April 21, 2022

Giving Day gift matching supports veterinary student award for years to come

Award helps students like Jade Nicoll live their childhood dream
Jade Nicoll
Jade Nicoll, who will earn her DVM this year, has her sights set on the agricultural side of veterinary medicine. Courtesy Jade Nicoll

Astronaut. Firefighter. Veterinarian. Ask any group of small children what they want to be when they grow up and these are likely to be among the top careers (along with YouTuber, if we’re including today’s kids). 

Most people naturally change course along the way, but UCalgary student Jade Nicoll is currently pursuing that dream job — with the help of a unique student award that celebrates kindness and compassion.

Jade Nicoll

UCVM student Jade Nicoll.

Courtesy Jade Nicoll

“Like a lot of kids, I always really loved animals and wanted to be a vet. But, when I got to high school, I figured it was just a childhood dream and that I should do something else,” says Nicoll, who initially set out to become a pharmacist, but soon discovered that it wasn’t the right path for her.

“I didn’t have the same passion for it, and I got to a point where I thought, ‘You know, I could actually be a vet. It’s not just a pipe dream.’”

Today, Nicoll is in her fourth year with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) and, having a soft spot for cattle, has her sights set on the agricultural side. “People care a lot more now about where their food comes from and how it’s produced,” she says.

“Working in the cattle industry, I have the opportunity to not only help improve both productivity and animal welfare, but also help educate the general public about the many positive aspects of our production systems.”

Nicoll’s final year was made even more meaningful when she became the inaugural recipient of the Debi Mowat Spirit Award, established in memory of a beloved UCVM staff member and funded by a generous community of donors.

Debi Mowat

Colleagues fondly remember Debi Mowat (above) for her sense of adventure and big personality.

“Deb was the kind of person who would give you the shirt off her back,” says Nicole O’Brien, manager of operations at UCVM’s Spyhill campus and a longtime colleague and friend of Mowat. “Everything she did, she did so with the intent of making things better for our students.”

When Mowat passed away in 2020, O’Brien and her colleagues were moved to create a student award in her honour. “We were originally going to tie the award to the professional skills program because that’s where she worked primarily,” says O’Brien. “But it quickly became clear that it was kindness and compassion that best represented Deb.”

The award recognizes UCVM students who demonstrate leadership and compassion through acts of kindness within the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. A fund was created to support the award, with a goal of raising $6,000. That goal was quickly surpassed — and then doubled — during UCalgary Giving Day 2020.

The annual fundraiser, which takes place this year on April 21, offers a special opportunity for UCalgary donors to have their gifts matched, dollar for dollar, up to $2,500 per gift. For the Debi Mowat Spirit Award, that meant the more than $7,000 given by donors during Giving Day translated into roughly $14,000 for the fund, helping it reach the endowment level needed for the award to exist in perpetuity.

For Nicoll, receiving the award relieved some of the financial stress of university and, more than that, it had a positive emotional impact. “This program can be really stressful and really taxing on your mental, physical and emotional health,” she says. “To be recognized for making that kind of difference, for being kind and bringing some joy to other people's lives, it’s a really great feeling.”

Likewise, she’s touched by the trust donors have shown in her and the university by supporting the award.

It's incredible that there are people out there willing to contribute to the education and the financial stability of people who they’ve never met.

As for what Mowat would have to say about her namesake award: “I think she’d be a little embarrassed,” says O’Brien with a laugh. “But she’d also love it. She would love that we focused on acts of kindness, to celebrate the spirit she brought to the faculty, the students and all of us here.”

It’s a sentiment that parallels that of Giving Day, with people coming together to change lives and create a better world for generations to come.

UCalgary Giving Day is April 21. Whether you support student awards, critical research or any one of UCalgary’s innovative funds, your gift will help change lives and shape the future. All eligible gifts made between now and midnight on April 21 will be matched up to $2,500 per gift, while matching funds last. Make your gift today.