Faculty have four-year entrance fellowships and few, if any, receive financial support during the final stages of their dissertation research.
“What’s wonderful about the Campus Community Committee is we aren’t asking you to donate to vague, abstract concepts,” says Henderson. “We are McGill people asking other McGill people to believe in what we do together as a community and a university.”