Corey Dekker

Mentored scholar pays it forward

June 1, 2007

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By Stuart Colcleugh

One good teacher can make all the difference. And for Corey Dekker that teacher was SFU political scientist David Macdonald, a sessional instructor in political theory and international law.

"‘Mentor’ is maybe too strong a word," says Dekker, who convocates with an honours BA in political science and a $60,000 Queen Elizabeth II British Columbia Centennial Scholarship—the B.C. government’s highest post-secondary scholastic award. "But he really sparked my interest in political theory, which is his field too, and guided me in my studies. Plus he was the one who recommended that I go to the London School of Economics (LSE) for my PhD. He went there too and he wrote me a great reference letter."

Next fall, that’s exactly where Dekker will be as he begins a direct-entry PhD program at the LSE, one of the world‘s leading teaching and research institutions devoted exclusively to the social sciences.

Not bad for a Surrey kid who dropped out of Grade eight when he was 13 and spent the next five years working at an assortment of menial jobs. "I just wasn’t interested in school at the time," recalls Dekker.

Gradually, though, he started hanging around the Guildford Learning Centre as part of a work-and-learn program in which "the teachers, who all seemed to have political science degrees, would talk about current events."

Their conversations inspired him to renew his education in earnest and he picked up his Grade 12 equivalency in just eight months. He followed that with two years at Kwantlen University College before transferring to SFU in 2005.

This year, Dekker — whose family hails from the Ojibway First Nation in Manitoba — became something of a mentor himself, volunteering with SFU’s aboriginal university prep program. The program is designed to help aboriginal kids with potential — such as Dekker — enter and succeed at post-secondary education. "Come to think of it," says Dekker, "they probably don’t think of me as a mentor either."

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