Disaster Relief Bursary

Help students affected by natural disasters continue their studies

Nicole McMillan

The Disaster Relief bursary helped student Nicole McMillan get back on her feet after the Fort McMurray wildfire of 2016, and continue her dream of becoming a lawyer.

Project Overview

University of Alberta students arrive on campus with great potential. They are hard-working, high achieving and ready to learn and solve problems. But when the unexpected happens — a natural disaster — their studies may have to take a back seat. 

The UAlberta Disaster Relief Bursary ensures that students impacted by disasters, like the 2016 wildfires in Northern Alberta, can return to their studies as soon as they are able. This bursary: 

  • Is based on financial need due to loss or unforeseeable costs related to a natural disaster.
  • Provides additional financial support in conjunction with other established bursary programs at the University of Alberta.

Your support for this bursary uplifts students in times of greatest need.

‘I couldn’t have done it without donor support’

UAlberta business student Nicole McMillan knows that life doesn’t get put on hold when you become a student. A series of devastating, unforeseen events during the first few years of her undergraduate program made it increasingly difficult for her to continue her studies.

First, McMillan’s mom was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer. Despite the blow, McMillan maintained a full course load while juggling several volunteer commitments, including working as a mental health support volunteer in residence at Lister Centre.

“My mom encouraged me to live my life to the fullest,” says McMillan. “She told me, ‘Life doesn’t stop because I get sick.'”

But then things got worse at home. Later that year, McMillan’s father was laid off due to low oil prices, making it difficult for the family to make ends meet. Not long after, on May 3, 2016, a massive wildfire hit her hometown, Fort McMurray, forcing the largest evacuation in Alberta’s history. When her family was finally able to return home, McMillan took on four jobs to help her parents and pay for school. No matter how hard she worked, though, it just wasn’t going to be enough to cover the next year’s tuition.

Help When She Needed it Most

Thanks to the University of Alberta Disaster Relief Bursary, along with other financial assistance, McMillan was able to go back to school for her third year. She then secured an internship in human resource management at Syncrude in Fort McMurray — invaluable work experience she hopes to translate into a future career in employment law.

“Receiving these awards changed everything for me. I couldn’t have worked and maintained my GPA. My dreams of going to law school would have been shattered,” she says.

The Disaster Relief Bursary was created in response to the Fort McMurray wildfire. To date, the bursary has been awarded to 47 students, with most receiving between $1,500 to $3,000 — assistance that helped them look beyond disaster to a bright and happy future.

“Because of these awards, my mom was able to know that I got this internship and see before she passed away where my career was going to take me,” says McMillan. “If I had to take time off school, that would never have happened.

“I couldn’t have done it without donor support.”

Help Carry the Weight

Your gift can ease the burden of a student who has suffered a significant setback in the face of natural disaster.


Listen to UAlberta engineering student and Disaster Relief Bursary recipient Imad Bazzi talk about his evacuation from Fort McMurray — and the long road back

4 mins 53 secs

Student Inquiries

To learn more about receiving a bursary, please visit the Student Connect Centre

Administration Building
University of Alberta

Phone: 780-492-3113
Toll-Free: 1-855-492-3113

Related Projects

The President’s Award for Refugees and Displaced Persons Fund will provide up to 10 scholarships for students affected by the conflict in Syria. These scholarships will cover the living expenses and tuition for students who have been displaced from their home country, giving them a second chance at an education and a better future.
Learn More    Give