Two UNBC international students share $23,500 in P.E.O. scholarships

June 19, 2019
From left: UNBC PhD student Christiana Onabola, Prince George P.E.O. Chapter President Beth Quesnel and UNBC PhD student Hooi Xian Lee.
From left: UNBC PhD student Christiana Onabola, Prince George P.E.O. President Beth Quesnel and UNBC PhD student Hooi Xian Lee.

The international Philanthropic Education Organization (P.E.O.) has awarded two University of Northern British Columbia Doctoral students -- Christiana Onabola and Hooi Xian Lee -- with International Peace Scholarships worth a combined total of $23,500.

Onabola, a first-year PhD Health Sciences student from Nigeria, was awarded $12,500 while Lee, a second-year PhD Health Sciences student from Malaysia, received $11,000.

“The Prince George P.E.O. chapter is part of this large international network with close to 6,000 Chapters,” said Beth Quesnel, President of the Prince George P.E.O. “We enjoy fun and fellowship, while working toward our main goal - supporting women to pursue educational goals. We are thrilled that a significant amount of the P.E.O. funds are flowing into our community.”

International Peace Scholarships were launched after the Second World War to support women from other countries to come to North America to study, with an intention to return to and help their home country. 

Onabala has a background in health and is interested in the intersection of health and its broad determinants in the environment. Her research is under the supervision of Dr. Margot Parkes – a UNBC Canada Research Chair in Health, Ecosystems and Society and Associate Professor in the School of Health Sciences and Northern Medical Program.

“My current research is focused on using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to map the Sustainable Development Goals in a watershed setting, as a way to downscaling the global goals and promoting watersheds as units of analysis to track implementation and monitoring metrics for the goals,” Onabala explained. “This will ensure the sustainable development efforts start from local people and reach communities that need them the most.

“As a winner of the P.E.O Women International Peace Scholarship, I am gratified that the scholarship will provide a financial cushion to support me in seeing the PhD program to a brilliant completion and in following a path that altogether keeps me emotionally motivated, intellectually and personally challenged.”

Lee’s PhD research is focused on searching for small molecule inhibitors of cancer cells, under the supervision of biochemistry and molecular biology Professor Dr. Chow Lee.

“I am glad to be one of the recipients of the International Peace Scholarships as it provides me with financial support for my PhD study in Canada,” she said, adding it’s always been her dream to embark on a PhD program.

She is also a teaching assistant for a few chemistry lab courses at UNBC, which also helps cover some of her living expenses.

Onabala and Lee are among the 220 women from 70 countries who were awarded a total of $2,300,000 this year.

Since it began 150 years ago, P.E.O. has helped almost 110, 000 women by distributing more than $344 million in educational assistance. Prince George Chapter AV, one of 30 in B.C., was founded in 1970 with almost 70 local women having received grants, scholarships or loans to date.