Isha Dinesh Sharma, an incoming first-year Daniels Faculty undergraduate architecture student, has been named a recipient of one of 2020's Lester B. Pearson International Scholarships. The Pearson scholarships are among the most prestigious — and most generous — financial awards given to University of Toronto undergraduates.
Pearson scholarships are awarded to international undergraduate students who have demonstrated exceptional academic achievement and creativity, and who are recognized as leaders at their high schools. The scholarships cover tuition, books, incidental fees, and residence fees for four years. The University of Toronto awards Pearson scholarships to approximately 37 students each year.
Isha, now 18 years old, was born in Mumbai, India. Her family spent slightly more than four years in Singapore, and then, three years ago, moved to Pune, an Indian city located about 150 kilometres southeast of Mumbai. It was there that Isha completed her International Baccalaureate studies. Her mother is a fashion designer and nutritionist, and her father is an engineer.
Isha's interest in architecture stems from a deep desire to help improve conditions in the developing world. "As an architect," she says, "I want to dissolve the massive development disparities that exist today, making sustainability a possibility in developing countries."
Over the course of her high school career, Isha took advantage of multiple opportunities to learn the fundamentals of the trade. She attended a winter program at the National University of Singapore, where she familiarized herself with AutoCAD and Fusion360, software tools frequently used in architectural design. She took online courses in design and urbanism at ETH Zurich and the Delft University of Technology.
At her high school, the Symbiosis International School in Pune, she often took leadership roles in class trips and projects. With her classmates, under the auspices of a government-organized sanitation program, she travelled to a remote Indian village and helped build a toilet for villagers to use. For her class's graduation celebration, she designed and built a full-sized photo booth.
When she was considering universities, she was drawn to U of T's prestige and long history, and also to its location in Toronto, Canada's financial hub, where job opportunities are never in short supply. Had she not received the Pearson scholarship, the intercontinental move might not have been feasible. "The scholarship makes a huge difference," Isha says. "It is a huge honour. Without the scholarship, my education in Toronto would not have been possible. The total expenses would not have worked out for me. This award motivates me and inspires me to work harder and do better."
Isha will begin her studies at the Daniels Faculty in fall 2020.