Student Success Centre

2016 Scholars Scholarship Winners

Braxton Murphy

Braxton Murphy

Hometown

Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

My mother always used to tell me to stop worrying about everyone else and just focus on what I could control: myself. I always thought that was a pretty effective way to live life, and I try to ascribe to that motto.

What motivates you?

Part of my motivation comes from a genuine curiosity. I really enjoy my major and I feel enriched by the knowledge I am accumulating during my university career. A lot of what keeps me going, though, are my peers. I have met so many people at this place that have made genuine differences in other people’s lives, and seeing that makes me want to do more and try harder. It can be hard to not get yourself down sometimes when you start to compare yourself to those around you, especially as you move from the small pond of high school to the big ocean that is university, but if you use the accomplishments of those around you to fuel you fire rather than put out your flame, it can go a long way.

What is Western to you?

This place has given me the freedom to explore my self. Not only have I grown academically, but I have been able to meet friends with common interests and similar goals. Western University acts as an incubator for the bright minds of tomorrow, and being thrown in the midst of that has allowed me to rediscover a passion for knowledge and better understand my place in the world. The campus may be beautiful, but the students, the faculty, and the support personnel bring the buildings to life and make Western a home to so many.


Victoria Boerner

Victoria Boerner

Hometown

Mississauga, Ontario

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

The key to success is balance. Finding balance between your commitments, including school, allows you to enjoy them and give the best that you can without becoming overwhelmed.

What motivates you?

My greatest sources of motivation are learning new material and the news. The former reminds me of how much more there is to learn and inspires me to continue with my studies, while the latter motivates me to make the most of my opportunities and contribute to making the world a better place.

What is Western to you?

Western is a place of opportunities. In my time at Western, I have benefited from academic opportunities – from exploring various disciplines to discover my passions, learning from expert professors, to research opportunities– and extracurricular involvements I never anticipated as being possible. Through the diversity of disciplines and ideas on campus, I have found new ways of thinking about the world and understanding our role in shaping it. While this is just a small sample of the opportunities that are possible at Western, to me, Western is an environment that fosters opportunities for students to develop academically and personally, in order to become lifelong learners.


RuiLin Guo

Ruilin Guo

Hometown

Barrie, Ontario

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

"Be yourself; everyone else is taken" (Oscar Wilde). Accept your whole self - your passions and fears, your strengths and failures. It is so easy to envy others, but if you're faithful to your values, confident of of your worth, and in control of your happiness, then that in itself is success.

What motivates you?

I am motivated by my avid curiosity and determination to improve myself. I've always held a sense of wonder about the world, asking questions and searching for clarity. I also look up to the movers and shakers who stretch our understanding and create innovation. I have a passion for learning and try to constantly push myself to discover the world, improve my knowledge, and help others.

What is Western to you?

Western is a community, with an exciting diversity of people to meet. Western is an opportunity, with countless ways to learn, improve, and prepare for the future. Finally, Western is an experience - an unforgettable journey that has shaped my mind, attitude, and actions for the better.


Mariana Capretz

Mariana Capretz

Hometown

London, Ontario

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

My parents always tell me “não morra na praia”, which is Portuguese for “don’t die on the beach”. The quote illustrates a hypothetical scenario where if you’re stranded in the middle of the ocean and manage to find shore, the last thing you should do is “die on the beach”. Essentially, no matter what obstacle lays ahead, you should never give up, especially if you are so close to your “final destination”. If you’ve put a lot of effort into something, then keep going and keep trying! Don’t stop until you’ve achieved your goal.

What motivates you?

The idea of being a better person than the one I was yesterday. I like putting myself in new environments that challenge me to improve a certain aspect of my personality. These situations not only help me grow, but they also provide me with self-confidence. Throwing yourself into a new situation and coming out successful is a very rewarding feeling.

What is Western to you?

The best decision I’ve ever made! My undergraduate years at Western have surpassed any expectation my 18-year-old self could have dreamed of. In 4 years, I have made life long friendships, partaken in a summer research program in Germany, and been able to lead several amazing clubs. I wish I could do it all over again!


Michael Mehta

Michael Mehta

Hometown

Ajax, Ontario

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

The most candid advice I have received to date has come from Arnold Schwarzenegger's famous speech: ‘6 Rules of Success’.

1. Trust yourself
2. Break some rules
3. Don't be afraid to fail
4. Ignore the naysayers
5. Work your butt off
6. Give back to the community

What motivates you?

