President's Society

A Gift that Builds a Dream

Neil Siemens is a man who has dedicated his final years to helping others reach their potential. One of them is UAlberta undergrad student Kaylan Burns who is currently studying biology.

As the daughter of a single parent, Burns knew she'd have to work hard to reach her dream of becoming a doctor. At age 13, she started babysitting and put away half her earnings into savings. After high-school graduation, she tallied up the costs and her undergrad degree alone came in at about $60,000 for tuition, fees, books and rent.

Her savings were nowhere near enough. That's when donor Neil Siemens stepped in.

Make a Connection to UAlberta Students

Your gift creates possibilities and helps students make a difference in the community.


Your Gift Changes Lives on Campus and in the Community

As a President’s Society member, you join like-minded alumni and friends who have invested in the next generation of bold thinkers and leaders. A gift of $1,000 or more makes you a member, recognizing you as one of UAlberta’s closest friends and supporters.

Your annual gifts reduce financial barriers for talented students to carry out research and become tomorrow’s problem-solvers. Your support encourages students to step further than they thought possible. You allow them to direct their energy toward finding solutions to the world’s great problems. Thank you.

“At the University of Alberta, we seek to build global citizens. We strive to create transformative learning experiences and prepare our students to tackle society’s greatest challenges. Our work depends on a collective effort. Together, we will continue to build one of the world’s great universities for the public good.”

David Turpin, CM, PhD, LLD, FRSC President and Vice-Chancellor

You Make Change Happen

Riad Abou-Alwan

A Big Difference

“I have four siblings and two of them are in university, so it’s very expensive,” says Riad Abou-Alwan, ’16 BSc(Hon). A recent graduate from the Faculty of Science’s paleontology program, Abou-Alwan won a donor-supported award for $1,000 in his final year of his undergraduate degree — the Jurassic Forest Award in Vertebrate Paleontology. “It might not sound like a lot but it made a big difference,” he says. “I was able to reduce my expenses and focus on school.” This year he is working with students as a mentor with the Edmonton Public School Board.

Elaine Laberge

Finding a Voice

Elaine Laberge, ’15 BA, was in her final year of an after-degree in sociology when she learned about funding opportunities for a research idea. "When you come from inter-generational poverty, you can't imagine a different world on the other side of the social tracks," she says. With the donor-supported Undergraduate Research Initiative, Elaine launched her own research project — exploring the impact of media portrayals of poverty and privilege. It became a stepping stone toward a master's degree. "Work had always come first, second and third," she says. "Thanks to donors, I've been able to focus on school and research for the first time, making a meaningful contribution as a researcher.”

Juanita Gnanapragasam

Eating Better, Together

When she heard how international students found it challenging to eat healthily, Juanita Gnanapragasam, ’16 BSc, wanted to help. Her first step was research, and the donor-supported Undergraduate Research Initiative made it possible. “A survey of 10 students isn’t meaningful,” she says. “So I applied for a $5,000 URI grant and was able to carry out extensive interviews with almost 50 international students.” She found one student assumed tap water wasn’t safe and spent limited resources on bottled water. Others were going to the food bank, but throwing away canned goods, fearing the contents were contaminated. The next phase of Juanita’s research is to advocate for solutions, something she will do while she pursues a master’s in Public Health.

Student Health Initiative for the Needs of Edmonton

Reason to Smile

Marissa Struik, a third-year dentistry student, is making a difference in the community as one of the co-chairs of the Student Health Initiative for the Needs of Edmonton — SHINE — a student-run dental clinic operating in the city’s Boyle McCauley Health Centre. Every Saturday, dental and dental hygiene students provide free basic dental care to low-income patients at the clinic, with oversight from the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and the guidance of professional dentists. Volunteering at SHINE has given Struik motivation to make a difference when she has her own dental practice. “I’ve seen firsthand how inaccessible dental care can be to people with a low social-economic status,” she says. “I’m committed to finding ways to change that.” Last year, the team helped more than 300 patients.