Summer 2009 Student Bios
Chelsea Calder, originally from Nanaimo, moved to Vancouver to pursue her post secondary education. Currently a fourth year student majoring in Health Science, Chelsea is focused on the social determinants of health. Her main interest has been in community development, specifically focusing on reducing the barriers to healthy food for low-income families. Volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society as a youth leader has deepened her desire to continue her non-profit career with a paid position that allows her to use the knowledge she has gained in her field of study. Her previous Co-op position working with Vancouver Coastal Health allowed Chelsea to gain valuable experience with both bureaucratic and health issues. With these insights, and the knowledge, experience and skills she will gain from the dialogue program, she hopes to have a positive impact in her community.
Nicholas De Jager was born here in Vancouver BC. True to Vancouverite culture, Nick loves to be outside. He spends his winters skiing the local hills like Grouse and whenever he can fit it in he will hit the big mountains such as Whistler. In the summer he pulls out the hiking boots to explore the local landscape, hiking trails on Seymour and up the Squamish valley. Last May Nick’s sense of adventure led him to Europe where he spent a month wandering through France, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland. Going abroad left a lasting impression as Nick gained an appreciation for other cultures and ways of life. Nicholas is currently pursuing his degree in communications. At the moment he makes his pay “doing the dirty work” for a local advertising firm, but looks forward to the day when he can unleash his creativity on his career.
Billie Dobbs is a fourth year Political Science student focusing on public policy and is excited to be spending her last semester in the dialogue program. The topic of this dialogue session appealed to Billie because of her interest in policy, particularly around food security and sustainable development. She hopes to learn many dialogical skills that she can carry with her throughout her life. After completing her degree, Billie hopes to secure a position that allows her a level of responsibility and freedom to make positive changes in her community while using the skills and experience she has acquired throughout her academic career.
Billie is looking forward to spending the summer at her parent’s cabin in the Caribou. The community surrounding them is a close, tight knit group which shares their knowledge and technology about the environment and sustainability. Billie also hopes to do some patio gardening herself this spring by learning more about growing strawberries, one of her favourite fruits.
Caitlin Hawkes-Frost born and raised in Victoria is a 4th year (Honours) Criminology Major who is passionate about her studies in Restorative Justice specifically, in studying female offenders. This field of study has led Caitlin to volunteer for the past year with the RCMP Restorative Justice Program and to continue further in this field of interest as she pursues her Masters degree at the University of Ottawa starting in September 2009. This active and energetic 23 year old thoroughly enjoys participating and seeking new challenges in various outdoor activities. She currently belongs to a Burnaby Field Hockey League and loves to surf, which she learned recently while travelling in Australia. Caitlin also takes pleasure in travelling abroad to experience other countries with her next summer European trip being to The Netherlands, France and Belgium.
The semester’s topic on Food and Community Action is what specifically attracted Caitlin to the Undergraduate Program in Dialogue. This topic will enhance her current knowledge on community action and justice and will also provide an in-depth understanding of the issues related to food, another of her passions. If you ask Caitlin what she enjoys eating, she will tell you its Phở (a Vietnamese rice noodle soup) – a menu item she will miss when she moves to Ottawa this fall.
Tara Kainz, a seven-year resident of Port Moody, hails from Regina and grew up just outside Toronto. After high school, Tara worked in the field of business, and attended York University part-time, earning a diploma in marketing. After getting married, she started her own company in graphic design and further diversified her skill and experience. After living in the UK for a few years, Tara eventually moved to BC with her family and went back to school to finish her degree. Studying business at SFU, she happened to take some courses in geography and fell in love with the topic. Now a fourth-year geography major, Tara is looking forward to finishing school and returning to the working world, where she hopes to work for a municipality in the area of urban planning and development.
Tara brings a range of knowledge to the Dialogue program, having studied aspects of food related to health and nutrition, as well as soil science, economic geography and some of the business side of the food industry. She hopes to widen her range of knowledge on the topic in general and leave with a better understanding of where our food comes from. In her free time, Tara loves running, skiing and reading, and hopes to continue her world travels.
