Meet the 2023-2024 McCain Scholars

26 Jan 2024
Prestigious awards program makes Mount Allison possible and acknowledges the hard work and passions of students

The McCain Scholars program was created thanks to the tremendous philanthropy of Margaret McCain (’54, LLD ’95, Chancellor Emerita).
The program includes five renewable awards, each valued at $40,000 over four years. The awards recognize personal attributes of students such as resilience, perseverance, reliability, responsibility, creativity, and leadership — in addition to academic achievements.
The five new recipients for 2023-2024 come from throughout the Atlantic provinces and as far away as BC. They include competitive swimmers, future scientists, and young people dedicated to having a positive impact on our world.
Breagh Smith
Bachelor of Science, Biopsychology
Conception Bay South, NL
J. Scott McCain Award

Breagh Smith was in a mall food court with her mom and sister when she received the email telling her she had received a McCain Award. The family celebration started right away.
“It was just a great feeling,” says Smith. “One of the best feelings I have ever had. It takes a huge financial burden off of myself and my parents and getting the scholarship was what made moving away to school possible for me.”
One semester in, Mount Allison has met Smith’s expectations “100 per cent.”
Smith is enjoying her classes, loves residence life, has joined a bunch of societies and clubs, and is one of the newest admirers of the Swan Pond and the rest of Mount Allison’s beautiful campus.
Smith is also a volunteer with the Sackville Skating Club, teaching children. She was a competitive skater for many years and a coach and program assistant with her skating club back home in Newfoundland. She loves working with kids and hopes to soon complete her volunteer training with Let’s Talk Science, which will allow her to volunteer with elementary and middle schools.
Smith plans to be a medical doctor.
Ella Tucker
Bachelor of Science
Sackville, NB
Michael H. McCain Award

Ella Tucker says choosing Mount Allison was an easy decision. The Sackville resident is a competitive swimmer and has spent many years using the Mount Allison pool. Tucker also has a physical disability and staying close to home meant she would remain connected with her coaches and local swim club while also having the opportunity to join the Mount Allison swim team.
Tucker learned to swim when she was five years old and started competing as a para swimmer in 2016. Her goal is to make a national team and ultimately compete in the Paralympics.
Tucker balances swimming an average of six days a week plus gym workouts with her schedule of lectures and laboratories as a science student. She says her mom taught her early on the importance of resiliency and that she always addresses life’s challenges as an opportunity to replace the thought, ‘I’m not going to be able to do this’, with ‘Let me figure out how I am going to do this’.
Of receiving the McCain Award, Tucker says, “Receiving the scholarship really made me feel accepted as a student. Knowing I could be a major scholarship winner as a physically disabled person just helped my confidence and reminded me that I can do anything I put my mind to, and nothing can stop me.”
Ellen Piasentin
Bachelor of Arts, English
Coquitlam, BC
Martha Laura Ann McCain Award

Mount Allison had been Ellen Piasentin’s first choice for university for a couple of years. She was attracted to Mount Allison’s academics and national reputation. She also liked the idea of moving away from home and thought a smaller school would ease that transition and make it less overwhelming. Receiving the McCain Award made her decision certain.
Piasentin chose to study English. “I like stories and how they can mean so many different things,” she says. “Often times I read books and look at them as little puzzles where I get to figure out all the little details and symbolism and piece it all together to come up with different meanings. That’s very exciting and interesting to me. I really enjoy it.”
Her favourite class first term turned out to be an elective, Religion, the Body, and Sexuality. “It was fascinating, to the point where I am probably going to minor in Religion now. Dr. Colette was wonderful, and I learned so many very interesting things. This semester I am taking two more Religion courses.”
Outside of academics, Piasentin is an editor with ATLIS, a student journal that examines political and international issues, and she is the first-year rep for Catalyst, a club that offers social support, events, and advocacy for LGBTQ+ students.
Jenay Spence
Bachelor of Science, Biopsychology
Cornwall, PE
Eleanor Marie Norrie McCain Award

Jenay Spence was excited to join an academic program that combines her passions for biology and psychology, while allowing her to continue exploring electives in creative arts. She says the financial support of the McCain Award is what made coming to Mount Allison and pursuing her dream possible. She hopes to someday be an occupational therapist.
While a difficult decision, Spence would have to say her favourite class first term was Wicked Problems, a new foundational course at Mount Allison where students from various programs come together to learn about critical issues such as environmental degradation, food insecurity, and mental wellness, and then work with local community partners on ways to address these issues. In the class, Spence’s group focused on issues in health care and worked with the mayor’s office and the Rural Health Action Group.
“It was really interesting,” she says. “The different guest lectures we’d have and working alongside community mentors and partners to tackle issues within the community was not only rewarding but also offered important skills to learn and develop.”
Outside of academics, Spence is a member of the Mounties rugby team. “I’ve never been on such an inclusive team with so many opportunities to develop personal and sports-based skills through our many social events and the student-led executive,” she says.
Spence also just joined the ringette team and is hoping to become more involved in the community by volunteering at the hospital and in peer-to-peer mental health programs.
Lily Fraser
Bachelor of Arts, Sociology
Truro, NS
Margaret & Wallace McCain Award

Lily Fraser knew a lot about Mount Allison before applying. All four of her grandparents, her mom, and her sister are all alumni. She liked the small size, Mount Allison’s reputation, and had enjoyed visiting her sister and attending a couple of her classes. For Fraser, Mount Allison felt both safe but also new and fun.  
Fraser chose to study sociology, “because it teaches me a lot about people, and I want to use it as a pathway to try to help the most people I can. Lately, I have become very worried about the state of the world and what is going on, and I’m someone who likes to take action and wants to change things for the better and spread positivity and help make the world a better place.”
Fraser is particularly interested in studying gender, family relations and parenting, education systems, and the root and development of kindness.
Fraser says receiving a McCain Award was a wonderful motivator to work hard in her studies and an opportunity to connect with other McCain Scholars and make new friends.
“The scholarship has been very helpful in not having to stress as much with financials and has made me feel more welcomed and supported and wanted at Mount Allison, knowing that I belong here, and I can do great things even if I am not sure what those great things are yet.”

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