Making Education Accessible

Dr. Kathleen Ross (EdD 2011). Photo: Paul Joseph/UBC
Dr. Kathleen Ross, EdD’11. Photo: Paul Joseph/UBC

“What we know when it comes to post-secondary education is students whose parents have not attended university, tend to overestimate the costs and underestimate the benefits,” says Dr. Kathleen Ross (EdD 2011), right. “They feel university is beyond their reach.”

As Associate Vice President of Enrolment Services and Registration, Dr. Ross, better known as Kate, knows what she’s talking about. She was the first person in her family to attend university. Today, a big part of her job is making sure that UBC remains accessible to Canada’s best and brightest students. To support this, she recently established the Kate Ross Centennial Scholars Major Entrance Award, a decision she says was strongly influenced by her own experiences as a student.

Kate grew up on her family’s farm with six siblings. Although neither of her parents had attended university, she made the decision to attend university and began saving for her education at the age of 14.

The first and only member of her family to attend university, Kate faced many challenges. Then something wonderful happened. In her fourth year, she became the inaugural recipient of a new student award. This recognition gave Kate the mental boost she needed to succeed in her final year.

“Realizing someone cared enough to support me was a life-changing experience, and it shaped my perspective,” says Kate. “Besides making my fourth year financially easier, the feeling you get when someone else sees something in you, and that sense of belonging and attachment that comes from getting some support makes a huge difference to students.”

Although paying it forward was a motivator in creating her own award, Kate’s reasons go beyond that. As the leader of Enrolment Services, she knows firsthand the crucial role awards play in making university more accessible to talented students.

“This is the inspiration behind the Centennial Scholars Program, which is aimed at supporting those academically qualified students who would not be able to attend UBC without significant financial assistance,” explains Kate. “We want to attract students with the attributes and thirst for learning who may not think that UBC is a viable option. Aboriginal students, rural students, immigrants, refugees— these people all reflect the world we live in. We want to attract a diverse group who will flourish at UBC.”

The Kate Ross Centennial Scholars Award will give domestic students entering UBC $4,000 towards their education. The award is designated to academically qualified students with demonstrated leadership abilities who would be unable to attend university without financial assistance. Crucial to a student’s continued success, the award may be renewed for up to 3 years – subject to academic standing — or until an undergraduate degree is earned, whichever comes first.

Award recipients are nominated by their school or community, and recipients will be chosen by the Centennial Scholars Entrance Award Committee.

“I put myself through school, and I know the tremendous impact these awards can have on a student’s life,” says Kate. “Additionally, since Centennial Scholars Program is our initiative, I thought it was important to put my money where my mouth is!”