Air and Space Law students to get Boeing boost

Air and Space Law students to get Boeing boost McGill University

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McGill Reporter
February 21, 2008 - Volume 40 Number 12
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 40: 2007-2008 > February 21, 2008 > Air and Space Law students to get Boeing boost

Air and Space Law students get Boeing boost

On Feb. 8, McGill's Institute of Air and Space Law (IASL) officially received some welcome support in the form of a $500,000 gift from Boeing Aerospace and the launch of the Boeing Initiative in Air and Space Law. The gift represents the most important investment Boeing has ever made in a law school.

The money will go to Boeing Fellowships, to be awarded annually on the basis of academic merit to outstanding graduate students in the Master's or Doctoral program at the IASL. In fact, Boeing's only condition was that a majority of the money go directly to students. Another portion of the gift is set aside to support the Boeing Educational Outreach Program which will allow the IASL to conduct educational programs in underdeveloped parts of the world, the first of which will be held in New Delhi in April 2008.

At the announcement, Dean of Law Nicholas Kasirer was all smiles. "Boeing's gesture is a gift to not just to McGill Law but to Canada," he said, "and an expression of confidence in the idea that higher education is the place to invest as a means of advancing the well-being of Montrealers and Quebeckers."

Michael M. Fortier, Minister Public Works and Government Services Canada, was on hand to represent the federal government, whose Industrial Benefits Program helped spur the partnership. "Boeing's choice to bring business to our region is a clear indication of the talent and abilities of the IASL, which has demonstrated that it has what it takes to advance this important field of research," he said. "It has the competence, the expertise and the ability needed to get in on the action — and now has a great opportunity to showcase its abilities."

For Bob Gordon, Vice President Space and Defense of the Boeing Capital Corporation, striking up such partnerships with universities is a natural part of Boeing's mission, and sees them as "win-win" for both the company and the schools.

"Boeing fully recognizes the value of and need for increasing intellectual capital in the aerospace industry," he said. "We need to continue to attract and train the brightest people in the world. And if we don't, the industry will not grow and prosper." And while Boeing can't guarantee any direct returns for itself, it benefits when the industry benefits. "When the ocean rises," said Gordon, "all ships rise with it."

Gordon notes that while a large majority of Boeing's university partnerships naturally involve engineering, extending them to the social sciences such as law also made sense. "So much of our business today is dependant on laws and regulations," he said, "and these aren't engineering solutions, these are people solutions." He added that McGill is "a unique focal point in the Air and Space world. McGill happens to be in Canada, but it is a world-class institution that attracts people from all over the world. The IASL is certainly an example of that."

The first two Boeing Fellows were also on hand to celebrate the initiative, and could testify to its impact. Catherine Doldirina, a doctoral student originally from the Ukraine studying the intellectual property aspects of data generated in space, summed it up succinctly: "If I hadn't gotten the money, I couldn't have come."

She developed an interest in space law while doing graduate work in Germany, and her supervisor told her she "had to apply to McGill." She agreed, but knew that she would be unable to properly concentrate on studies without funding. "It's about being able to focus. In Germany, I had three jobs. I liked what I was doing, but it's no way to write."

Oleksiy Burchevskyy, also from the Ukraine, is preparing his master's thesis on the legal aspects of the operation of new hybrid vehicles that can both travel by road and fly at low altitudes. He was quick to echo Doldirina's sentiments. "I had doubts whether to continue my studies or to start full time work," he said. "After I got the funding form Boeing, I had no doubts anymore." For Doldirina, Burchevskyy and future Boeing Fellows, the sky's the limit now.

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