Student Profile: Q&A with Payten Smith Class of 2020

June 22, 2020

By Adhil Naidu

Why did you choose to major/minor in criminology at SFU?

Switching into criminology after two years of science, I decided to make a change! Criminology had always held an interest for me, but one class would give me the push to switch majors in the Summer of 2016. Enthralled by the excitable and attention-demanding course that is CRIM 135, my whole academic career would switch through the inspirational lectures of Professor Tamara O’Doherty. Tamara does not know this, but her vast knowledge of Canadian legal cases and the manner in which she presented course material encouraged me to switch degrees. Another component that incited me to delve further into academia was my fascination with the forensic sciences and the kindness that Professor Gail Anderson has shown me over the course of my degree. Inspiring me to share my knowledge with the greater community, criminology has given me the chance to learn, connect, and grow as a student and individual.

What were your favorite courses or instructors during your undergraduate degree/graduate degree? What assignments or projects were highlights?

Two other courses have made a lasting impact on me throughout my degree:

CRIM 355 with Professor Gail Anderson. Early on in my degree, this course was my first exposure to the area of forensics. It has led me to volunteering and taking on roles within the Forensic Entomology lab, teaching topics in forensics at various community and school events across British Columbia, and studying fire science and arson in both my honours (and soon to be Masters) thesis!

Outside of the criminology department, I took ENGL 398 as an elective. This course was unlike any I had ever taken! By playing interactive role-playing games and playing the persona of a historical figure over the course of four months, I became immersed in the combination of history and literature.

What extracurricular activities or campus clubs did you participate in during your time at SFU? What event or activity are you most proud of contributing to?

My biggest passion is providing accessible STEM outreach to youth and the greater community! Some events and programs I have been apart of include:

Superhero Science Bootcamps: A team composed of myself and four other Criminology students were named the winners of two competitions apart of the SFU Student Engagement Competition. Funded to put on events, we coordinated multiple free STEM bootcamps of which 120 families in both Burnaby and Surrey took part in.

Science Rendezvous: Representing the criminology department and FASS, I prepare insects and run maggot art at Science Rendezvous every year!

Volunteering for Science Al!ve on behalf of the criminology department, I taught classes based on forensic entomology and trace evidence to a multitude of K-2 students.

I am most proud of the program I created in 2018/2019 called CSI Fridays. Travelling to various high schools throughout the lower mainland delivering forensic lectures and hands on activities to youth, I represented both the criminology department and the Society for Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST).

What are your short or long term goals, now that you are finished your degree?

I have been accepted into the Master’s program at SFU, so short term, I would like to complete another thesis expanding on my research conducted in the criminology honours program. Researching fire science, arson, and wrongful convictions, I would like to work to create a basis of knowledge which could potentially impact those who may have received a sentence based on outdated or ‘junk’ science. Speaking to my involvement in the community, I would also like to continue to create new innovative outreach activities and provide more opportunities for youth to become engaged in criminology and the forensic sciences. Long term I would like to become a high-school teacher! Or, a teacher of some sorts (perhaps post-secondary).

What has been the key to your success? Can you offer any advice or words of wisdom and encouragement to new undergraduate students in your field?

Obstacles should be viewed as lessons and foundations of strength. Throughout my degree, I have suffered some enormous blows. Entering university, I had no financial support other than what I had worked to receive in athletic scholarships, and academic bursaries. Wrestling for SFU on the Women’s varsity team, I received a horrible neck injury competing at the commonwealth trials which forced me to cease my athletic career and dream of competing at the Olympics. Suffering from multiple concussions and the death of my mother, many obstacles stood to prevent me from completing my degree. However, I recognized these obstacles as lessons of strength and chose to devote my energy to building myself up as an individual and trying to help others to do the same. To those who may be struggling with similar obstacles, I encourage you to know that many others have shared your adversity and have persevered to become stronger.

How were you planning to celebrate your graduation had COVID crisis not happened?

As I am the first member of my family to attend University, I had planned to celebrate among my loved ones. I was planning on holding a small dinner for close family and friends and having a few backyard games! Instead of this, I now plan to create a small graduation ceremony in our backyard with my roommates, in which we will stream the SFU virtual convocation. I also plan to create an ice cream bar and hold a water balloon fight!



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