Empowering women in STEM

Scholarship created by family of Waterloo alumni gets first-year students off to a good start By Charlotte Danby Faculty of Engineering During high school in the Waterloo Region, Rachel Wormald attended Go ENG Girl, an outreach program hosted by the University of Waterloo that introduces grade 7 to 10 girls to the world of engineering.

She was immediately hooked.

Keen to learn more, Rachel skipped a couple days of school each year to attend Waterloo Engineering’s annual Capstone Design Symposia. Seeing fourth-year students present their innovations to the public and explore potential commercialization exposed her to the fun, excitement and real-world applicability of an engineering degree, fuelling her ambitions even further.

"I remember thinking that I would love for that to be me someday," says Wormald, who is now in her second year of an undergraduate degree in systems design engineering at Waterloo.

A high achiever in math and science, with stellar extracurricular achievements including her leadership role on her school’s FIRST Robotics team, Wormald had what it takes to apply to Waterloo Engineering. The tuition would be expensive but come second term when her co-op program kicked in, she planned to help pay her way. The immediate hurdle would be overcoming the financial pressures of her first term. 

With her acceptance letter came a bonus of good fortune - Wormald was to receive $5,000 from the UW Alumni Women in Technology Entrance Scholarship to help her embark on her studies with less stress.

A small donation can make a big difference

The scholarship was established by the Elliott family with an initial donation of $10,000 in 2020.  Andrew Elliott (BASc ’85, chemical engineering) and his wife Donna Elliott (BA ’85) met when they were students at Waterloo. Their two daughters, Sarah Elliott (BASc ’14, systems design engineering) and Carolyn Elliott (BAFM, ’18), are alumni too.

"As a family, we share the Waterloo student experience as well as a commitment to give back to the community and a wish to support women in their professional pursuits," says Andrew.

"We need greater diversity in STEM leadership," adds Donna. "Our hope is that through this scholarship, we can encourage and facilitate that journey for young women at Waterloo."

So far, the scholarship has benefitted six women students, including Wormald. 

"My first term at Waterloo was really hard," says Wormald. "All the new pressures of a university degree workload were incredibly demanding. The scholarship empowered me and helped me stay the course in more ways than one. It alleviated the upfront financial stress, enabling me to get to grips with the academic intensity, and it made me feel celebrated as a woman in STEM."

Since its inception, the scholarship has grown to over $65,000 thanks to the Elliott family’s ongoing contributions, as well as pledges from their extended family and friends.

"Every contribution, no matter the size, helps. It all adds up to make a meaningful difference in a student’s life," says Carolyn.

"Our hope," Sarah adds, "is that other alumni will choose to contribute to this award and help more young women pursuing careers in STEM start their studies on a strong footing."

If you would like to contribute to the UW Alumni Women in Technology Entrance Scholarship, please contact Stephanie Osborne .

Or, consider making a donation to help support our future engineers’ education needs or the Faculty’s research innovation.

*Banner photo is of the Elliott Family with Carolyn in the front backed by Donna, Sarah and Andrew.