Azmina Kassam was born in Kenya. She immigrated to Canada 25 years ago. She is a successful student at SFU and very optimistic about Semester in Dialogue program. Since her early childhood, Azmina has been interested in food. As of this, Azmina has studied nutrition at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. A Diploma in Natural Nutrition has given Azmina an opportunity to host cooking classes, in her house, based on Wholesome Organic ingredients. Aside from that, Azmina studied Yoga and got her teaching certificate in Kundalini Yoga. BUT this is not it! Before coming back to school, Azmina had her business in Aroma Therapy. In addition, Azmina holds a certificate in Community Economic Development from SFU. However, when Azmina came to Canada, she has noticed that the quality of her health has been constantly deteriorating. She knows that her health very much depends on the food she eats. Azmina points out that in Kenya she felt much better as she ate mostly organic food. She believes that the Semester in Dialogue will help her to understand why this is a problem in Canada. Enthusiastic about the quality of life and the importance of food, Azmina will be a great addition to the Semester in Dialogue program.
Oksana Kim is from Uzbekistan. She moved to Canada in 1999, nine years after the fall of the Soviet Union, when Uzbekistan became part of Central Asia. Oksana began her degree in International studies in Uzbekistan and is completing her final year at Simon Fraser University where her focus has been on Security and Conflict. Oksana has an associate degree in Criminology from Kwantlen College. Oksana is excited to be part of the Dialogue program on Food, Community and Sustainability at Simon Fraser. The structure of the course and the size of the class are particularly appealing to her. Oksana is interested in the topic of food and her concerns about food are growing particularly in regards to her children. Oskana grew up having healthy lunches served at School in Uzbekistan and she worries about the food quality her children are being exposed to here in Canada.
Oksana lives in Langley with her husband and two daughters ages seven and twelve years. Oksana speaks Russian, English and Korean. On completion of her degree, she would like a job with the Government of Canada.
Kate Lasiuk is no stranger to food. Born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Kate was raised by a mother who taught her about the many ways that food impacts our bodies and our society.
After completing high school, Kate spent a year traveling throughout Europe and North Africa. In Spain she worked at an eco-village as the Sustainable Living Coordinator; in Paris, she found work in the city's only 100% organic bistro; more recently, Kate spent time traveling in Central America. Besides helping her learn French and Spanish, her experiences abroad have helped nourish in her a sense of global citizenship, and a passion for social justice and human rights; as well, her travels have given her a deep sense of curiosity and concern about the way the current global food system works (or doesn't).
When she's not busy studying for her Honours degree in International Studies at SFU, Kate sits on the Board of Directors for Project Somos, a Vancouver-based charity that aims to create a safe and healthy living environment for orphaned and abandoned children in Guatemala, all while promoting principles of sustainability and organic agriculture. She has also spent the last three summers working as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, a position from which she is happily taking a hiatus in order to participate in the summer Semester in Dialogue.
Recently returned to her undergraduate career at Simon Fraser University, Sienna MacMillan has a diverse background in social, Aboriginal youth and environmental sustainability projects. Together with her husband, she currently runs a consulting business working on various community development projects. She is the Mother of two young girls, who she feels will reap the benefits of her education as she translates what she learns to them, as her parents did for her. At SFU, she is majoring in Political Science with a minor in Communications and has hopes of entering Grad school within the area of Sustainable Business Management.
Sienna’s work and goals are very much influenced by her Saskatchewan Cree background on her Mother’s side. Her life was influenced by her parents who immersed her into sustainable living projects, as well as exposed her to long term travel in India as a child. This influenced her growing up vegetarian, which is a rarity in the Aboriginal community, but has initiated Sienna’s interest in food issues, cultures, and the ensuing socioeconomic power struggles that occur. This, along with the inspiring consensual model of the Semester in Dialogue, is why she is happy to be here.
Eric Malysa comes from a strongly conservative background in Calgary, Alberta. An avid athlete, he skies, hikes, runs, golfs, plays racquet sports, and holds a black-belt in Tae-Kwan-Do. He has even competed at the national level in soccer, although he has since left high-level sports in order to focus more on academics. His interest in food issues stems from his concern for healthy living, something he inherited from his mother and father as well as his athletic career. His first taste of activism came as a result of his interest in health: during his senior year in high school he successfully campaigned for healthier cafeteria food. Eric’s business skills are a huge asset to the dialogue class, as he brings marketing experience both from the classroom and from his job at Angus Reid Strategies. He also is able to lead democratically and knows when it’s time to step aside and let others do their thing. Eric is thrilled to be in Vancouver for the summer, which he thinks is the best time to be here, and to participate in dialogue with others who share his passion for food and health.
