The best gift of all is giving

Dream Chaser Change Maker Award established by Acadia alumni

Business graduate Niluka Kottegoda (’03) feels privileged to have an education; in appreciation of that, she found a meaningful way to give back to her alma mater while helping aspiring students in Canada and around the world.

Together, Niluka and close school friends, Chantal Pelham-Edwards (’03) and Laura Rutherford Watt (’02, ’04), have established the Dream Chaser Change Maker Award at Acadia University. The Award is designed to not only help students achieve their academic goals, but it will also ignite a desire to share their good fortunes with others.

The Dream Chaser Change Maker Award will provide financial support to the recipient ($1,000 annually) and donate in their name to their choice of UNICEF education programs.

“We want this award to help recipients achieve their dreams while giving someone else the opportunity to do so as well.” Niluka explains, “The recipient will be doing their part to ignite change in developing countries by gifting an education; that is a very powerful change and a great feeling!”

Niluka says her ultimate goal is to live a courageously caring life. She believes that making everyday choices that drive social or environmental change can have a significant impact on the world. Born in the Sultanate of Oman, she hailed from Sri Lankan family roots and moved to Nova Scotia, Canada as a teenager. When she arrived at Acadia in 1998, she immersed herself in campus life – diving into her studies, embracing social activities, living in Crowell Tower, and serving on the Acadia Students’ Union executive.

Niluka describes her Acadia experience as “the beginning of a lifelong journey of self-discovery.” She started her undergraduate degree in biology, but with the support of staff and fellow students, she soon discovered her path to business management. Niluka began a career at Sobeys Inc. in 2004, where she has progressed through 10 different roles –  from an Analyst to her current position as Vice President Merchandising Innovation and Development.

As she began developing the Dream Chaser Change Maker concept, Niluka could not think of two more perfect people to partner with than Chantal and Laura.

Dream Chaser Change Maker

Chantal Pelham-Edwards, Niluka Kottegoda, and Laura Rutherford Watt. 

Chantal felt like she came alive when she began her post-secondary education. The opportunities to learn from new friends, new experiences, and even from her professors, had a profound impact on her and helped her understand the importance of education and the ability of the university environment to shape one’s future. Based in St. Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada Chantal is the co-owner of Third Sector Enhancement Ltd., an intergenerational consulting firm primarily supporting non-profits and local governments, and is also the Communications Coordinator for the Seniors Association of St. Margaret’s Bay.

Laura knew she wanted to be a teacher from the time she was in Grade two. She completed both her Science undergraduate degree and her Education degree at Acadia. She moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada to chase her dreams of becoming an educator. Laura has taught junior high and high school and has now settled nicely into teaching math and science at a middle school. Laura loves teaching these subjects but enjoys teaching and modelling the ‘hidden curriculum.’ A successful year for her happens when her students feel confident enough to go out and chase their dreams and when they become kind and caring citizens in their communities. As a parent to two smart and creative young girls, Laura’s main wish for them is to be kind and brave people.

As Niluka reflected on her time at Acadia and her recent completion of the Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA she expressed her excitement about this Award. “I feel incredibly lucky to have enjoyed the privilege of an exceptional education, to have the opportunity to work on this initiative with two of my best friends, and to kick it all off at Acadia!” Her academic achievements serve as fuel for her desire to help others achieve the same.

The work of Niluka, Chantal, and Laura to fund the award has only just begun. These changemakers are using their locations – Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Alberta – to launch a larger fundraising effort to make this award available to more deserving students across Canada – beginning at Acadia.

“We remember what it was like to be starting out at Acadia with hopes and dreams,” Niluka says. “Life never unfolds the way you plan it; the journey is a lot more fun than that! It gets a whole lot better when you can help other people along the way. We are so excited about this award because we know it will have an impact on our recipients as well as so many other students around the world!”

About the Dream Chaser Change Maker Award

Established in 2017 by three Acadia friends, the Dream Chaser Change Maker Award, will be awarded annually to an outstanding student who most embodies the Acadia spirit. This student embraces everything an education can offer by ambitiously supporting social and or environmental change in their local community or around the world. Having overcome adversity in their own lives, they give back to society and community through active volunteerism. The recipient will be awarded funding for their education; to chase their dreams, as well as an opportunity to ignite change with funds donated to their choice of UNICEF education programs in developing countries. To support the fund at Acadia, visit

Gifts to support the Award elsewhere in Canada can be made by visiting the Go Fund Me page.  

About the Donors

Niluka Kottegoda (’03) is a Vice President at Sobeys Inc. and recently completed a Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA in Toronto, Ontario. Chantal Pelham-Edwards (’03) holds a BA in Political Science from Acadia and is Principal of Third Sector Enhancement Ltd. in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Laura Rutherford Watt (’02, ‘04) graduated from Acadia with a BSc (Math) and a BEd and currently is teaching secondary Mathematics and Science in Calgary, Alberta.

How to Apply

Students interested in applying for the Dream Chaser Change Maker Award at Acadia should email financial.aid@acadiau.a to request an application. Deadline to apply in 2017 is September 29.


For more information, contact

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