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Why Give | Impact stories

Savannah Bauder: from the scrum to psychology

Donor funding has broken down barriers for rugby all-star Savannah Bauder, helping her find a second family with the UBC Thunderbirds and a new passion for psychology.

North Vancouver native Savannah Bauder may not have traveled far when she left her North Vancouver home to study at UBC, but it was a world away from where she had imagined herself even a few years ago.

“Having the opportunity to go to university is a huge thing for me,” said Savannah. “I am the first in my family to go to post-secondary school. In fact, growing up there was often a negative connotation associated with university because of the cost, and the work involved.”

Though the work wasn’t a deterrent for Savannah, the cost definitely was.

A gifted athlete in both soccer and rugby, Savannah was recruited to join the UBC Women’s Rugby Team in 2020. Over her past three years as a UBC student-athlete her tuition has been fully funded through scholarships from the Louise Cowin Thunderbird Women’s Rugby Endowment, the Maria Gallo Women’s Rugby Award and the Derek Norton Thunderbird Rugby Award.

Once the tiniest player on her high school rugby team, no one is underestimating Savannah now. She has emerged as one of the best players to ever don the Thunderbird jersey, and was just named the 2023 U SPORTS Women’s Rugby Player of the Year for all of Canada, after another unstoppable year. Savannah helped lead her team to an undefeated regular season and a fourth straight Canada West Championship.

“Receiving a scholarship is what made getting a university education a reality for me. It made it possible for me to play at such a high level here with this amazing team and get a great education too.”

Savannah is currently completing her final year of a degree in psychology, and she has found that her chosen area of study has opened up new possibilities for her future, while also helped heal wounds from her past.

“Growing up a close family member struggled with addiction and mental health. They were living with bipolar 2 disorder but there was no diagnosis at first and when I was young, I just didn’t understand it. But through my education, by taking psychology, I have learned more about what they had gone through and it has opened my eyes to what they have had to live with.”

Prior to UBC, Savannah had imagined herself one day becoming a firefighter, but what she has learned through her courses here at university has made her consider different possible career paths too—perhaps even going into psychiatry.

“Learning more about psychology and gaining a greater understanding of what people struggling with their mental health have experienced has inspired me and it makes me want to help others by giving back.”

Savannah also knows that it is thanks to athletics donors giving back to women’s rugby that she has found purpose through her studies, and found success with her team out on the rugby field.

“It means so much knowing that people are behind us, silently supporting us, whether it is through donations or through other means, we know people have our back. Women’s rugby isn’t unnoticed, we are on our way up.”

Like Savannah, UBC is committed to advancing healthy lives.
Find out more about FORWARD, the campaign for UBC—and how you can help.