Student recognition

The Migration of a Byzantinist: A Student’s Journey from Health Sciences and Hellenic Studies at SFU to Wisconsin-Madison’s PhD Program

March 03, 2021

When Tiffany VanWinkoop joined SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences in the fall of 2014, she had a very specific, linear career path in mind.

She wanted to study medicine to become a doctor.

It was during her second year that Hellenism caught her eye. To fulfill her elective requirements, Tiffany enrolled in HS 100: The Greek World which sparked her interest in Greek history and culture. This included an introduction to ancient Greece, Byzantium, the Greek Revolution, the Greek Civil War—all the way up to present day Greece. Fascinated, she continued to take Hellenic Studies courses, and even travelled to Greece for the Field School Program in 2017. Later that year, she was selected to participate in a prestigious internship with one of the world’s leading private, international philanthropic organizations, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

In June of 2019, Tiffany received her Bachelor of Science degree in Health Sciences with distinction, along with a Certificate in Hellenic Studies.

Before she knew it, Tiffany was switching career paths.

Officially hooked on Hellenism and decidedly switching from histology to historiography, Tiffany began her master's program in the fall of 2019 under the supervision of professor Dimitris Krallis, whose work had greatly inspired her own. Her thesis, "Master of Ceremony: Ritual, Dialogue, and Rebellion in 10th Century Byzantium" (working title), explores the intersection of political and cultural life in Constantinople by considering a previously dismissed medium, court ceremonies, as a foundational means of communication between the emperor and his people. In her work, she tries to discover how ceremonies served as staging grounds for politically charged dialogues.

Dimitris Krallis adds:

Her MA thesis is shedding light on important aspects of this fascinating Byzantine document. Papers she has presented at international conferences showcase her innovative thinking by elegantly bringing together textual narratives and explicating, by way of parallel readings, important moments in Byzantium's political history. 

Fast forward seven years since the start of her journey at SFU, we are pleased to share the news that Tiffany has been accepted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a PhD program in the Department of History. Fully funded for five years, Tiffany will be under the supervision of a department chair once more as she works with professor Leonora Neville, who has produced five books on Byzantine History focused on gender, civic religion and religious aspects of political culture, as well as historical memory and historiography.

Tiffany will study how the decline of the Byzantine state in the 12th and 13th centuries eventually resulted in the creation of the Pseudo-Kodinos, a ceremonial text, in the 14th century, ultimately aiming to uncover power dynamics between the emperor, the court, and the patriarch, within the city of Constantinople and beyond.

Tiffany has developed quite the CV over the course of her time at SFU. She has won the Tadeusz Specht Memorial Scholarship in Science and the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s (CGSM), as awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). She also more recently received the William and Jane Saywell Graduate Scholarship in History.

But almost more impressive than her CV, is Tiffany’s dedication to engage. Throughout her time at SFU, Tiffany has been a vital part of the Centre’s community, through her regular attendance at events, critical questions, and keen desire to always offer a helping hand to faculty and staff. Tiffany is respected and appreciated by her peers and superiors because she is the kind of person that is always the first to arrive and the last to depart.

Tiffany has spent the majority of her undergraduate and graduate degrees studying full time while working. She has been a research assistant, TA, and TM, Campus Tour Guide, as well as a Student Information Assistant, inspiring prospective students to pursue an education at SFU. Tiffany reflects on her experience:

Looking back on my last five years of being involved at the SNF Centre, I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to Professor Krallis for his support and mentorship over the years. Being able to meet his cohort of PhD students, Aleksandar Jovanović, Jovana Andjelkovic, and Mete Oguz has been a blessing, and I am so grateful for their friendship and guidance. I am also grateful to the Centre’s other faculty members Sabrina Higgins, Eirini Kotsovili, and James Horncastle who all in their own ways took me under their wings and taught me how to be a grad student. I know my engagement with the Centre will not end here. I look forward to seeing how the Centre will grow in the future.

Tiffany's engagement within the SFU community, work ethic, compassion, and insatiable desire for answers, has made us proud and we are so excited for the next step in her academic journey.

Learn more about Tiffany in her graduate profile.

For more information about the SNF Centre for Hellenic Studies and its programs, please visit our Media page.