By Dan Rubinstein

On Nov. 14, Maeve Collins-Tobin, who is in the final semester of her Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management (BPAPM) program at Carleton, became one of Canada’s 11 new Rhodes Scholars.

Valued at more than $100,000, the Rhodes Scholarship is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the world, covering the cost of post-graduate studies at the University of Oxford.

For Collins-Tobin, this journey began four years ago, when she spent a week at the Leadership in Global Change program run by the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute.

A woman--Rhodes Scholarship winner Maeve Collins--Tobin with long brown hair in a black shirt smiles at the camera

Maeve Collins-Tobin

Her experience in the U.K. that summer opened her eyes to the possibility of one day continuing to study and work toward environmental and social justice in an international setting. But she didn’t think she’d ever attend Oxford, which last month was named the best university in the world for the seventh straight year by Times Higher Education.

“I was in shock when I found out,” says Collins-Tobin, the seventh Carleton student to receive a Rhodes Scholarship.

“I felt good after the multi-step interview process, but all of the candidates were impressive.

“Everybody was friendly when we had dinner together, so I just tried to be myself and enjoy it as much as I could.”

At Carleton, her studies are focused on international public policy, particularly migration and climate policy. At Oxford, where she will be supported for two years, Collins-Tobin will do a pair of one-year master’s degrees: one in Forced Migration and Refugee Studies, and the other Global Governance and Diplomacy.

“I’m passionate about both of these fields and about how they intersect,” she says. “I’m excited about being challenged academically and gaining the tools that will help me serve in these areas.

“Oxford is a leader in policy-oriented migration and refugee research, and in climate policy research. It’s a global hub that will help me expand my perspective. I plan to learn as much as I can from people who want to make change.”

3d rendering of scale icon on fresh spring meadow with blue sky in background.

From St. John’s to Oxford

The Rhodes Trust distributes 11 scholarships geographically across Canada every year. Students can apply in either the province where they attend university or where they are from.

Collins-Tobin went home to St. John’s, Newfoundland, for her deciding in-person interview this past weekend — the place that sent her down the path to where she is today.

Growing up, she spent a lot of time hiking, camping and snowshoeing with her family, which awakened an interest in nature and the environment. She also plays fiddle and sings, performing and competing internationally with the Shallaway Youth Choir, which showed her the importance of culture and community.

An aerial view of a burned meadow and cut trees in a forest

Panoramic aerial view of rainforest damage (Paralaxis/iStock)

In high school, Collins-Tobin travelled to Ecuador, where she saw firsthand some of the destruction in the Amazon rainforest. Back in St. John’s, she started a composting program at her school, an energizing experience that revealed how individuals can make a difference.

Collins-Tobin also volunteered with an Amnesty International social justice club and the city’s Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council, helping newcomers get settled.

“In addition to being intellectually curious, thoughtful and an excellent writer, Maeve stands out for her engagement with the community, both in her home community of Newfoundland and her newer home of Ottawa,” says Lisa Mills, director of Carleton’s BPAPM program, who supported Collins-Tobin’s Rhodes application along with Samuel Ojo Oloruntoba and Martin Geiger.

“It is rare to encounter a student who is academically strong and creatively gifted, and who shares her gifts with her community, wherever she finds herself.”

Sign on a window that says Refugees Welcome

Carleton’s Ottawa Advantage

After high school, Collins-Tobin landed a position as a Parliamentary Page in the House of Commons, which meant she would be moving to and attending a university in Ottawa.

She chose Carleton because the BPAPM program — and the university’s connections to national and international organizations in Ottawa — felt like a perfect fit.

“The program taught me to look at public and policy issues from many different angles,” she says.

“I’ve learned so much from my professors and peers, from our discussions and debates. I’m grateful for the meaningful policy work experience I gained through co-op placements, and for the opportunity to be part of Dr. Geiger’s research team and attend two conferences on global migration in Europe and engage with scholars in the field.”

Collins-Tobin has also made time for volunteer and advocacy work while at university. She’s involved with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and Climate Action Carleton, contributing to the student group’s successful fossil fuel divestment campaign.

“I’m interested in processes that lead to lasting change, both on the policy front and bottom-up, grassroots efforts,” she says. “Continuing my education at Oxford will help me figure out what’s next.”

“Maeve is brilliant, passionate, intellectually curious and self-driven,” says Oloruntoba, an adjunct research professor at Carleton’s Institute of African Studies.

“She is poised to push the boundaries of knowledge in international affairs, beyond how we have known it.”

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Monday, November 21, 2022 in , ,
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