Simon Fraser University

Stepping beyond the ring road

May 30, 2002 , vol. 24, no. 3

By Carol Thorbes
They are ready to step beyond the Ring Road that has defined much of their world for the past several years.

Myriam Juda, Randall Ducharme, Maria Trinh and Scott Buchanan are among six convocating speakers who will offer parting thoughts on life at Simon Fraser University at this year's convocation ceremonies.

Each has had to confront major challenges in their academic development. Each feels working through them has prepared them for conquering life's hurdles beyond ring road.

For Juda, a native of Luxembourg, her challenge was pursuing her chosen field of specialization in the face of skepticism.

“Evolutionary psychology is still heavily criticized as a discipline, especially programs such as SFU's because of its postmodern focus,” explains Juda.

She notes her cutting edge field constantly comes under heavy fire in sociology, anthropology and criminology courses. Juda's exposure to different points of view has paid off though.

“Being exposed to different viewpoints has helped me understand counter-arguments to evolutionary psychology, and see how criticism of it is largely based on misunderstandings,” says Juda.

Her broadened perspective will benefit her as she now pursues a master's in neural and behavioural sciences at the Max Planck research school in Germany.

For Ducharme, a high school graduate of Calgary's Crescent Heights and a former Winnipeg resident, the challenge continues to be twofold.
Graduating with a BA in political science, Ducharme, has “a save the world complex” and he's intent on getting through his post-secondary studies debt-free.

So far, by taking five years to complete his BA so he could work part-time, and by earning several scholarships, Ducharme doesn't owe a penny. His volunteer and paid jobs as a youth worker, and drug and alcohol counsellor have helped save lives.

As he prepares for graduate studies in international politics at Dalhousie, one of four universities that offered him scholarships, Ducharme aims to remain debt-free and make a difference.

He believes that his work with youth will stand him in good stead in his pursuit of international conflict resolution.

“It seems to be against human nature to avoid judgment, but the best way to approach any relationship is without judgment and with compassion. If you can make that your starting point you can get somewhere in resolving conflict.”

Trinh (below) puts her numerous scholarships, including a $20,000 Shrum entrance prize and a $10,000 Premier's award down to luck.

But her strong academic record upon graduating from Surrey's Queen Elizabeth senior secondary school, and completing her bachelor of applied science in engineering at SFU tell a different story.

Trinh's challenge was overcoming the stigmatism and isolation associated with being a female student in a male dominated field.
She not only overcame that hurdle she gained the respect of professors and male peers, and created a society that helps female engineers rise above gender-bias. Trinh learned that barriers are opportunities to be seized.

“It takes a lot of creativity and determination to find alternatives around barriers,” says Trinh. “But this effort builds leadership skills, and overcoming barriers makes future challenges seem less daunting.”

Buchanan, also a recipient of a Shrum entrance scholarship, a Premier's award, and several other prizes, sees his challenge as ongoing.

Graduating with a bachelor of business administration, Buchanan specializes in brand development and has already been nabbed by SolutionPeople in Chicago. The think tank provides creativity and innovation training to Fortune 500 companies.

“I have to constantly push my creative boundaries in today's media saturated environment. It's a challenge to reach people and communicate in a meaningful way,” says Buchanan, an innovation specialist at SolutionPeople.

However, Buchanan, a graduate of Windsor secondary school in North Vancouver, is totally at ease with the creative process.

“Throughout my university studies I had to think creatively if I wanted to submit projects that created a lasting impression. There's a balance between creativity and professionalism that must also be struck in the business world.”

The convocation speeches are as follows: Wednesday, June 5, Myriam Juda at 9:45 a.m. and Randall Ducharme at 2:30 p.m.; Thursday, June 6, Asia Wilson, 9:45 a.m. and Maria Trinh, 2:30 p.m.; Friday, June 7, Scott Buchanan, 9:45 a.m. and Darren Bounds, 2:30 p.m.