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Yael Hartmann wants to be Prime Minister of Israel. Daniella Bartosova aspires to be communications minister of Slovakia.
Sound like ambitious baby boomers? Think again.
Hartmann and Bartosova are among the 14 overachievers -- each under 30, each with a communications background, each at the cusp of their careers -- selected from 140 applicants to be McGill's first Sauvé Scholars. The students, hailing from Canada to China, arrived this fall to debut one of the continent's most unique scholarly initiatives.
"I don't know of any other scholarship program in the world that resembles this," says Harry Parnass, president of the Sauvé Scholars Foundation, which was created by the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation.
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 were invited to McGill for nine months to research, question and enlarge their understanding of the world and how to affect positive change. "We selected scholars with a fresh vision," says Parnass. "These kids are full of piss and vinegar."
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 together at Sauvé House, a gorgeous four-floor mansion on Dr. Penfield Ave. The home, built in 1905, was completely revamped under the supervision of Parnass, an architect who has helped create such hotels as Miami's Fontainebleau. The home's centrepiece is its communal kitchen, designed to be a gathering place where students of different cultures can meet and mingle over shared meals.
Residents sleep in comfy quarters, which include private bathrooms, internet hook up and weekly housekeeping. Scholars also have access to sun-filled libraries and study rooms, as well as a digital video editing suite.
"You and I certainly didn't go to school under these conditions," chuckles Parnass. "For the first time in their lives, Sauvé Scholars 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 the world."
The Sauvé Scholars Foundation was established through an initiative by the late Jeanne Sauvé, a pioneering journalist and politician. "McGill was a natural choice as a partner in the Sauvé Scholars program," says Jean-François Sauvé, president of the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation. "The university 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."
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 from the world over."
During their time at McGill, scholars are expected to put their work on www.sauvescholars.org to grow professionally. Mentors are provided to help spawn personal development. Hartmann is being tutored by history professor Gil Troy, for instance, while Bartosova is being counselled by communications professor Will Straw.
And the entire group gets to pick the brains of media moguls who visit Sauvé House, including Robert Lantos, McGill alumnus and co-founder of Toronto-based Alliance Atlantis Communications. "The achievements of our scholars attract these people," says Parnass. "It's like bees to honey."
James Wright, director of the Sauvé Scholars Foundation and a member of McGill's Board of Governors, didn't need much convincing to join the initiative. "Not only was this a marvellous opportunity to help establish a foundation," he says, "but I get to bring 14 absolutely talented people to McGill and to Montreal.
"I'm having so much fun!"
The scholars, for their part, applied in order to stretch themselves personally and professionally. Hartmann, a Canadian by birth, recently worked as spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces and continues to be a reporter for the Jerusalem Post.
She aims to write a book, sharpen her political savvy in Middle Eastern conflict resolution and learn Arabic during her scholarship. She's matter-of-fact when revealing her ultimate objective —becoming Israel's prime minister.
"It might sound arrogant," she laughs. "But 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."
Bartosova, a Slovakian native who's worked as a communications professor and reporter, applied to be Sauvé Scholar to draft a communications plan for her homeland. She aims to be a world-class specialist on global public communications and new media policy.
Her goal? "I want to be Slovakia's communications policy minister," she says. "I want to do something for society -- not just for me."
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."
For more information on the Sauvé Scholarships, please consult www.sauvescholars.org.
Saman Ahsan, a McGill anthropology graduate, is originally from Pakistan. She worked as national coordinator of the Girl Child Project, a group that advocates for adolescent girls' rights in Pakistan. Ahsan helped build the organization to 500 locations and has addressed the United Nations General Assembly on its Special Session on Children.
In-Hyeok Hwang is a journalist with Maeil Business Newspaper, Korea's most influential daily. His input on economics helped influence national policy and he's earned four Best Exclusive News Awards for his scoops.
Sherry Lee reported for Commonwealth Magazine, Taiwan's most prestigious business journal. She has co-authored three books on human capital and written extensively on the women's movement, knowledge revolution, digital learning and internet.
Steve Li, from China, worked as an ad agency executive and intends to complete a PhD in literature and media culture. He has also co-authored a book on brand-building.
Sandra Lizardo, from Peru, is a specialist in development communications. She worked at the Institute of Law Defense, Peru's most important human rights NGO, as well as with UNICEF (designing and managing surveys).
Ta Bao Long, from Vietnam, was a senior editor, national news, for his homeland's English newspaper. His goal is to improve human rights awareness through journalism.
Meriem Maza, originally from Algeria, is a biochemist and microbiologist, but recently worked at an NGO teaching children. She was a correspondent and host for many TV productions from France and Algeria.
Malcolm Moore, of England, was a financial reporter with the Daily Telegraph. Born in Singapore, he has travelled extensively. His main field of interest is energy and its role in shaping the world.
Readith Muliyanda was a business reporter with the Times of Zambia, the country's largest daily. Her goal? "To be the mirror and defender of the voiceless in our society."
Ana Nov, from Cambodia, was an executive in media relations and reported for The Cambodia Daily. She hopes to work with media in her homeland for everything from reducing violence to instilling basic human rights.
Adam Sharon, a Toronto native, earned a BA from McGill before moving to Washington, D.C. He was a White House correspondent for Talk Radio News Service, a television reporter for "Fox News" and he covers Middle Eastern politics for the Jerusalem Post.
Paul Shore, born in Maryland, was raised in Montreal. He's currently Canada's Bureau Chief for Guerrilla News Network. Shore is a volunteer videographer for Peter Gabriel's Witness Foundation, gives video production workshops and teaches media literacy to high school students.