May 8, 2025

2 UCalgary students awarded prestigious McCall MacBain Scholarship

Exceptional students in kinesiology and neuroscience ready to make waves

This year, the University of Calgary proudly celebrates the achievements of two exceptional students, Paige Boklaschuk and Ivana Okaro, who have been awarded the prestigious McCall MacBain Scholarship. 

As recipients, Boklaschuk and Okaro will pursue post-graduate studies at McGill University in Montreal. Through their recognition, these students showcase the extraordinary potential within our student communities here at UCalgary. 

The McCall MacBain Scholarship enables up to 30 students annually to undertake a fully funded master’s or professional degree at McGill while engaging in mentorship, coaching and a comprehensive leadership-development program. Boklaschuk and Okaro were among five UCalgary students nominated for the award.

Paige Boklaschuk

Paige Boklaschuk

Paige Boklaschuk 

Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology, Boklaschuk has excelled both in the classroom and on the national stage as a rock climber.

Of her time competing, Boklaschuk says, “It impacted everything. It helped me learn to be present, which is something I continue to take into my academics, bringing 100-per-cent presence to whatever is in front of me.

“Being able to deal with fear and challenging emotions, I've learned to take those skills with me wherever I go.” 

Through her involvement in the Scholars Academy, a unique program that provides individualized support for students who are leaders in the community and are pursuing research to better society, Boklaschuk discovered the transformative potential of the McCall MacBain Scholarship. 

"I felt like I had a special opportunity to share my story," Boklaschuk says. "Through this scholarship, I could showcase not just my accomplishments, but my character."

Boklaschuk’s commitment to positive change at the university was evident in her role as co-chair on the Faculty of Kinesiology’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, where she worked to create a more inclusive academic environment.

"Hearing that I was chosen to receive the scholarship remains surreal," she says. "McGill is my dream school and dream program, and I was going to do whatever it took to study there, regardless.”

Boklaschuk embodies the spirit of leadership UCalgary aspires to instil in its students, says Dr. Martin MacInnis, PhD, an associate professor with kinesiology who supervised Boklaschuk’s honours research. 

"She has a remarkable ability to translate her life experiences into her academic and community work,” MacInnis says. “With this perspective, Paige is able to identify and tackle meaningful challenges. This scholarship is a testament to her hard work, exceptional character, and leadership potential."

At McGill, Boklaschuk plans to study a thesis-based Master of Science in epidemiology, exploring the intersection of exercise and how it impacts female reproductive cancer.

"My goal is to make physical activity accessible at every phase of disease progression, not only as prevention, but as a tool to make treatment for different diseases more manageable and improve quality of life through the entire lifespan," she says.

Ivana Okaro

Ivana Okaro

Ivana Okaro

Okaro, who graduates this spring with her Bachelor of Science in neuroscience, says her undergraduate journey has been characterized by resilience, determination and a commitment to service. 

Okaro immerses herself in volunteer endeavours aimed at empowering youth and advocating for equity. She is co-founder of Calgary’s chapter of the Canadian Association for Girls in Science, where she encourages girls and gender-diverse youth to explore careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Another facet of Okaro’s community service is her time spent crafting wigs for individuals facing hair loss, a pastime she turned into a thriving business during her undergrad.

Through leadership in community initiatives such as the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association, Okaro further exemplifies her commitment to fostering inclusivity and diversity.

Of her decision to apply for the McCall MacBain scholarship, Okaro says she saw herself as unqualified for opportunities before ever taking a chance. Applying for the scholarship allowed her to overcome the challenges of imposter syndrome. “Applying to the McCall MacBain Scholarship took me trusting in myself,” she says.

Okaro “embodies many of the key characteristics of up-and-coming science leaders who are making a difference in the world,” says Dr. Kristin Baetz, PhD, dean of UCalgary’s Faculty of Science. “From her outstanding academic performance and her focus on transdisciplinary work, to her emphasis on inclusivity and community impact, Ivana is going to do amazing things as a McCall MacBain scholar. All of us at UCalgary Science wish her the very best on this next leg of her journey."

At McGill, Okaro plans to continue her neuroscience studies, with emphasis on neonatal brain injury. Her time volunteering at the Foothills Medical Centre’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Association for the Rehabilitation of the Brain Injured affirmed her desire to become a physician-scientist. 

“I look forward to a vibrant career spent bridging the gap between research and patient-centred care,” Okaro says.

With applications for the McCall MacBain Scholarships opening in June 2024 for the 2025 cohort, UCalgary students are encouraged to embark on their own journeys of excellence. 

Alongside the 30 fully funded scholarships awarded annually, candidates can vie for up to 100 additional awards, valued between $5,000 and $20,000. These scholarships stem from a $200-million gift in 2019 by John and Marcy McCall MacBain.

UCalgary students interested in applying for a McCall MacBain Scholarship in 2024 are encouraged to stay informed by registering for updates from the McCall MacBain Foundation. Additionally, students can seek guidance from Dr. Jared Secord, PhD, co-ordinator of scholars' programs at the Student Success Centre. For comprehensive information on scholarship opportunities and applications to professional or graduate schools, students can sign up for email updates from the Aspire program.

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