Why Giving Matters


May 28, 2018

Anna Zarzycki was able to come to McGill to study physiology thanks to the Best in the West program

It has been 10 years since Dr. Richard and Carolina Walls, along with other generous alumni donors and friends, helped McGill launch its Best in the West Student Awards program to support students from British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan to come study here. Since then more than 230 recipients have benefited from Best in the West scholarships and bursaries and have helped to strengthen McGill’s historic ties to Western Canada. Recipients include Anna Zarzycki and Taylor Salisbury, who explain below how the support enabled them to pursue their academic aspirations.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of its Best in the West Student Awards program, McGill is hosting star-studded panel discussions in Vancouver and Calgary in June 2018, to examine challenges in the quest for knowledge about our universe and beyond.


Anna Zarzycki came to McGill from Calgary specifically to enter the honours program in Physiology.

“I want to know how the body works, and why it works, and the physics and the math and chemistry behind that,” she says. “The versatility of McGill’s program made it the perfect blend of what I was interested in.”

Currently in her first year of undergraduate studies, Zarzycki is excited about beginning her major in physiology next year. “I like to push my limits to see what I can do. The courses you take in third and fourth year Physiology are different from any other biomedical program I considered,” she says. “The history of academia is built into the stones of this campus, so having been admitted to this amazing program, ranked among the best in the world, is amazing. This is my school!”

Zarzycki arrived in Montreal in August 2017 with her arm in a sling, recuperating from a shoulder injury, but that didn’t stop her from training with McGill’s alpine ski team in her first semester. “I wasn’t cleared to race, which was a letdown because I expected to be physically capable of representing McGill in competitions. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to do so,” she says.

Her injury meant Zarzycki had more time to work with the Royal Victoria College residence council, where she serves as a floor representative. “In high school I did a lot of work with peer support and peer mentoring, and I was involved in Cadets, where I took a leadership and challenge course. I’d like to continue with these kinds of activities, and McGill gives you lots of opportunities to get very deeply involved,” she notes. For instance, “MedLife McGill sends students to mobile health clinics in developing countries, and I really hope I can one day take part in a mission like that.”

She is also finding Montreal an intriguing mix of culture and diversity, with a surprisingly familiar touch.

“When I first arrived my father and I walked around the city looking at the wonderful architecture, a blend of European and Canadian,” she says. “My parents immigrated from Poland, and Montreal reminds me a bit of Poland, so it seems like home to me.”

But she might not be at McGill without the support of the Best in the West program.

“I knew this is where I wanted to be, where I wanted to start my future, but it was really difficult,” she recalls. “I had my surgery, and other expenses start to crawl up.”

“I remember the day I received news of the scholarship: it was amazing because I had been feeling a lot of doubt and was wondering what would happen if I couldn’t afford McGill, as I had basically eliminated other options. To get this scholarship, to be ‘the best in the west,’ with someone taking a chance on you even though they don’t know you, is very humbling and very inspiring.”


“It was an incredible honour to receive the Best in the West scholarship during my time at McGill and it helped me immensely in being able to pursue my academic and career goals. The opportunity to live and study in Montreal, represent my university in women’s ice hockey, and complete my Bachelor of Science degree in Anatomy and Cell Biology is something I am truly grateful for and the Best in the West scholarship helped make that possible.

“Since graduating from McGill University five years ago, I have worked my way through medical school in British Columbia and am looking forward to an exciting new residency in Anatomical Pathology. I believe my experiences at McGill helped me grow immensely as a person and prepared me well for a challenging career path.”

Learn more about supporting the Best in the West Student Awards program.