QS Leadership Scholarship: 2015’s Winner | Top Universities

QS Leadership Scholarship: 2015’s Winner

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated August 6, 2019 Updated August 6, 2019

We’re pleased to announce the recipient of this year’s QS Leadership Scholarship is Canadian Lee MacPherson, who is preparing to start the Master of International Human Resource Management and Comparative Industrial Relations at Manchester Business School in the UK.

After completing a bachelor’s degree (honors psychology) at Canada’s University of Manitoba in 2010, Lee has spent the past five years working in Japan. He first entered the country via the Japanese government-run JET Programme – which supports incoming English language teaching assistants – and went on to work in a number of teaching positions, before taking on his current role in Tokyo as an executive search consultant at one of Japan’s biggest recruitment consultancies.

Lee’s application for the QS Leadership Scholarship – which will cover US$10,000 in tuition fees – impressed the judges with his success in inspiring classrooms full of language learners, by drawing on the lessons he himself gained from the world of improvised comedy.

Bringing comedy into the classroom

Following the catastrophic Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, Lee was reluctant to leave the country. Deciding not only to stay, but to dive into something new and altogether different from the traumatic images saturating the media, he signed up for improvised comedy classes.

“I began to understand that my role was not just that of an educator, but a cultural ambassador and a role model,” he says. “I thought improv might be a good way to make me a better teacher, and I was hoping it might help bring some laughter and positivity back to my students.”

In fact, Lee soon realized the greatest lesson he could teach his language students was simply to stop worrying about being wrong – a concept which is at the heart of improv comedy, though far from the traditional classroom ethos. Through a series of games and frequent bursts of laughter, he taught his students to stop fearing mistakes and enjoy using language creatively.

He was rewarded by seeing them make huge leaps and bounds in progress, in both their academic and personal development. One student went on to win first prize in a UNESCO-sponsored competition, citing Lee’s inspirational improv-style teaching as having shown her “a new way of thinking”. Another particularly shy student made such a complete transformation that her family approached Lee to thank him for the role he’d played, not only in her language learning but also in building her confidence in all kinds of interactions.

Combining psychology and business

Now ready to take on his own next set of challenges, Lee is preparing to relocate to the UK and return to academia. “Human resource management seems like a good balance of psychology and business,” he says, “and I’m hoping this advanced degree opens doors for me in my career.”

He adds that he was attracted by the strong reputation of Manchester Business School – part of the University of Manchester – as well as by the fact that the program is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

While still open-minded about his future career pathway, Lee is keen to gain experience in a consulting firm or large multinational, in a major world city. But ultimately his primary goal is “to find a job I love”.

Receiving the QS Leadership Scholarship means Lee will be able to give his full attention to his master’s studies, rather than needing to work part-time to support himself. “It is incredibly helpful, and I am very grateful.”

And what advice would he pass on to others seeking funding? “Do your research, find out what is available to you, and take these opportunities seriously. I wasn't sure whether to apply for this and other scholarships at first, because they are quite competitive. However, putting in the effort was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

This article was originally published in July 2015 . It was last updated in August 2019

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The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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