UMRA bursary provides relief, opportunity
As the first wave of a global pandemic gained momentum across Canada and uncertainty was in the air, a sense of stability came from close to home for University of Manitoba (UM) student Shirley Wang [BSc/17].
COVID-19 hit during Wang’s second year of dentistry. That year, she was awarded the 2019-2020 University of Manitoba Retirees Association (UMRA) bursary.
“It was very nice to know that there was something I could fall back on,” said Wang, “that there was a bursary to help me worry less about the financial things.”
The University of Manitoba Retirees Association bursary is awarded to a deserving UM student pursuing an academic program who is facing financial challenges. The $975 bursary provided Wang, who usually works part-time over the summer to help pay for her living expenses, comfort in the uncertainty.
“It was very difficult because it was really up in the air,” said Wang. “Everything was kind of unknown.”
Wang, who began her studies at UM in 2013, already had a Bachelor of Science and a passion for microbiology when she discovered dentistry.
“I like the idea of it being very hands on,” Wang said about dentistry. “It’s very artsy. I like that you … shape someone’s smile.”
She added that the bursary also lessened the stress on her parents who help to support her studies. With the pandemic affecting their own business, the bursary provided relief to them all.
Daniel Sitar, the president of UMRA with just over 1,000 members, said the UMRA Endowment Fund benefits both UM students and the community.
“Retirees from the University of Manitoba believe that assisting deserving awardees will not only provide personal benefit to them,” said Sitar, “but also contribute to the continuing desire to improve the quality of life of Manitobans and Canadians by supporting access to postsecondary educational opportunities.”
“Four recipients, one per year since the 2017-2018 academic year, have received the bursary to date for a total amount awarded of $3,300. Sitar said the goal is to grow the fund and continue to offer the bursary each year along with a new UMRA scholarship that is open to UM students interested in pursuing a postgraduate career in aging research. To apply for the UMRA bursary, students fill out the University of Manitoba general bursary application on Aurora Student at the beginning of August every year. The deadline to apply for the new UMRA scholarship, which is to be awarded based on academic performance, is October 22.”
Sitar hopes “that both of these endowed awards will continue to grow so that the amounts will increase relative to the ever-increasing costs of obtaining a postsecondary education.”
The UMRA bursary helped Wang continue with her studies and look to the future – a future where she, in turn, helps others. Wang, heading into her fourth year of dentistry this fall, plans to work in a small, rural community and provide access to health care services to those without.
“I think it will be very fulfilling,” she said.
Wang discovered her passion and a desire to help others – just as the UMRA bursary did for her.
“I think this bursary itself is very special,” said Wang. “I think it’s very heartwarming to know that retired faculty and staff continue to support students like us to kind of help us achieve our professional and educational goals.”
“And one day,” said Wang, “I hope to do the same for someone else.”