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University of Windsor

Scholarship rewards student's work as engineering ambassador

Growing up, Rita Laith had her mother as a role model. Now the third-year civil engineering student hopes to act as a role model for young women interested in a career in engineering.

That dedication to mentoring earned her a $10,000 scholarship from the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation. The Vale Undergraduate Engineering Scholarship recognizes two women engineering students each year for their community leadership. Queen’s University student Jessica Steeves joined Laith as 2011 winners.

"The award is intended to honour women who act as ambassadors for the engineering profession," Laith said in an interview.

It's a role she has already taken on as a volunteer with the engineering open house and Windsor Welcome Week. She also worked in developing civil engineering presentations, activities, and modules for Mobile Outreach for Engineering, which sent teams of students and faculty to local high schools to introduce students to the field.

"The students were able to practice the structural design aspect of civil engineering through hands-on activities,” Laith said. "They enjoyed this experience as it allowed them to become more acquainted with the engineering profession.”

She called herself "passionate" about this outreach work, and noted the important role model she had in her mother—a professional engineer herself who is currently pursuing a doctorate at the University.

"I am determined to work in narrowing the gap between the rich and poor countries. I am also eager to support individuals in developing countries because I believe that if everyone had the opportunities I was offered here in Canada then the world would be a better place,” said Laith, a Chaldean born in Iraq.

Besides serving as an ambassador for Windsor Engineering, Laith has volunteered with Hotel Dieu-Grace hospital, and holds an Outstanding Scholars appointment under the supervision of professor Faouzi Ghrib who has motivated her through the research aspects of engineering. Within her church, she volunteers as a Sunday school teacher, sings in the choir, and is a member of the directing committee of the youth group. She guides first-year engineering students as an undergraduate student advisor and earned an undergraduate student research award from NSERC last summer.

"Dr. Edwin Tam has graciously supported me in applying for this scholarship and provided me with the opportunity to promote engineering in various aspects," she said. "I will work in giving back and achieving my long term goal of developing the world on a global scale by creating a charity, and working hands-on in building stronger and more resilient communities in third world countries.”

Laith will be honoured at an awards ceremony hosted by Engineers Canada in May at its annual general meeting in Halifax.

Huntley O’Connor, president of the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation, praised both scholarship winners and said he is sure they will go on to successful careers.

“Jessica and Rita are joining the ranks of over 100 other remarkable women who have received a CEMF scholarship, and who collectively represent the very best the engineering profession has to offer," he said.

The award is sponsored by Vale, one of the world's largest metals and mining companies.


Civil engineering student Rita Laith will receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation for her work as an ambassador for the profession.