You are now in the main content area

Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar: Vathsala Illesinghe

Policy Studies PhD student shares advice for a successful application 

Vathsala Jayasuriya-Illesinghe

“It’s an absolute honour being Ryerson’s first Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, one of only 15 doctoral students in Canada and abroad to receive the award this year. It is a life-changing award, and I am grateful for the generosity and support for graduate studies and for the opportunity to be part of an inspiring community of scholars, mentors and fellows - the people and connections that make this scholarship unique among graduate funding opportunities.

The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, external link, an independent and non-partisan charity established in 2001 as a living memorial to the former prime minister of Canada, seeks to promote outstanding research in the humanities and social sciences. The foundation encourages emerging scholars, awarding a three-year scholarship (and a fourth year writing or dissemination scholarship) to first- or second-year students enrolled (or in the process of enrolling) in a doctoral program in the humanities and social sciences.

“Working on the application, beginning at the internal university level competition, takes time to ensure careful use of all of the available space on the online application, to write a strong personal statement, and to ensure that it is supported by your referees’ recommendations. Select referees who are able to speak to all of your strengths; one of them should speak about your community engagement skills, advocacy and other broader knowledge dissemination work, other than academic skills.

“Making sure that your statement of research clearly aligns with one of the foundation’s thematic areas - human rights and dignity, responsible citizenship, Canada in the world, and people and their natural environment, and demonstrating how this work is shaped by, and deeply connected with personal experiences, a person, or an event, is important in this application. Work that takes a bold and new approach to find solutions to social issues that are important for our collective future is sought out though a competitive selection process. Everyone has a unique personal narrative, and recognizing how those experiences inform our work, and demonstrating the passion that it brings to accomplish something broader and bigger than a PhD thesis is, I believe, key in being successful in this competition.”

Vathsala Illesinghe, MD, Policy Studies PhD student and 2017 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar