Lilian Pham was among this year’s Schulich Leadership Scholarship winners. Photo contributed to The B.C. Catholic

Family, faith guide scholarship winner

By  NICHOLAS ELBERS, Canadian Catholic News
  • October 20, 2023

VANCOUVER -- For Lilian Pham, winning the prestigious Schulich Leadership Scholarship was only possible because of the love and support of her family. 

The Vancouver St. Patrick’s Regional Secondary student said the $100,000 grant was a welcome surprise. 

When she got the call from Simon Fraser University student admission services telling her she had won the award, which would amount to a free ride through SFU’s computer science program, Pham said she screamed with excitement. 

Pham attributes much of her success to her family, especially her brother Bob, an honours computer science student at UBC. Not only did he teach her to code, prompting her decision to enter SFU’s computer science program, but he’s also one of her best friends. 

Pham described their relationship.

“It’s like having a best friend you can always rely on and depend on,” she said.  

She is also grateful for her Vietnamese immigrant parents and their example of hard work. 

“My family has been super important to my success,” she said. “They are always encouraging me to follow my dreams; they are always encouraging me to improve. It’s an honour to give back to them.”  

Her family is an active part of St. Joseph’s Parish in Vancouver, and Pham says her faith helped her push forward even when she didn’t see many women working in the sciences. 

As a young girl, even though she was interested in science, she saw only men in science. By studying computer sciences at SFU and one day starting her own software company, she hopes her example will inspire other women to follow their dreams.

For Pham, female representation in the sciences is “valuable because there are so many capable women,” like her mother and grandmother, who may not have had these opportunities because of societal pressures. 

The Schulich Leadership Scholarship was founded by businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich to alleviate the financial burden of education for the brightest students pursuing futures in engineering and sciences. The Schulich Foundation awards numerous $100,000 plus scholarships yearly for students entering Canadian universities. 

The Schulich Leadership Scholarship is somewhat distinctive in Canada. Unlike many general scholarships, students must specify the schools they wish to attend with the money. The foundation also supports its recipients after receiving their grants through networking and mentorship opportunities. 

As Pham prepares to follow in her brother’s footsteps, she is excited about the opportunities at SFU, including its co-op program and joining SFU’s Women in Computing Science Society.

St. Patrick’s principal Ralph Gabriele said in a statement, “Lilian is someone whose motivation and dedication to her studies sets her apart from others … On behalf of St. Patrick Regional Secondary, I would like to say how proud we are of her and can’t wait to see what her future brings.”

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