Driven by community

Anna Irwin shares her experience as a Loran Scholar and life on campus
By: Alexandra Montana

Anna Irwin is a second-year environmental studies and community engaged learning (CENL) student, as well as a 2022 McCall MacBain Loran Scholar. Being an active member of the Loran community while pursuing studies at Mount Allison keeps Irwin busy and constantly embarking on new adventures.

“Being part of the Loran community is incredible,” she says. “It’s a connection of other scholars, alumni, and even volunteers from coast to coast.”

The Loran Scholars Foundation is the first national organization in Canada to grant undergraduate awards based on a mixture of academic achievement, extracurricular activity, and leadership potential.

Irwin’s favourite part of the award is the sense of community and learning from other scholars, who she calls friends, that have taken on different work experiences across the globe. Each scholar is paired with a mentor throughout the four-year scholarship. During this time, mentors introduce scholars to their new community, provide advice and resources, and continually challenge scholars to act with courage, empathy, and honesty.

“It’s cool to hear about how different each mentor relationship works,” says Irwin. “My mentor and I go hiking or cross-country skiing. Some of the other mentors will take their scholars to events so it is interesting hearing the different perspectives of mentorship.”

Each summer, scholars are challenged to broaden their horizons and gain meaningful work experience in three types of 12-week programs: enterprise, public policy, and community development, which can take place in Canada or abroad.

Irwin selected to complete her summer of community development as a Workshop and Outreach Instructor with Actua, a Canadian charitable organization that delivers Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs to youth. Irwin worked in communities in Nunavut, primarily in the North Qikiqtaaluk region, bringing STEM activities to kids in school through the spring.

Anna Irwin with campers from Actua's STEM camps in Clyde River, Nunavut

“We come into the communities as guests and our goal is to allow the kids to experience STEM and widen their eyes to see that although STEM is very big, it’s also right at home in your community.”

Throughout the summer, Irwin and two colleagues from Actua travelled to different communities each week coordinating STEM camps. Children in these communities had the opportunity to learn a mixture of activities involving crafts, chemical reactions, robotics, and coding.

“Some kids will enjoy the craft building, while others enjoy the coding side. It’s really cool to see the kids have that light-bulb moment.”

Demonstrating properties of liquid density to campers from Actua's STEM camps in Pond Inlet, Nunavut

Irwin grew up in Ontario before moving to Nunavut with her family for the end of high school. When exploring options for university, she knew she wanted to be a part of a smaller community.

“The idea of a bigger university was interesting in terms of opportunities, but I love my small, well-connected community,” says Irwin. “I chose Mount Allison because of its community. The environmental program and the community engaged learning program became a big part of why I was really glad I chose Mount A.”

Although not her deciding factor, an added bonus was when she discovered the cross-country team that she looks forward to joining again this year, along with playing ultimate frisbee.

“I love walking across campus and, as my friends have figured out, it is hard for me to walk across campus without saying ‘hi’ to somebody I know. The community at Mount A is awesome and I just love the people.”