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Queen's Engineering student earns Order of the White Rose scholarship

The $30,000 scholarship commemorates the victims of the Dec. 6 massacre and recognizes the accomplishments of women engineering students.

Photograph of Brielle Thorsen with white roses
A Cree woman, Brielle Thorsen is pursuing a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering at Queen's. (Supplied photo.)

At a live online ceremony from Polytechnique Montréal and featuring the new White Rose installation in the Integrated Learning Centre at Queen’s University, Brielle Thorsen (Sc’20, MASc'22) was announced as the 2020 recipient of the Order of the White Rose Scholarship.

Polytechnique Montréal created the Order of the White Rose in tribute to the victims as well as the wounded, the families, the faculty members, the employees and the students who were forever affected by the 1989 Montreal Massacre. White roses have become the symbol of Polytechnique Montréal’s commemorative activities to mark the tragedy.

The $30,000 scholarship is awarded annually by the Polytechnique administration to a woman engineering student who intends to undertake graduate studies in engineering (master’s or PhD) at the institution of her choice, in Canada or elsewhere in the world.

Thorsen is a graduate of Mathematics and Engineering from Queen’s and is now pursuing a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering here.

“I want to follow in the footsteps of my father, who is also an engineer,” Thorsen said in a statement. “Throughout my academic career I’ve had the opportunity to explore different facets of mechanical engineering. I’m now in a position to make an informed choice about what inspires me most, which is specializing in sustainable energy. I am a strong nehiyaw iskwew (Cree woman) and a fearless female engineer. I plan to use my knowledge to benefit Indigenous communities in the North, and to run my own business.”

Order of the White Rose scholarship evaluation criteria are based on academic record, technical achievements, and non-technical achievements. Established by Polytechnique Montréal, the selection committee comprises deans from the engineering faculties of the University of Toronto, Queen's University, Université de Sherbrooke, Dalhousie University and University of Victoria, and is chaired by Michèle Thibodeau-DeGuire, Honorary Chair of the Polytechnique Board of Directors and the first woman to earn a civil engineering degree from Polytechnique in 1963.

Thorsen acknowledged in both her application and acceptance speech she is a survivor of sexual assault, a trauma she suffered on the Queen's campus during her first year of study here.

Queen’s Engineering Dean Kevin Deluzio recused himself from the selection committee upon learning of Thorsen’s application. Today he expressed his congratulations to Brielle, who since early October has worked part-time in addition to her studies with the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s Aboriginal Access to Engineering initiative.

“Brielle has overcome a number of obstacles to not only thrive in engineering, but become an inspiration to young women and Indigenous youth,” he said. “It is particularly important to celebrate and support the accomplishments of young engineers who face systemic challenges in both our schools and the profession. Brielle’s courage and resilience in not only overcoming sexual violence and discrimination, but being willing to speak to it, is a call to action for all of us.”

The announcement of Thorsen's scholarship was just one of the activities the Queen's engineering community took part in to recognize the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. On Thursday Dec. 3, the faculty hosted an alumni panel on women in STEM and the Engineering Society held a commemorative event during which they unveiled a new permanent memorial installation in Beamish-Munro Hall designed by Haley Adams, an engineering student. Learn more about these activities in a previous story in the Queen's Gazette

Read more about Brielle Thorsen and the Order of the White Rose scholarship on the Polytechnique Montréal website.