Sarah Hickinbottom

An accidental scholar

June 1, 2007

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By Stuart Colcleugh

For someone so passionate now about the value of a liberal arts education Sarah Hickinbottom sometimes wonders how she ever ended up with such a distinguished one herself.

"It was a total accident," says Hickinbottom (right), this year’s Dean’s Graduate Convocation medallist in the Faculty of Education. "I really believe in a broad education now and the idea of becoming an educated person," says the Vernon native. "But when I started my undergraduate degree at SFU in 1989 I didn’t know what I was seeking. I just didn’t know what else to do with myself, to be honest."

So Hickinbottom focused narrowly on psychology—though today she would choose a broad cross-section of subjects—and earned her BA with first-class honours. Then she took time off, intending to complete a master’s degree in experimental psychology at York University in Toronto.

Living in Hogtown didn’t appeal to her, though, so she completed her master’s degree in counselling psychology at SFU instead and worked briefly in youth and family counselling, before returning to SFU to complete her PhD in educational psychology.

And that’s when things began to click. Her talents for independent thinking, clear writing and speaking, and well-argued critical analysis of scholarly literature quickly became evident and she garnered numerous scholarships, fellowships and other accolades along the way.

Hickinbottom hopes to publish a book based on her doctoral dissertation Moral Decline or Moral Panic?: A Hermeneutic Analysis of Arguments About the Western Moral Condition.

She has also accepted a position at Kwantlen University College, teaching courses that introduce students to university studies. "It’s very counselling-oriented," says Hickinbottom. "I have a passion for helping people recognize the value of education, not in terms of what it gets them but in terms of what it gives them. And that’s only come about with my PhD and my venturing into a broader liberal arts tradition."

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