Centenary scholarship closes the circle for UAlberta student

Long-ago kindergarten kid returns to campus.

You could say Tia Biggs got her educational start at the University of Alberta. And even though she's just begun classes as a first-year student, she's already got fond memories of campus.

The 17-year-old started her education years ago, attending kindergarten in Ring House Three, one of a trio of quaint brick houses perched on the northwest corner of campus. Then from grades one to three, she attended the university's Child Study Centre in Garneau School, before continuing her schooling in south Edmonton.

"The university was my home base when I was little, so I have some roots here," said Biggs. The child of U of A alumni, she grew up hearing about the good memories it provided her parents, especially her mother, who would walk her around campus after school. "My mom has always talked about the fond memories she has from her time here."

After spending this summer working in a U of A lab, Biggs completes the circle this fall by returning as a first-year student in the Faculty of Science. "I always knew from day one that I wanted to attend the U of A." And given her lifelong affection for the university, it was especially meaningful to win the President's Centenary Citation, the U of A's most generous undergraduate scholarship, valued at $50,000.

"When I found out, I was in complete and utter shock. I applied with hopes but not with expectations, and so to win this specific award caught me completely off guard," Biggs said. "Every time it hits me, I am overcome by an immense amount of both gratitude and excitement."

Biggs is excited about starting her studies this fall; she's been fascinated by medicine as long as she could remember.

"I loved the TV show ER. I remember watching it when I was little." The drama about a hospital emergency room featured high-adrenaline situations each week. "I think I liked that it was about solving chaos. Though I know now that it was fictitious, my love of medicine persisted."

Turned onto the wonders of science by two of her high school teachers, Biggs also loves children (she was a volunteer speed skating coach for youths with the Special Olympics) and wants to combine the two passions to ultimately become a pediatrician. "Hand me a baby and I'm happy. It's where I can make a difference."

During her time as a U of A student, Biggs plans to grow as much as she can. After completing high school in two years while pursuing an International Baccalaureate diploma, she came to university with a 98.8 grade point average. As someone who pushed her limits over the past two years with a fully loaded schedule of class work, captaining her high school's cross-country running team and volunteering both in and out of school, she hopes to learn how to strike a "sustainable balance" while juggling her university studies.

"I don't want to be the best, but my best."

Having the Centenary scholarship will help her do that. "I'm incredibly grateful," said Biggs, who also received a handful of smaller U of A scholarships for leadership and academic excellence. "To have that security to fall back on will take a huge weight off well into my future."