Life revolves around the dinner table for Stephanie Porowski, an International Studies Major, who acknowledges her Italian ancestry as a dynamic factor in shaping her appreciation for wholesome food. Growing up in downtown Vancouver, Stephanie was exposed to her parents struggle to maintain both Italian food tradition and culture while adapting to North America’s commercialized lifestyle. Thus, as Stephanie juggles her academic endeavors with her role as a wife, mother, server and vegetable gardener, she hopes to transfer both the Italian culture preserved by her parents and her new found Canadian heritage to her growing family. When she is not wearing multiple hats, Stephanie enjoys traveling, “make your own” pizza nights, and engaging in outdoor activities with family and friends. Moreover, as community living and socialization are of significant value to Stephanie, her home boasts an open door policy, routinely welcoming visitors. Additionally, Stephanie is excited to venture to the Netherlands at the end of this coming year, where she will engage in a six-month school semester focusing on European policy and development strategies. Lastly, Stephanie devotes time as a volunteer to “Co-development Canada,” an organization that coordinates labor standards between North America and Latin America.
Paola Qualizza is a student within the field of Environmental Geography, which addresses the vital topics of urban planning, development and political ecology, and is also pursuing an interest in economics. She considers herself to be “born and bred” in the lower mainland, but has strong connections to her Italian and French Canadian roots, explaining the constant supply of good maple syrup and olive oil in her kitchen. While taking a year of high school in Italy, she pursued art history and was amazed at two things; the art class fieldtrips and actually seeing the original Renaissance works she had studied and also that because of her last name, people knew exactly which small village her Father was from! Paola enjoys travelling and has visited the islands of Greece and most recently, Brazil, both places she cannot wait to experience again after, of course, other destinations are crossed off on her list.
Paola found out about the Semester in Dialogue from other students who spoke highly about their experience attending, and likes that this semester has a more hands on and intimate style of learning. She also could not pass up this semester’s topic of food, having focused some of her studies on BC’s Agricultural Land Reserve and the impacts of global economics on food systems in the Third World.
Katie Raso is originally from Ontario/Alberta and is a third year Communications major at SFU. Despite being in the typical third year fog in terms of a future career, she has decided to go straight into her masters and then right into her PhD after that. To quote her directly “I don’t want a real job” and there’s no harm in that!
For fun, Katie enjoys throwing fabulous dinner parties (as she is a trained chef), rock climbing up hardcore cliffs, boxing, biking, and taking road trips in the popular, convenient Zipcars that she drives for a small, yet worthwhile fee.
In previous summers Katie worked at tree planting camps as the camp chef where she would go out of her way to make sure the food was great! While at these camps Katie would have many unexpected run-ins with bears (all of which ended happily, as she is still here to talk about them). Living in these camps meant that Katie was required to live in a tent for weeks at a time, which was a shock to her highly urbanized system. However, this experience will prove itself useful in the upcoming class camping trip to Saltspring Island.
Josli Rockafella's roots are on Galiano Island, where she and her sisters had the unique experience of being raised in her parents' organic produce market surrounded by fresh local food, that not only nourished her family, but other families in the community as well. As in most family businesses she has worked every job-title, but after experiencing the role of the 'Buyer' and interacting with suppliers to gain information about the sources of a lot of fresh foods, she has never viewed produce quite the same.
In 2002, Josli moved to Vancouver for school, and to her delight, is almost finished with a degree in Communications. Soon after the move she started volunteering with the local foodbank, delivering goods to people on the DTES who could neither afford food or have the capabilities to leave their homes and pick it up. It was during this short period that she was struck by how painful it was to not be able to bring people living in such conditions decent food products.
Being involved with UGSID, Josli is hoping to be able to work with the community in being able to provide better quality, local produce to more people and having a greater impact on their lives.
Growing up in rural Quebec, Taisa Rose was nourished by handmade, homemade, and wholesome foods. Upon moving to Ottawa for high school and then to Kelowna for college, she became overwhelmingly aware of dieting trends and calorie concerns, eventually losing much of the pleasures from food that she'd grown up with.
Since moving to Vancouver in 2006 to attend SFU (and soon after becoming a vegetarian), Taisa has revitalized her food vocabulary well beyond the calorie content, and has more than recovered her passion and love for the sense of community around food as well as the pleasures that come with cooking and enjoying fresh local products.
Through obtaining her degree in Communications and being a part of UGSID, she seeks to educate others on food as a wonderful and pleasurable life source and definitely not something to be taken for granted.
