Imagine getting an email saying you’ve just won a $50,000 scholarship. That’s what happened to Kylie Hopkins this spring. The third-year McMaster nursing student became one of the first three winners of the prestigious new Wilson Award in April. According to the Wilson Foundation website, the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award recognizes Canada’s promising undergraduate students, cultivating their untapped potential and preparing them to serve as the nation’s next generation ofleaders. Applicants go through a rigorous screening and interview process.
“I woke up to check my email the day after the second interview and there was a caption that read congratulations,” says Hopkins. “I was so excited I didn’t even know who to call first or what to do. This opportunity still is very hard for me to wrap my head around.”
Award winners receive a $50,000 scholarship and admission to a two-year leadership developmentprogram. The three students also have access to a house that is designated for them to use as a study space, to meet with their mentors, and to host special visitors and guests of the leadership development program. The building is near McMaster University.
Personal mentoring is a big part of the package. “We have one person in our program who is in charge of facilitating the program by speaking with the three of us,” says Hopkins. “He has linked us up with different mentors. I have one mentor so far. Her name is Anna D’Angela. She’s doing her MBA and working on applying to medical school. She’s been an interesting person to learn from about how to build your resume and many other different skills and advice.
Guest speakers will be selected based on the three young scholars’ unique interests. “They’ve been asking us what we are interested in learning more about,” says Hopkins. “They’ll link us up with experts in those topics. So for example, I’m interested in public speaking, and how to captivate an audience, what strategies can be used. It’s a very multifaceted way of learning.”
How she got here
The road to earning this award was a learning experience in itself. It was also very competitive. “The first stage was an application letter, then an endorsement letter, two references, your transcripts, and then we had the first round of interviews,” says Hopkins. The final meeting was with McMaster University president Patrick Deane and Lynton “Red” Wilson, the founder and namesake of the Wilson Award and other important members of the McMaster Community. “That was a cool opportunity. The only interview I had before that was for my summer job. And then all of a sudden -- I was in this huge interview!”
The interviewers focussed on personal qualities. The foundation’s guidelines state that “all strong applicants will possess the following: honesty and integrity, passion and compassion, courage and vision, a commitment to serving others and a love for learning.” As Hopkins recalls, “Basically you just had to speak about what you were passionate about, what you cared for, and what you might want to do in the future.”
Past experience of applicants counted as well. “I worked during the summer at Sports Camp at McMaster Sport Fitness School,” says Hopkins. “I started in Grade 11 as a coach and I’ve worked my way up. This summer I was on the leadership team. I like to explain it as ‘coaching the coaches’. We need to develop the coaches into becoming leaders and give them advice and support and allow them to grow. That was a huge learning experience for me. I think it shaped who I am today and who I want to be. I love building team environments and supporting others, pushing their creative limits.”
What the future holds
Hopkins is clearly very focussed. Everything she learns will contribute towards her next big goal: graduating in nursing. In high school, she realized that she wanted to go into nursing because of her love for science, interest in the body systems, and “because I am interested in acute care. I wanted to have different opportunities. There are so many ways to go in nursing. I felt that nurses make such a big difference, and I wanted to be part of that.”
When she graduates, she plans to work in a hospital and gain clinical experience. “I love going to clinical placement and interacting with patients and learning about their lives. I am super passionate about that humanistic side of nursing. Lately, learning from my mentor, I’m interested in possibly pursuing an MBA and maybe going into health care management. By learning from different coaches and mentors along the way, I can start to narrow that down. Maybe I’d be good at applying my leadership capabilities to building teams in hospital environments. I’ll probably start taking a few business courses as electives.”
The next two years will be a fascinating journey for Hopkins. “I’m really excited and looking forward to working with members in nursing and in other health care fields. I’ve been talking to Dr. Carolyn Byrne, the Associate Dean of Nursing, and appreciate how welcoming and helpful she has been. Everything I do now has a purpose. I ask myself, “How does this develop me as a leader? How does this make me better? It’s pushing me towards my end goal. What is my end goal? It’s helping me to uncover those things.”
“The School of Nursing is extremely pleased and proud of Kylie’s prestigious Wilson Leadership award,” says Associate Dean, Dr. Byrne. “Her work with children and youth in sport has been recognized as giving back to our community. This leadership award while taking an elite leadership program will also allow her to do an internship at one of the leading health care organizations. Congratulations to Kylie on her achievement.”
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