Caribbean graduate students the focus of new Munk MGA scholarship

Senior Fellow Connie Carter contributes $100,000 gift to fund award
Dr. Connie Carter, born in 
Jamaica, created 
the scholarship 
to support students 
from CARICOM. COURTESY OF MAO OUYANG
Dr. Connie Carter, born in Jamaica, created the scholarship to support students from CARICOM. COURTESY OF MAO OUYANG

Last November, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy Senior Fellow Dr. Connie Carter contributed a $100,000 gift to establish a new scholarship for the Master of Global Affairs (MGA) program at the school.

The annual scholarship, titled the Dr. Connie Carter Global Affairs Award, will recruit and support students from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which is a political and economic union composed of 20 nations from the region.

“People from the Caribbean can contribute enormously to a diverse, inclusive, multi-cultural world because that’s our heritage. We are inherently a hybrid people,” Carter wrote to The Varsity. “But we need relevant skills and opportunities to excel. I established this MGA scholarship to help support this idea in a practical, hands-on way.”

In December, U of T established an endowment fund, in perpetuity, to support the scholarship. It will be awarded starting in the 2020–2021 academic year, provided that a candidate who meets its criteria is found.

Carter reflects on award, Munk School

Carter’s professional background includes a globe-trotting business career in Europe, Asia, and North America as a barrister, consultant, and professor, particularly in the areas of international trade and intellectual property law.

As originally reported in a recent Faculty of Arts & Science news article, Carter established the scholarship as a way to celebrate her newly acquired Canadian citizenship. Born in pre-independent Jamaica and educated in the UK, she had only ever carried a British passport before. “But now we have Brexit. Having a Canadian passport helps me preempt whatever idiotic idiosyncracies might be in store for British passport holders living outside of the UK,” Carter noted.

“You could say that getting my Canadian passport is opportunistic,” she reflected. “Nothing wrong with that. Exploiting available options is a key to business and personal success.”

She has similar hopes for the scholarship recipients: “I’d like to think that the MGA scholarship that I’ve created will help encourage students to think out of the box, to be confident that they can navigate obstacles with creativity and purpose.”

“It’s hugely satisfying to think that I might be able to inspire a young person to rise above any pettiness they encounter in a similar way,” she continued. “To challenge the status quo when it seems unreasonable.”

Carter also reflected on how the scholarship was an expression of gratitude for her experience at the Munk School, at a difficult time when she had to become a caretaker for her unwell mother. “Participating in seminars, conferences, workshops and receptions at the Munk School helped me retain my sanity,” Carter wrote.

“The atmosphere at the Munk School, with its dynamic Asian Institute and inspiring focus on global affairs was more intellectually satisfying than any of the other schools or centres I had experienced in Canada.”

Representation in the MGA program

The MGA is a two-year graduate program that the Munk School describes as positioning “graduates to accelerate their careers in business, government and NGOs, as these sectors pursue their strategies in an interconnected and multipolar world.”

Currently, the MGA program has a two-to-one ratio between domestic and international students. While domestic students can more easily access funding, MGA Program Director Mark Manger told The Varsity that “international students face a significant expense coming here. Toronto is expensive, [and] international tuition is expensive.”

Manger acknowledges that for lower income countries, as is the case for many CARICOM nations, it is more difficult to send students to Canada to acquire a graduate degree. He noted that this financial barrier for international students is typically only surmountable by those who receive significant support from home, such as through government scholarships, or who come from affluent families.

“It’s just not a desirable situation,” Manger reflected. He spoke about the need to better reach and represent international students who face such barriers: “We want this program to provide graduate education to students from elsewhere, who may not have the means to access this.”

Manger also spoke about the value that diverse, global representation can bring to domestic students. “An international student body enriches the experience of the program, as everyone can encounter different perspectives that they otherwise would not have.”

Carter lauds the interdisciplinary character and culture of the Munk School and the MGA program, especially in terms of the space provided for dialogue and debate. Although she has not yet personally seen CARICOM representation at the school, she believes that when Caribbean students do come, they too can benefit from what the program and the school have to offer.

With Carter’s gift, Manger also shares this vision: “our hope is that we will be able to attract more students from Caribbean countries.”

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