Sarah Burns just doesn’t give up. As a lean and lanky twelve year old she failed the test to become a competitive figure skater eleven times before she finally nailed it.
When she was looking for a job after graduating from King’s, Sarah was turned down three times, but kept at it, landing a job at the Bank of Canada as an economist on her fourth try.
Sarah thinks some would call her stubborn.
“I would probably not use the word stubborn,” she says. “I would say tenacious instead. That sounds a bit better.”
And she is that. Sarah says she was never the top student in the class but in the fall of 2016 she will be going to Oxford University to study economics as one of 11 Canadian Rhodes Scholars. It’s the second time she gets to call herself a “scholar”. When she was in grade twelve she became a Loran Scholar, an award that covers tuition and provides other benefits for the four years of an undergrad degree.
Sarah’s path to Oxford has been anything but straight, and is marked by courage and tenacity. When she was 16 she hooked up with a private school to take a trip to Nepal and Bhutan to do volunteer work. One day in Bhutan she saw a group of boys at a school playing basketball so she joined in. Now, basketball is Sarah’s game. She’s tall with a good shot, two things that helped her play hoops for King’s.
“(In Bhutan) all these people came to watch. It was the first time they had seen a girl play (with boys). That was a huge moment for me and that’s how I ended up getting so deeply involved in Right to Play.”
After completing the Foundation Year Program (FYP), Sarah began her relationship with Right To Play, an organization devoted to using sports to educate and empower youth. She went to Rwanda for the summer, organizing a global youth summit for Right to Play in Kigali. And that’s where she discovered yet another passion.
“Some of the readings in FYP, like Marx and Rousseau, got me thinking about political science, but my interest in economics began when I was in Rwanda,” she explains. “I learned that the price of coffee was one of the contributing factors to the genocide in 1994 and I became interested in how economic shocks affect developing countries.”
Sarah zeroed in on economics for her major. Like so many upper year students most of Sarah’s courses were offered at Dalhousie University while she continued as a student at King’s, a community she loves. She marvels at the changes that happen when you pursue your passions.
“I went in with philosophy, came out with economics. I went in as a basketball player and came out a kick boxer. Who knows what’s going to happen?”
Indeed. Oxford looms large in her future but she is not prepared to predict where that will take her.
And by the way, Sarah’s first application to be a Rhodes scholar was rejected. So she did what she always does. She tried again.
Posted: Apr. 2016