Alberta Student Wins White Rose Polytechnique Scholarship

This year’s winner is Willow Dew, a 23-year-old student from Alberta who says the world needs to change the way it creates energy.

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A chemical engineering graduate from Alberta is the latest recipient of a $ 30,000 grant established to honor the memory of the 14 women murdered at the École Polytechnique in 1989.


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Willow Dew, who grew up in the heart of Canada’s oil country, is studying how renewable raw materials can be used to produce energy and chemicals, thereby mitigating the impacts of climate change.

The Order of the White Rose scholarship was created in 2014, the 25th anniversary of the Polytechnic massacre, to encourage women to excel in engineering.

The scholarship is awarded to a Canadian engineering student who wishes to pursue graduate study in engineering anywhere in the world.

Dew, 23, is pursuing a master’s degree in biochemical engineering in Europe.

The scholarship and initiative it represents have helped change attitudes toward women in engineering, she said, adding that her mother was studying chemical engineering in 1989 when the 14 women were killed.


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“For too long, women’s voices have been excluded and downplayed in many important spheres, including engineering,” Dew said in an acceptance speech delivered in French and English.

Women will play a key role in finding solutions to complex social problems, such as climate change, he added.

“The girl who is listening to the social messages that engineering is a male domain, could become the woman responsible for a key advance that helps us solve a major problem,” he said.

Willow Dew signs the golden book during the White Rose ceremony at the Polytechnique Montréal on Thursday, December 2, 2021.
Willow Dew signs the golden book during the White Rose ceremony at the Polytechnique Montréal on Thursday, December 2, 2021. Photo by Allen McInnis /Montreal Gazette

Although more women are studying engineering in college, barriers still persist that discourage some young women from entering the field.

One of the goals of the Order of the White Rose scholarship is to improve gender balance in engineering, a faculty that has historically been male-dominated.


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The percentage of female students in the engineering school of the Université de Montréal, now called Polytechnique Montréal, has increased from 17% in 1989 to 30% in 2021.

The white rose has become a symbol to commemorate the anniversary of the Polytechnic massacre.

Nathalie Provost, who survived the December 6 attack, said the award keeps alive “the memory of the exceptional women who were my classmates.”

“Year after year, it is clearer … that women have a place in engineering,” Provost said Thursday during the ceremony.

White Rose award winners, like Dew, are “tomorrow’s leaders and future agents of change who will make the world a better place,” said Michèle Thibodeau-DeGuire, who chairs the selection committee.


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On the night of the massacre, Thibodeau-DeGuire was the director of public relations for the École Polytechnique. He hid under his desk during the shooting and then spent the next several days briefing journalists around the world.

In 1963, Thibodeau-DeGuire was the first female civil engineer to graduate from engineering school.

During the award presentation, she told Dew that she has all the attributes to be a great leader. “Whether through mentoring, teaching or volunteering, she has shown passion for others and for society,” she said.

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