Annalise Mathers

Queen Elizabeth II Scholarships make global health experience a reality for Canadian students

December 07, 2016

By Cecilia Kalaw

SFU Health Sciences Master of Public Health (MPH) student Annalise Mathers was one of the 2016 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee (QEII) Award recipients, and is encouraging other SFU students to take advantage of the rewarding and unique opportunities made possible by this program.

Currently completing her MPH degree in the global health concentration, Annalise learned about the QEII Award through health sciences professor and Canada Research Chair, Angela Kaida. In May 2016, Kaida developed and offered an experiential learning course in Durban, South Africa in collaboration with the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine. The course focused on the intersections of youth, gender, and HIV, and offered the opportunity to study alongside Canadian and African learners from various disciplines and credentials.

Kaida informed potential students about the QEII Award at one of her pre-departure briefings for the course as a source of funding for students who planned to stay and work somewhere in Africa for the summer. Annalise immediately saw this new course and the QEII Award as a launching point for a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience, as well as an opportunity to complete her practicum – an MPH program requirement.

The QEII Award is available to Canadian students working in various African countries for at least three months. Annalise planned her 3 month experience by adding a practicum to Kaida’s 8-day intensive course that took place in Durban. This combination provided Annalise with a cohesive and comprehensive learning experience.

To develop the practicum, she identified a local director of a global non-governmental organization (NGO) called WIEGO, or Women in Informal Employment, Globalizing and Organizing, based here in Vancouver. She met with them to discuss the potential of a summer practicum and they referred her to a partner NGO, Asiye eTafuleni, who works closely with the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Once she confirmed that she would be able to complete her practicum in South Africa after Kaida’s course, she worked with WIEGO, and her supervisor Jeremy Snyder to complete and submit the short application for the QEII Award.

The application consisted of a short SFU nomination form, letters of support from the student's supervisor and the practicum/internship site, transcript, and a personal statement of intent. The application process was very straightforward and simple, but more importantly there were no “strings attached” or tricky parts about navigating the application process. Annalise received $6,000, which was the maximum amount rewarded.

Students who receive the QEII award receive funding prior to departure, something that Annalise found very useful. As a student who is self-funding her Master degree, it would have been difficult for her to pay for her flights and living expenses abroad upfront. With the QEII Award, she was able to carry out her work and learning in South Africa without the anxieties of waiting for timely reimbursement. At this time, there are very limited funding opportunities available for students seeking international educational experiences, and even fewer that provide the scholarship before departure when students need money the most.

Annalise’s time in both the field course and her practicum provided her with invaluable field experience that have enriched and energized her studies, and increased her commitment to her learning goals. Prior to this experience, she felt “ungrounded” in the MPH program, she credits this award for giving her an immensely meaningful educational and work experience possible. She has since, gain tremendous new confidence moving into the public health workforce.

With fond memories of the new “family” she became part of during her time in Durban, Annalise also returned to Canada with some of their passion and dedication for improving global health. This award provided her with the opportunity to grow as an individual, and as a future public health practitioner.

For more information on how to apply for the Queen Elizabeth II Scholarships, please contact Amisha Choksey at