Seeing my colleagues succeed. As millennials, we live in such a competitive world where it’s very easy to be envious when other people succeed.  Over the years, I have learned that it’s best to be genuinely happy for them and learn from their insights. This mindset has helped me appreciate new perspectives and definitely motivates me to get the most of my learning environment.

What is Western to you?

Western to me is a place where students are exposed to new perspectives. We are constantly challenged by our colleagues and faculty members to consider problems from a multi-disciplinary lens. I'll always remember my first year biology instructor, Tom Haffie, who encouraged collaborative learning. Sometimes, we think we understand the complete picture but when we collaborate with colleagues, we often find out that our original way of thinking was too narrow. 


Vaani Sai

Vaani Sai

Hometown

Gaborone, Botswana

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

"Do your duty to the best of your ability and leave the rest to the universe" - Bhagwad Gita, Chapter 12

What motivates you?

My family. My family has jumped through hoops to get me to the place I am at today. I am motivated to work hard so that one day I can provide for them the way they have provided for me. 

What is Western to you?

Western is where I learned to open my mind. 


Danny Chang

Danny Chang

Hometown

LaSalle, Ontario

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

"Don't live your life to build an impressive resume or on anyone else's terms. Do what you are passionate about and use your gifts to improve the lives of the people around you; the rewards will naturally follow."

What motivates you?

For me, I think it's a mix of curiosity and solidarity. I'd say that I'm  curious about my capacity for success, but also about learning from others and broadening my horizons through different perspectives. When it comes to solidarity, my desire to create positive change for those around me is what drives me forward.

What is Western to you?

Western is my home. I have experienced the best and the worst times of my life on this campus and have learned so much about myself because of it. Some of my closest relationships and some of my best memories were made on this campus. My experiences at Western continues to shape my identity every single day. As the saying goes, "home is where the heart is", and without a doubt, my heart is at Western.


Joseph Brockman

Joseph Brockman

Hometown

Belle River, Ontario

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

"If someone asks for help and you can help them, then do it.  Be kind and help everyone because if you ever need help, someone will always be there for you." - Dragica "Baka" Bazijanec

What motivates you?

Looking myself in the mirror every night and asking if I have lived for that day, because in the end, your best that is all one can ask of any man.

What is Western to you?

Western is a toolmaker.  Some say university is the greatest time of your life. For many, that is true.  The bars, the cafes and the classrooms facilitate growth of both intellect and character.  We hope to better ourselves every day, but life doesn't always cooperate.  We all face adversity; we all face stress; we all face failure; but together we grow.  Day by day, Western helps us to build our toolboxes and drives us with conviction to leave our world better than we found it.


Karan Vansjalia

Karan Vansjalia

Hometown

Thornhill, ON

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”

What motivates you?

My greatest motivation comes from my failures. They reaffirm the believe that learning never stops and that I can always become a better version of myself each and every day.

What is Western to you?

Western is a community that fosters holistic personal growth. Western has afforded me the opportunity to nurture my academic and social interests. The experience has prepared me to tackle the future.


Maham Bushra

Maham Bushra

Hometown

Mississauga, Ontario

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

The dreams worth pursuing are those that continually challenge you, while easing the challenges of those around you.

What motivates you?

I am motivated by an amalgamation of the experiences and stories I carry within me. My accomplishments are never solely mine; they belong to my immigrant parents who epitomize selflessness and perseverance, to my friends who have always been unrelentingly supportive of my personal and co-curricular endeavours, to my mentors who have guided me through every challenge I faced within academia. I am motivated also by the subtle, perpetual affliction that comes from an awareness of injustice, and a consequent desire to alleviate the burden of systemic wrongdoing.

What is Western to you?

As I conclude my final year here, I can truly say that my Western experience has been undeniably transformative. This institution has not only imparted on me an education more multi-faceted than I could have ever imagined, but also inspired me to use what I have learned for the betterment of our communities. I have been given incomparable opportunities in leadership, community service and research, all of which have broadened my worldview and altered my perception of learning. Western has been a catalyst for my personal and professional growth, and for that I am truly grateful. 


Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien

Hometown

Toronto, Ontario

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." - George Bernard Shaw

What motivates you?

I am motivated by the prospect of expanding my mind and knowledge base as much as possible. Every moment that we are on this Earth is a moment that we can learn, and this is not something that should be taken for granted. 

What is Western to you?

A diverse community of learners linking our disciplines to better understand the world around us and our role in it.


Brennan Sage Wong

Brennan Wong

Hometown

Richmond Hill, Ontario

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

Steve Jobs once said: "the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” This quote has challenged me to always think beyond the status quo, and commit to taking risks. It reminds me that going against the grain or doing the unorthodox thing is how change is made.