Chris Short is a third generation Vancouverite who is no stranger to foreign places. He has spent many years travelling and living abroad. His travels took him across Canada and through much of the United States and Southeast Asia; as well, has lived in Australia and Indonesia - experiences which opened his eyes to other ways of thinking and being.
After ten years away from school, Chris recently returned to Vancouver with his eyes set on a teaching degree. He spent two years at Langara College - an experience he highly recommends - and just this semester transferred to SFU. Chris is an interdisciplinary man: he's passionate about biology, photography, anthropology, environmental science, design, history - among other subjects. He is happy to remain a generalist, a "renaissance man," and regularly uses his desire to teach Elementary School as an excuse for his lack of focus.
His passion for learning and education, along with his background with food, having worked as a cook for eight years, prompted him to become a founding board member for Growing Chefs, a local non-profit society that sends volunteer chefs, some of the best in the city, into elementary schools to teach kids about urban agriculture, nutrition, and to have fun with food.
When he's not hiding in his bedroom reading, you'll find Chris dodging traffic on his bicycle or photographing mushrooms and lichen.
Born into a farming family in rural Quebec, Kat Southam had an early introduction to concepts of agriculture and sustainability. Now living in British Columbia, Kat remains connected to her rural roots through her work as a horse trainer and horse riding coach. Kat hopes that, upon completing her education in International Studies, she will have the opportunity to expand her work to include farming and social outreach.
Following Semester in Dialogue, Kat will be spending a semester studying Political Science in Puebla, Mexico. Such adventures are not new to Kat, who has enjoyed travelling through countries including Sri Lanka and Guatemala. When she is not backpacking through distant lands, Kat enjoys yoga and biking.
Kaitlyn Watson, a Health Sciences major with a focus on population health, had her interest sparked in food systems during a summer spent backpacking through South America. There, Kaitlyn became fascinated with the idea of slow food and the intense relationship that exists between nourishment and people. Furthermore, her first hand experience of unrest in Bolivia provided further insight into the political aspect of food conflicts.
Last year, Kaitlyn’s enthusiastic personality and sense of adventure led her to the Austrian Alps where she took a welcomed respite from her science-heavy course load to focus on biblical studies. She also took the opportunity to practice one of her many outdoor interests by skiing in her spare time. Additionally, she had the chance to work with local farmers and engage in hands on agricultural practices, encouraging her to rethink the value of food.
In Vancouver, she is involved in research of built environments and health through SFU and is a server at a local golf course. Moreover, to lighten things up she enjoys socializing, camping and is a dedicated documentary aficionado.
The question that she brings to the Semester in Dialogue is: How do we translate experiences into words and/or written thoughts?
A product of Squamish, BC, Sean Wilkinson took a keen interest in First-Nations affairs at an early age. More specifically, he focuses on their relationship with the Catholic Church. His in-depth knowledge of the complex history between west coast bands and the church is nicely complemented by his major in History at SFU, as well as a minor in economics. Furthermore, Sean’s community involvement is not to be underestimated, as he actively wrote for Simon Fraser’s infamous ‘Peak’ and now sits on the Board of Directors. He has also spent some time as a community advisor in residence for three terms. Sean’s most valuable asset that he brings to Semester in Dialogue is his calm demeanor which allows him to lead quietly with a strong, yet intelligent presence.
In his spare time, he enjoys all that is nature and has hiked ‘the Chief’ over fifty times. When he graduates this coming fall, he aspires to pursue a career in law and use it to tackle the controversial ongoing land disputes that are all too familiar between First Nations’ bands and the BC Government.
Elena Yelizarov grew up in the same city in Eastern Russia where Bolshevik revolutionaries executed the royal family sixty-three years before she was born. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, her family had increasing difficulty finding work, so in 1992 they emigrated to Israel in search of employment. Elena, who was only twelve years old at the time, remembers Israel as a gorgeous but dangerous country, with fascinating historical sites and beautiful natural wonders. A second emigration two years later to Canada allowed her to walk to school without fear of bomb attacks. Since then, like many third-culture kids, Elena has constructed a creative, hybrid identity that is reflected in the collection of languages she speaks: Russian, English, Spanish, Hebrew, and French. Her varied experience has also been an asset in her personal development. Living through two immigrations, hyperinflation (she remembers vividly when doughnuts quintupled in price in a single month!), and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict helped her learn to make friends quickly and to fend for herself. When she’s not plotting out her post-graduate career or exploring her deep interest in organic farming, Elena enjoys downhill skiing, opera, ballet, and Latin music.