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History major Harley Martin is Concordia’s newest McCall MacBain Scholar

The student-union leader is among just 20 Canadian recipients of the highly competitive scholarship
May 6, 2024
By Samantha Rideout, GrDip 10

Headshot of a man with brown hair, smiling and wearing a light grey sweater over a black t-shirt. He is standing in front of a light-grey wall. McCall MacBain Scholars such as Harley Martin are selected on based on “exceptional character, community engagement, leadership potential, entrepreneurial spirit, academic strength and intellectual curiosity,” states the organization administering the awards. | Photo: McCall MacBain Scholars

Before coming to Concordia, Harley Martin wasn’t certain that he wanted to pursue a post-secondary education. But now, in his final year of a Bachelor of Arts in History, he’s earned a place among the 20 Canadians and 10 international students who will be embarking on their graduate studies in the fall as McCall MacBain scholars.

Founded in 2019 and modelled after prestigious leadership-based scholarship programs such as the Rhodes Scholarships in Oxford and the Kupe Scholarships in New Zealand, the McCall MacBain Scholarship is awarded to individuals who have the potential to make a positive impact in the world and who will be enrolling in master’s or professional degrees at McGill University in Montreal.

Not only will the scholarship fully cover Martin’s tuition and living expenses, it will also connect him with the other McCall MacBain Scholars during biweekly leadership seminars. “The idea is to not only enable recipients to focus on their education but also to create an interdisciplinary cohort of people to work, learn and think together. That aspect of it is really appealing to me,” says Martin, who graduates from Concordia this June.

After completing high school, which he readily admits that he did not enjoy very much, Martin spent several years working in the forestry industry and travelling. However, his love of learning eventually inclined him to give formal education another chance. “My partner at the time encouraged me to study my pre-existing interests, like history and political science,” he says. “I’m super glad I did.”

Martin’s classes at Concordia helped him to gain a better sense of where he’d like to put his energy going forward. “For me, history is about being able to contextualize events that are happening in the present, and putting that understanding to use,” he says, having decided to apply his McCall MacBain scholarship to a Master of Public Policy degree.

“Two of the topics on my mind are housing and food sustainability,” Martin continues. “They’ve always been essential and they’re only going to grow more pressing. I don’t know exactly how we’re going to address those issues, but I feel it’s really worth thinking about.”

Learning to lead in the student community

For the past two years, Martin has complemented his coursework with hands-on experiences in the Concordia Student Union (CSU), where he now leads its executive team as general coordinator. It’s a demanding role that requires overseeing the union’s many projects, campaigns and student services. For example, his team has been working to develop a new student centre and enhance Concordia’s mental-health supports.

“I can’t even begin to detail how much I’ve learned from this job,” Martin says. “We have so much responsibility and that means we can achieve so much for the student community. It’s very exciting and also incredibly stressful, which are just two sides of the same coin.”

Martin credits his involvement in student politics with preparing him for the McCall MacBain Scholarship’s application process, which entails a series of six interviews and a gathering of finalists who participate in discussions and outings in Montreal. 

“You’re in these semi-formal settings where you’re chatting, going to seminars and meeting this or that new person,” he explains. “The previous version of myself who didn’t have the CSU experience would have been less at ease with it.”

Martin says he’s eager to make the most of his scholarship. “I haven’t always known what I wanted to focus on in life,” he says. “And while that has been uncomfortable at times, it has also made me open to embracing new opportunities.”

Concordia students who are interested in applying for a 2025 McCall MacBain Scholarship are invited to attend upcoming information sessions.

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