What motivates you?

I am motivated by the unknown. What I find most exciting is seeking opportunities to learn, explore, or even create something new. Coming up with innovative ideas, especially ones that have the potential to make a positive impact in others’ lives, and taking on the challenges that come with discovery, keeps me driven. 

What is Western to you?

Western is community. The best part about Western’s community is that students and faculty come together as a collective and support one another. Through providing resources, mentorship, and opportunities, Western achieves those unique characteristics of a united community. My personal and career development have only been fostered by the people I’ve met at Western - they are the ones who continually challenge me to push my boundaries while providing the encouragement and support for me to achieve my greatest goals. 


Akosua Phebih-Serwaah

Akosua Phebih-Serwaah

Hometown

Brampton, Ontario

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

I think that the best advice that I've ever received was from my mother and it was from a pretty young age. It was when she told me that even though I may understand some things as easy, that's not necessarily true for everyone else. I think that this came to a head at University. There's some things that I understood that other people didn't and vice a versa where I was unable to contextualize it for myself. But I think the basis of understanding something as a challenge to overcome is what not only makes it all the more satisfying once you're able to accomplish it, but it also makes it a team effort in the fact that you know you're not alone. In this sense you're able to help other people and they're able to help you, so I feel like understanding understanding a concept for more than its face value makes you better, and it brings us all together. I think that that quality what makes this such a strong piece of advice.

What motivates you?

I think I can speak for a lot of University students in the fact that we've all had our bad days where we question our motivation regarding what we want to do and what we want to accomplish with our degrees. But when I get to those low days, I really think about the fact that I could have been born at any place and during any time, but for some reason I'm here now and I am lucky enough to be able to attend University and receive an education, which is something a lot of people don't necessarily have access to. When I take that into account, in conjunction with what I seek to accomplish, I really think that University is a lot more valuable than we give it credit for on a daily basis. If we consider the fact that we are being given the tools to change the world, whether it is through medicine, science, art, or politics, we are being given ways to make an impact on the globe. I think that is the main thing that motivates me. I want to be able to leave something that I can be proud of, and I feel as if University is helping me to do that.

What is Western to you?

I have to admit when I first came to Western, it was a little alienating. I had just moved into a new town and I didn't know anyone, so I didn't really know what to expect. Moreover, as a first-generation Canadian, I was worried about others being empathetic to my own experience as a student. But, I came to realize that we are all facing our own unique struggles as individuals, and it is only in coming together and creating a community that we are able to thrive. With that being said, Western to me is about creating a community that is understanding and holistic in its telling of different individuals' stories, making sure that everyone's voices are heard. My ideal school considers everyone stories as equal, and makes sure that everyone's voices are heard. I think that Western has done this for me and that's why Western to me means a community that will never judge, and that will always accept. With everything that Western has given me, I have strived to make sure that I have done the same for students myself, whether that be through my extracurriculars, or just being as open and welcome if you possibly can. I've learned through experience that being honest and accepting cost much less than it is to be cruel and discriminatory. I want to work to make sure that all Western students know this and accept this as a truth that defines the integrity of our school.


Aidan Warlow

Aidan Warlow

Hometown

Aurora, Ontario

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

Hope is a mistake, stop hoping that things will just get better.

What motivates you?

The belief that one day everyone will have access to what they need, regardless of whether or not they strive toward this moment's very specific definitions of success or utility.

What is Western to you?

Western is a place where I have gathered the linguistic and rhetorical tools with which I plan to critique institutions like Western for the rest of my life. It is a place where my classroom experiences, and the shared of experiences of my cohort have engendered within me an inalienable desire to question everything.  #PurpleandPugnacious 


Khadija Ahmed

Khadija Ahmed

Hometown

Oshawa, Ontario

What is the greatest advice you've ever received?

 "You try, you fail, you try, you fail, but the only true failure is when you stop trying"

What motivates you?

What drives me is the notion that for those who seek it, knowledge is infinite and ever-attainable. I am fueled by the prospect that every chance encounter is a learning opportunity, and that each individual holds a unique key to the doors of knowledge. Thus, I am motivated by my inherent curiosity, and my desire to use the knowledge that I attain to positively impact those around me. 

What is Western to you?

To me, Western is a place where I can take ownership of my own success by embracing the countless academic and social opportunities. In addition, Western is a dynamic and welcoming community of individuals that collectively contribute to the exemplary student experience. My experiences at Western have not only made me who I am today, but have also allowed me to face my fears, embrace possibilities, and challenge my conception of learning.