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The Varsity

The University of Toronto's
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U of T PhD plays prime minister-for $70K

By Graham F Scott
Published: 9:00 am, 29 November 2004
Modified: 5 pm, 11 January 2012
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UPDATED

U of T doctoral student Ashleigh Androsoff is the winner of the 2004 “As Prime Minister” scholarship, it was announced last Thursday.

“It feels great; it’s quite an experience,” Androsoff said in a phone interview on Friday. The ten finalists for the award were announced in August, but the final decision was not announced until November 25. The finalists were brought to Ottawa for the final announcement.

“We didn’t know who the finalist was until it was announced publicly,” said Androsoff. “It was quite a surprise.”

Androsoff is in her 3rd year of a PhD in Canadian history at Massey College. Her thesis, in progress now, will be on the Doukhobors, an immigrant group from Russia that settled in Western Canada in the late nineteenth century.

Her essay, she said, focused on three areas: health care, the environment, and international obligations.

“I applied two priorities to each of these: responsible stewardship and long-term sustainability,” she said. “I was thinking of three people for the three areas I wrote about. Roy Romanow for health care, David Suzuki for the environment, and Lester B. Pearson for international obligations.” Androsoff said she valued the contribution these three men had made to each field, but stressed that “it’s time for others to take up the torch and carry [these issues] on into the 21st century. It’s particularly incumbent on youth.”

The As Prime Minister Award is valued at $70,000, and includes an internship with the scholarship’s patron, Magna Canada. Former Magna CEO and current Conservative MP Belinda Stronach was on hand for the presentation of the award.

“The prize money is going to go right back to my education,” said Androsoff. She said the money will also fund some research trips to British Columbia and Saskatchewan to study the Doukhobors’ area of settlement first-hand.

The Burnaby, B.C. native got her B.A. from Simon Fraser University and a master’s degree from U of T.

The title of the scholarship asks the winner to imagine herself as prime minister of Canada; Androsoff didn’t own up to such ambitions, but she didn’t say no, either.

“I have considered political involvement,” she said. “So far, my political involvement has consisted of voting. It’s always been my plan not to be locked into the ivory tower; I’ve always wanted to apply my knowledge. I’m not sure just yet. I’m entertaining the thought of doing some work with the United Nations.”

“As young people, it’s important to keep our options open. Part of this competition, what the judges evaluated, was: ‘What are the contestants’ values and how did they stick to them [in their essays]?’” said Androsoff. “In other words, what is your true north?”