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Alumni win Gates Cambridge scholarships

Meet Joseph McQuade and Katherine Bruce-Lockhart

Katharine Bruce-Lockhart and Joseph McQuade will head to Cambridge University

Two University of Toronto alumni are joining 90 of the world’s most academically brilliant and socially committed young people from 24 countries across the world as Gates Cambridge Scholars.

Competition for the graduate-level scholarships, established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, is fierce. Candidates are selected on the basis of intellectual ability, leadership capacity, academic fit with the University of Cambridge, and their commitment to improve the lives of others.

This year, just nine Canadians are receiving scholarships. They are among 51 scholars chosen in the international selection round, and join 39 new American Gates Cambridge Scholars selected in February. In addition to the two U of T alumni, the group comprises alumni from the University of Chicago, University of Saint Andrews, Queen’s University, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, University of Lausanne, Yale University, and California Institute of Technology.

Joseph McQuade completed his undergraduate degree at U of T, where he first became passionate about the intersection of the history of espionage and the history of colonialism. He now studies evolutionary violence and state methods of surveillance and intelligence-gathering in Bengal during the First World War, and hopes to pursue this topic further at Cambridge.

Katherine Bruce-Lockhart found her interest in the nexus of history and justice, especially on the African continent, during a joint undergraduate degree in African Studies and History at U of T. She has spent the past year pursuing a master’s degree in African Studies at the University of Oxford and aims to continue studying the Mau Mau Rebellion at Cambridge, focusing on the detention of women.

U of T News spoke with McQuade and Bruce-Lockhart about the scholarships and their move to the University of Cambridge this October.

What is it like to receive the Gates Cambridge Scholarship?
K: I was so surprised and honoured to win a Gates Scholarship. My interview occurred over Skype while I was doing my master’s fieldwork in Kenya, which made it all the more surreal. To me, the Gates is a very unique postgraduate award. Like any competitive scholarship, it requires academic excellence, but it also emphasizes leadership potential and a commitment to using your knowledge to improve the lives of others. This aligns closely with my own ethos, as I have always believed that academia is most valuable when connected with social responsibility. In addition, I am honoured to be part of such a diverse collective of international young leaders, all eager to make constructive change in the world around them.

J: The whole application process has really been an eye opening experience, because it forced me to gain a better understanding of my own goals and motivations. The financial burden of going overseas for my degree has been a source of stress all year, so being granted this scholarship is just such a fantastic opportunity, which is taking some time to sink in.

What will you do at Cambridge?
K: Cambridge provides a wonderful combination of a world-class history department and African studies centre. This will allow me to nurture my skills as a historian, while also continuing my commitment to interdisciplinary area studies. I have no doubt that the training I will receive through the history department will greatly assist my aspirations to become a professor of history. The department has an outstanding global history focus, and also a myriad of opportunities for training in teaching, oral history methods, and public history. The African Studies Centre will be another wonderful academic environment, where I hope to continue to pursue a broad base of knowledge about the continent, and also further my Kiswahili skills!

J: At Cambridge I'll be doing a PhD in History, in which I plan to research the networks of intelligence and surveillance which were used to police the British Empire in the early twentieth century.  Specifically, I'm interested in the use of revolutionary violence by anti-colonial forces in Bengal and Ireland during the First World War, and the way in which these revolutionaries came to be categorized and policed. This project will rely heavily on archival material available both at Cambridge itself and at the British Library in London, and this is why it's such a delight and an honour to have the opportunity to do this research in England.

What drew you to this field of study?
K: As the late Chinua Achebe wrote, the African continent is often viewed as the “farthest point of otherness” in the Western imagination. Deep cross-continental connections and rigorous study are sometimes lost in timeworn tropes of “darkness,” poverty, conflict and disease – stereotypes that belie the diversity, dynamism and humanity of the continent. Understanding the false dichotomies constructed between Africa and the West motivate my work, as I believe that rigorous scholarship can and should act as a bridge to deeper understanding and empathy.

The Mau Mau Rebellion, my particular field of study, represents perhaps the nadir of these attitudes in the colonial era. It also offers a fascinating case study of the nexus between history and justice, as the violence of the period and its legacies are currently being debated in the High Court of London. Understanding the Mau Mau Rebellion helps us to deepen our awareness of the construction of “otherness” and the importance of safeguarding human rights, no matter the time elapsed.

