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Sisters of Charity want UNB scholarship to ‘help make education possible for everyone’

Author: Hilary Creamer Robinson

Posted on Sep 20, 2023

Category: UNB Saint John

Photo: Sister Mary Beth McCurdy, Rachel Friesen and Sister Pat Poole.
During September, the University of New Brunswick (UNB) is shining a light on the Student Experience through stories that showcase how the university tries to foster a vibrant, inclusive and supportive culture for its students. This is the third story in the series.

Rachel Friesen started school later than most. Before she came to UNB, she was working for a non-profit organization that runs a children’s home in India. She made many visits there as part of her work and says this is where she learned the value of education.

Friesen, 31, is now midway through her business degree and is double majoring in human resources and economics at UNB’s Saint John campus. For the last two years, she has been the recipient of the Sisters of Charity Honoria Conway Memorial Scholarship.

The funding support is critical because Friesen didn’t have savings when she enrolled in her undergraduate degree.

“Scholarships are so valuable,” she says. “They enable me to actually do this. Otherwise, it’s just me on my own trying to make it through, piling up student loan debt.”

Friesen, who is completing her second co-op term with Irving Oil, has made the adjustment to Saint John and UNB. Change and new experiences are something that comes naturally to her.

“I'm from Saskatchewan originally, but I've moved a lot,” she said. “I've seen a fair amount of the country and done a lot of things.”

“My parents raised us to be open to change and movement. It was a natural thing for me to be like, okay, let's go to school. Let's move to New Brunswick. It feels like home here. I love the school.”

Friesen describes the Saint John campus as intimate and connected. She’s found it easy to form relationships with her peers, professors and benefactors, the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception.

“It means so much to be able to connect with the Sisters,” said Rachel. “They have poured their hearts and lives into the community and supporting education. That’s what I care about, too. That’s what I want to do. I see the possibilities within my degree of how I could make a positive impact.”

For the Sisters, supporting students like Friesen is a priority.

“The Sisters of Charity are educators. Our dream is to help make education possible for everyone,” said Sister Mary Beth McCurdy, who is part of the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception leadership circle.

“When we look at our young people, and we always look to them, we ask, ‘Where is the greatest need?’ In terms of education, it is so difficult financially. I’m delighted Rachel received our scholarship again this year.”

Sister Mary Beth and the Sisters of Charity feel a strong pull to help support women in education, whether they are newcomers or mature students like Friesen.

“Maybe they didn’t have the opportunity earlier in life to pursue post-secondary education,” said Sister Mary Beth, “or the option simply wasn’t there for them when they were younger, but it’s here now. We want to help however we can.”

“The greatest gift we can give to this generation and those to come is opportunity.”

The first two stories in the series:
UNB Cricket Club: Strong bonds formed through connection and camaraderie
UNB students step into another world through study abroad program