Rita Deverell InsideDr. Rita Shelton Deverell, Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies at the Mount, was recently appointed as a mentor for recipients of the Trudeau Foundation Scholarship. The scholarship is an initiative of the Trudeau Foundation in memoriam of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. It was launched in 2001, and mentors are chosen from a pool of candidates nominated by their peers.

Rita was first contacted by the Trudeau Foundation in 2008 to nominate people she believed would make excellent mentors for Trudeau Scholars as they work toward their doctoral degrees in various fields. Later, in 2010, she was contacted again, this time requesting that she become a nominee herself. Rita readily agreed, and in February 2011 she was officially named as a mentor for 2011 scholarship recipients.

“To be appointed a Trudeau mentor is, first, a great honour,” says Rita. “When I immigrated to Canada from the United States in 1967, Pierre Trudeau was the Minister of Justice. Within a few months he was Prime Minister. I was dazzled that I had landed in a country that elected as its leader someone who was not only brilliantly intelligent, but concerned about social justice, peace and human dignity.”

For Rita, the Trudeau Foundation’s goals compliment her own in a very real and tangible way. “The themes of the Trudeau Foundation I can certainly embrace with total commitment: responsible citizenship, Canada and the world, people and the natural environment, and human rights and dignity,” she explains.

As a mentor, Rita has been paired with two PhD students at the University of Alberta. Both are in different areas of study from each other, and from Rita’s academic work. One of Rita’s scholars is in Linguistics; the other in English and Film Studies with an environmental dissertation topic. She is excited to have an opportunity to share her knowledge and experience, and learn from them as well.

“Mentors and scholars are matched across fields,” Rita explains. “What you are actually doing is opening doors and contacts, and helping them access the real world in which they wish to operate.”

Though an important part of the process, Rita explains that her role is not that of a dissertation supervisor; her scholars, and the others, all have advisors through their universities. Rather, Rita will provide opportunities for them to view the world from a different perspective and make connections with people who may be able to provide insights and experience along the way.

She feels it is important that mentors and scholars be of different vocations, so the experience can be of learning and growing for everyone involved. “The main reason The Trudeau Foundation doesn’t match people in the same field is because it works best when the mentor gets something from it. This would be a one-way street if we were in the same field, but in different fields, learning goes both ways.”

Rita is now the second Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies to be chosen as a mentor for Trudeau Scholars; several years ago, Sylvia Hamilton, 8th. Nancy’s Chair, was chosen for the position. Both women have a background in media, and both are able to provide a different perspective for their scholars.

Congratulations to Rita for being named a 2011 Trudeau Mentor. Undoubtedly, her scholars will be well-served by her years of experience, her dedication and her unique world-view.