Gabrielle Wong Receives 2021 Warren Gill Award

Named in memory of a former faculty colleague, the Warren Gill Memorial Award is given every year to a third year student in Human Geography who displays outstanding leadership and/or service to the community.

Gabrielle Wong - 2021 Warren Gill Memorial Award Recipient

February 08, 2022

Learn more about Gabrielle in the Q & A below:

1.    Tell us a little bit about yourself.  Where did you go to high school/college?  What program are you in at SFU and what led to your interest in this program?

I graduated in 2020 from R.E. Mountain Secondary School in Langley, BC. At SFU, I am pursuing a BA in Human Geography, with a minor in Social Data Analytics. I was drawn to geography because of the diversity of topics we study. Geography incorporates physical science, human societies, the environment, cartography, and more. Social Data Analytics complements this diversity well as it has the tools to identify patterns and make use of the vast amount of information at our fingertips.


2.    Are you involved in any extra-curricular and/or volunteer activities and how do these contribute to your experience as a student?

This term, I am co-chairing the Geography Student Union (GSU) with Jonathan Ling, and I am the Tournament Coordinator of the SFU Debate Society (SFUDS). Both experiences have helped me build social connections with other students and stay engaged with the many opportunities SFU has for students.

Outside of SFU, I am on the Seniors Advisory Committee of my municipality as a youth representative, and I chair a local working group focused on transportation for seniors. These groups are great examples of the concepts we discuss in geography classes brought to life in a tangible, meaningful way. I also enjoy leading Finding Present, a non-profit organization focused on using art for social good, supporting high school level debate as the Lower Mainland South Regional Coordinator for the Debate and Speech Association of British Columbia, and volunteering with my local Big Brothers, Big Sisters agency.


3.   What have you enjoyed most about your SFU experience so far?

Being at SFU has pushed me to work on projects and initiatives that I otherwise wouldn’t have considered for myself. From SFU Public Square to the GSU, so many groups and people at SFU are open to ideas and provide opportunities for undergraduate students like me to be involved. I also enjoyed my first two terms of co-op in the Summer and Fall 2021 semesters. Through the work experience and the supports the SFU co-op office provides, I gained skills in communication, collaboration, and navigating the world of the job market.


4.    What have you found most challenging about the transition to university studies and how have you worked to overcome this?

My first semester at SFU (Fall 2020) was fully remote, which made it harder to feel socially connected and like I was really ‘in university’. Now that most classes are in-person, this is less of a challenge. That said, I am particularly grateful to the professors and TAs who left space in scheduled class time for student to socialize and get to know each other better.

On a more academic note, I also found that university classes require far more reading than classes in high school. I had to practice being a more focused and efficient reader to stay on top of it all and connect the readings back to the overall course themes and lecture content.


5.  What have you learned and/or what skills/knowledge have you developed through your program at SFU?  

Geography classes cover an array of fascinating topics. Environmental justice, art in activism, the patterns and impacts of international tourism, and labour geographies are just some of the topics we have discussed in the courses I’ve taken. More generally, I’ve learned that issues and topics are far more complex than they might initially seem. A process or event in one place may unfold radically differently in another, and geography seeks to understand and explain those differences. The breadth of perspectives and ideas we are encouraged to explore in university has encouraged me to critically examine my beliefs and abilities more closely.

As I mentioned above, classes have also helped me become a more focused and efficient learner. Especially because my high school used a linear system (full-year classes), the pace of learning at university was faster than what I was used to. The need to juggle classes, work, sleep, and other commitments is a great motivator to stay focused and manage my time well.


6.  What advice do you have for future students in this program?

SFU is such a large and diverse community, which can be intimidating, especially if you’re used to an environment of smaller class sizes. It definitely was for me! That diversity, however, is your chance to find people who really connect with you and help you grow. Among the thousands of us students here on campus, there must be someone out there like you! The  ‘university experience’ is about so much more than classes and grades, and so taking a few risks or reaching out to a new group is worth it.