North America's most innovative scholarship program launched at McGill


Adapted from an article by Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins, University Relations Office

Yael Hartmann wants to be prime minister of Israel. Daniela Bartosova aspires to be Slovakia's minister of communications. Sound like ambitious Baby Boomers? Think again.

Hartmann and Bartosova are among the 14 young overachievers - each under 30, each with a communications background, each at the cusp of something big in their careers - selected among 140 applicants to be McGill's first Sauvé Scholars. The students, from as near as Canada and as far away as China, arrived this fall to embark on one of the continent's most unique scholarly initiatives.

In a Canadian first, Sauvé Scholars are given open-door access to all courses and programs at McGill. Sauvé Scholars don't write exams, nor do they earn academic credit. The free-thinkers are invited to McGill for nine months to research, question and enlarge their understanding of the world and how to effect positive change. McGill will allow qualified scholars an opportunity to also register as master's or doctoral students if they wish.

Each scholarship is worth about $30,000 Canadian, which covers tuition, meals, mobile phones, group excursions and stipends of $1,000 per month. All scholars live ensemble at Sauvé House, a four-floor mansion on Dr. Penfield Ave. There, residents sleep in individual lofts, which include private bathrooms, internet hook-up and weekly housekeeping. Scholars also have access to libraries and study rooms, as well as a digital video editing suite.

"I don't know of any other live-in scholarship program in the world that resembles this," says Harry Parnass, president of the Sauvé Scholars Foundation, which was created and funded by the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation. "For the first time in their lives, these talented young people don't have to worry about bosses, exams, expenses or chores. They can devote 100 percent of their time to self development, with the long-term goal of making a difference in the world."

Generous support
The Sauvé Scholars Foundation was established through an initiative of the late Jeanne Sauvé, a pioneering journalist and politician, first female Governor General of Canada, first female Speaker of the House of Commons, first female Member of Parliament from Quebec to be a cabinet minister.

"McGill was a natural choice as a partner in the Sauvé Scholars program," says Jean-François Sauvé, president of the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation. "McGill has a great choice of course offerings and the institution is well equipped to accommodate international students. Moreover, the University has a stellar reputation around the world."

"McGill is extremely pleased to have been selected as the host University for the Sauvé Scholars program," says McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum. "Being associated with a program as unique as the Sauvé Scholars helps us to remain competitive and to continue attracting top students the world over."

New home for new program
Sauvé House is a historic 1905 mansion that was purchased last spring to shelter its new scholars. The home, gutted to accommodate offices in another incarnation, was completely restored under the supervision of Parnass, an architect who's designed such projects as Miami's Le Fountainbleau hotel. The centrepiece of the home is its communal kitchen, planned to be a gathering place where students of different cultures can meet and mingle over shared meals.

Sauvé Scholars also share the University's intellectual resources. Each is assigned one McGill mentor. Hartmann, for instance, studies with McGill History Professor Gil Troy, while Bartosova is tutored by Communications Studies Professor Will Straw. What's more, scholars are given access to media moguls who visit Sauvé House. One recent visitor included Robert Lantos, a McGill alumnus and co-founder of Toronto-based Alliance-Atlantis Communications. "The achievements of our scholars attract these people like bees to honey," says Parnass.

The scholars, for their part, applied to this unique opportunity to stretch themselves personally and professionally. Hartmann recently worked as spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces and continues to be a reporter for the Jerusalem Post. As a Sauvé Scholar, she aims to write a book, sharpen her political savvy in Middle Eastern conflict resolution and learn Arabic. All this prepare to become Israel's prime minister.

"It might sound arrogant," she chuckles. "Yet it's not. It's a terrible job that nobody wants because everybody hates you." Why her? "I can bring something different to the job," she continues. "I have an agenda: to think outside of the box."

Fierce ambition among Sauvé Scholars is what Parnass finds most thrilling. "These scholars are change agents," he beams. "I'm so happy with this first group that my feet don't even touch the ground."