J: My interest in this project grew out of courses I took at U of T on the history of espionage and the history of colonialism. My undergraduate work got me interested in the intersection between these two fields, which I'm currently pursuing through my Master's research at Queen's: I've been investigating the way in which cultural conceptions of the "terrorist" in both the official and public discourse of the early twentieth century shaped the way that British intelligence services policed revolutionaries in Bengal.

I'm looking forward to expanding this research to a more global scale, which will allow me to trace connections and influences in revolutionary thought and action across the British Empire. What really fascinates me about this work is that in reading through newspapers and government reports from the early twentieth century, I've become increasingly convinced that the cultural representations of terrorism that dominate our own headlines have changed very little in the past hundred years. 

What drew you to U of T?

K: As a student interested in African Studies, U of T made perfect sense. The international composition of the campus, and its location in one of the world’s most diverse and vibrant cities provided me with an enriching learning environment both inside and outside the classroom. The academic rigour in the Vic One first year program, History, and African Studies programs greatly enhanced my critical thinking skills and intellectual curiosity. I also learned to write and edit in a range of forums, through the G8 Research Group, the Canadian Centre for Responsibility to Protect, the Hart House Social Justice Committee and the student journals for History and Diaspora and Transnational Studies.

The Jackman Humanities Fellowship in my fourth year really crystallized my academic aspirations, as it provided me with a supportive community of intergenerational and interdisciplinary scholars.

J: My academic experiences at U of T have really helped to give me the tools that have been required to get where I am. U of T's wide range of history courses was what originally drew me to the university and it was this range of material that got me thinking about history in global terms. 

How did your experiences at U of T influence you?

K: Victoria College was both a home and a place a major growth for me. Vic One was a perfect start to my time at U of T, with passionate professors and an academic conviviality that is likely unparalleled at the first-year undergraduate level. Vic also introduced me to the Ideas for the World program – a wonderful experience that allows students to forge connections outside the university through the shared love of learning. In many ways, this program most embodies what I admire about the Gates. My Vic One professors, Dean Kelley Castle and the leadership team at Vic, especially Paul Gooch, were tremendous role models for me and I worked with some incredible mentors in the history and African studies departments. From the beginning, Ato Quayson deepened my love of African Literature and my passion for studying the continent – a role that was continued by Dickson Eyoh, Thomas Tieku and June Larkin. Peter Blanchard and Sean Hawkins exposed me to the true potential of history as a vital and dynamic field of study. 

Finally, there was my experience this past summer through the U of T internship program in Namibia. This will remain one of my fondest memories, and a wonderful example of the opportunities U of T provides it students for making meaningful connections across borders.

J: I attended high school in Toronto and was fortunate enough to keep in close contact with many of my high school friends, some of whom attended U of T with me and helped to make it such a worthwhile experience. My friends and family have been a huge part of this process all along the way, especially my parents and my sister Katherine (also a U of T graduate). 

I was also extremely fortunate to study under fantastic professors at U of T, who helped to stimulate my interest in this subject and who helped to challenge me to develop my research and writing skills. Faculty of the History Department, Religion Department, and Centre of South Asian Studies have all played an important role in helping to encourage my enthusiasm by inspiring me with their own. This is especially true of Ritu Birla and Ken Mills, both of whom have been a source of amazing encouragement and support during my time at U of T, but also throughout the process of my application to the Gates scholarship, and to Cambridge. 

What are your future plans?
K: Ultimately, I aspire to be a professor of African history. Though my specialization is Kenyan history, I aim to provide students with a wide-ranging knowledge base about the continent’s past. I also hope to contribute to an interdisciplinary African Studies program, as such an approach has broadened my perspectives and enhanced my understanding of Africa. I will remain committed to ensuring my work reverberates in the public sphere, with a particular interest in the links between historical injustices and present questions of memory, human rights and identity. Through my teaching and research, I would like to foster closer connections between African and Western scholars and students, and also inspire a younger generation to use their education to effect positive changes in the world around them.

J: I hope to continue doing this kind of research, whether as a professor or in some other capacity.  The professors I've had have all been great and it would certainly be exciting to come back to U of T one day and see things from the other end of the classroom. But for now I'm keeping my options open and seeing where my research takes me.