Order of the White Rose at Polytechnique Montréal: $50,000 scholarship to honour victims of 1989 massacre

“Bit in shock,” says Zhouhang (Amelia) Dai, an engineering student from UBC who’s the recipient of the 9th Order of the White Rose, a scholarship that pays tribute to the women murdered at Polytechnique Montréal in 1989. Swidda Rassy reports.

By News Staff

The annual Order of the White Rose ceremony was held Monday – marking 34 years since the 1989, Polytechnique Massacre.

Polytechnique Montréal created the Order of the White Rose in 2014 as a way of paying tribute to the ambitions of the 14 women murdered on campus by a gunman on December 6, 1989.

The annual $50,000 scholarship is awarded to a Canadian female engineering student pursuing graduate studies in engineering in Canada or abroad.

On Monday, the ninth Order of the White Rose scholarship was awarded to Zhouhang (Amelia) Dai, an engineering student who is committed to achieving an equitable energy transition.

“It is a huge honor. I’m still a little bit in shock,” said Dai.

” The story of the tragedy of December 6, 1989 has been, was you know brought up pretty consistently every year while I was studying at UBC. We hold a memorial service every year called 14 Not Forgotten and the story of how people responded after the event with such resiliency and hope in building, imagining, creating a better future. It has always been an inspiration to me as well to continue to promote diversity inclusion in engineering.”

A University of British Columbia chemical engineering graduate, Dai has been completing graduate studies in chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since this fall. She plans to develop technical expertise in electrochemistry for applications in sustainable energy, as well as explore the interdependency between the technological, social, economic and political dimensions of the global energy challenge.

“Regardless of which discipline we work in, I believe that the core responsibility of engineers is to apply scientific problem-solving for the sustainable benefit of society, and this includes promoting inclusivity in the engineering space to ensure voices traditionally marginalized are acknowledged,” said Dai in a press release.

Dai says her commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion was sparked in her childhood, when her family immigrated to Canada.

After experiencing gender- and race-based prejudice, Dai says she sought opportunities to enhance diversity in STEM-related fields. She designed a mentorship program for high school girls with Women in Engineering and organized events promoting justice, equity, diversity and inclusion with Volta Foundation, a non-profit organization serving the battery community.

“As someone who makes exploring the unknown a habit, turns adversities into catalysts for change, and finds appreciation and hope for life at every stage, I strongly resonate with the Order of the White Rose, learning from the past and staying present to create a better future,” she said in the same press release.

order of the white rose
Zhouhang (Amelia) Dai, an engineering student who was awarded the ninth Order of the White Rose scholarship from Polytechnique Montreal. (Swidda Rassy/CityNews Image)

Nathalie Provost, who was injured during the Polytechnique Massacre, and Michèle Thibodeau-DeGuire, who was the first woman to graduate in civil engineering from Polytechnique in 1963, are the scholarship’s “godmothers.”

“In honouring the memory of the remarkable women who were my classmates, the Order of the White Rose is fulfilling a mission to uphold and pass on values for the future. Amelia’s journey and those of the other scholarship recipients are a source of inspiration, encouraging more and more young women to embrace science and dare to realize their boldest aspirations, in the process offering boundless potential for the advancement of society,” Provost said in the same press release.

“She’s gentle she’s nice she’s nice people but she’s also very very strong she has both this strength and this in bright intelligence to find solution and she’s so curious.”

Michèle Prévost, a professor and member of Polytechnique’s Board of Directors, chaired the Order of the White Rose selection jury this year.

“The jury members were impressed by Dai’s achievements and personality. To quote what they emphasized at the deliberation meeting, Amelia demonstrates ‘a journey and a personality truly inspiring, coupled with outstanding service to the community. Her academic drive is going to change the world,” Prévost said in the same release.

“We get candidates from across Canada and six finalists and we go through these they’re all excellent but Amelia stood out… Amelia is an outstanding candidate in academic performance and the desire to contribute to society.”

Jury members are appointed by Polytechnique Montréal. They include the deans of the engineering faculties at the University of Calgary, McGill University, Queen’s University, the Université de Sherbrooke, the University of Toronto and Waterloo University. The scholarship candidates are assessed based on their academic record (30 per cent), technical achievements (35 per cent) and non-technical achievements (35 per cent).

As Dai will be pursuing graduate studies in chemical engineering at MIT next year, her message to others.

“Be curious and not judgmental. It’s a quote from my favourite TV show Ted Lasso. It reminds us to stay curious long enough to when we meet a new person instead of jumping to conclusions possibly you know influenced by unconscious prejudice that we may have.”

-With files from Swidda Rassy, CityNews

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