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A motivating force

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Jessica Hadjis, MA in Interdisciplinary Studies student

I am thrilled with the work that I am doing and thankful to receive the Beth and Bill Vance Bursary.

The Beth and Bill Vance Bursary is given to a student who’s fully engaged in and passionate about their life’s work. When Jessica Hadjis, a MA in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) student, found out she won the award, she was moved to tears by the committee’s confidence that she was that kind of person. 

“When I read the description I thought, ‘I aspire to be that person,’ and the fact that they saw that in me was so touching and it really motivated me to continue,” says Hadjis, who works in international human rights and development. “Every time I’m tired and with every paper I write, I continue to give it everything I have because there’s somebody else out there who supports me and believes in me. It’s amazing and it’s something I’ll always be grateful for.”

The bursary description reads: “The donors believe that when people are self-aware and feel responsible for their choices, they are vibrant and powerful contributors in their occupations, within their communities and in the world at large.” For Hadjis, this has proven true.

Hadjis did some of her Royal Roads studies from Port Louis, Mauritius, where she was an intern in the Socio-Economic Development Unit of the United Nations Development Programme. Often interns do administrative work, but if they are passionate about their work like Hadjis, and willing to go above and beyond, they can be given more responsibility. Hadjis expressed an interest in women’s issues and so she was given autonomy to tackle gender equality issues and access to justice in Mauritius.

“Personally, professionally and academically it was really unique and amazing,” she says of the experience, adding that her thesis is exploring gender issues in Mauritius. “Every day was a giving, learning and working experience.”

Hadjis says without financial support, it would have been difficult for her to carry out her volunteer work in Mauritius while studying and supporting herself. She adds it would have also been challenging to continue to pursue her career if it wasn’t for Royal Roads’ flexible learning model.

“I am thrilled with the work that I am doing and am thankful to have learned relevant and necessary skills through my MAIS program, which I use on a daily basis, and to have the flexibility and support from a program such as MAIS which hasn’t limited me to study, work and live in one city – or country for that matter!”

Since starting her master’s in September 2010, Hadjis, who is from Montreal, has lived and worked in France and has travelled to Oman, Spain and Italy. Thanks to the flexibility of her program, Hadjis has been able to work via correspondence for a human rights NGO based in South Africa, volunteer for Amnesty International and teach English and French at a business school for adults. She was also selected as one of 20 students to participate in the 2011 Human Rights Defenders Course from the European Inter University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation in Venice.

The Beth and Bill Vance Bursary was established by Royal Roads MA Leadership and Training alumna Shauna Jones, who was so moved by the financial support she received from her godmother and her husband, she established a bursary in their name. Hadjis says she too hopes to give back to students in the future.

“I’m confident that one day I’ll be able to support someone who is in my shoes,” she says. “I really believe in what Shauna is doing. She really did give me a boost and the support that I needed.”