Kaitlyn Thompson didn't earn a near-perfect grade point average at the expense of community engagement.

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Perfecting balance between academic and community work earns Governor General's Silver Medal

June 11, 2018
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By Christine Lyons

Linguistics alumnus Kaitlyn Thompson graduated last fall with an impressive 4.30 grade point average (out of a possible 4.33) and is attending this June’s convocation ceremonies to accept the Governor General’ Silver Medal. It is awarded annually to the two undergraduates who have achieved the highest scholastic standing upon graduation.

But earning high grades was not Thompson’s only focus at SFU.

In addition to studying on exchange at the University of Glasgow for a year, she volunteered at SFU’s Linguistics Language and Brain Lab, tutored English language learners, published poetry with the small Canadian press, Polar Expressions, and wrote several articles for the Vancouver-based bilingual newspaper The Source: A Forum for Diversity.

She says that successfully juggling academic and volunteer work, and her professional and creative writing pursuits, was only possible because she practiced attentive self-care and employed solid organizational skills.

“There is no prize or letter grade attached to taking care of your mental health,” says Thompson. “It is so important to both your mental health and personal growth to take that time to relax, as well as to set goals, reflect and reassess when needed.”

She says perfecting the balancing act comes from not only holding yourself accountable, but from recognizing your limits. While prioritizing goals and giving equal attention to multiple tasks is important, she notes, “it’s vital to listen to your mind and your body; to focus on activities that you both enjoy and that allow for some form of personal or professional development.”

Thompson was drawn to linguistics after taking LING 100: Communication and Language. The diverse topics covered—including sociolinguistics and language change, neurolinguistics and bilingualism—broadened her understanding of how language functions and she’s never looked back.

“I love that linguistics combines the arts and the sciences in a way that appeals to both my logical and creative inclinations.”

Having volunteered in speech language pathology and child health clinics, Thompson will continue to nurture her academic interest in the relationship between language and the brain and hopes to pursue a career in a helping profession.