The WiDS NORTHSTAR Scholarship fund was established in 2006 with the following mandate:
In October 2007, inaugural scholarships of $1,000 each were presented by then Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier to Sarah Abrahams and Melanie Rushworth both completing their Masters degrees in Public Policy.
The Scholarship Selection Committee, chaired by LCol Mary Romanow, included representatives from academia, defence industry, security and defence advisors, and the Canadian Forces. Evaluation criteria were based on: applicants academic success; the leadership qualities exercised in their communities; and the demonstration of how they would apply their studies and continue their career serving the defence and security community at large.
In 2008/09 the scholarship amount was increased to $5,000 and was awarded to WO Mariangelis Najlis, who was enrolled part-time at York University completing a professional certification in Emergency Management. Gen (ret) Rick Hillier formally awarded the scholarship at the Scholarship Award Luncheon held in March 2009.
In 2009/10 the WiDS NORTHSTAR Scholarship was re-named the WiDS Memorial Scholarship and a decision was made to name the scholarship in honour of a female who had served her country. Colonel Karen Ritchie, who was killed in an accident in 2008, was named as the first honouree of the WiDS Memorial Scholarship.
Following a 67% increase over the past year in terms of applications, the scholarship was awarded in March 2010 to Carole Prevost who was completing her doctoral studies on UAV automation in electrical engineering at Université Laval. The scholarship was awarded by Gen (ret) Rick Hillier at a Scholarship Award Luncheon.
Based upon a series of successful fundraising events in August 2010, WiDS announced that the 2011 WiDS Memorial Scholarship would be awarded in the amount of $10,000. This additional funding contributed to an additional 63% growth in applications from Canadians studying as far away as South Africa.