2020 Outstanding Graduating Student Awards

August 03, 2020
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The Department of Sociology and Anthropology is pleased to announce the winners of the Outstanding Graduating Student Awards and the Usamah Ansari Top Student Award for 2020

  • Outstanding Sociology Graduand: Daniel Prisk
  • Outstanding Anthropology Graduand: Zoe Koenigsfest
  • Outstanding Sociology/Anthropology Graduand: Karlie Tessmer
  • Daniel Prisk is also the winnner of the Usamah Ansari Top Student Award

Daniel Prisk

Outstanding Sociology Graduand Award and Winner of the Usamah Ansari Top Student Award 

I am honoured to receive these awards. I very much appreciate the chance I have had while studying at SFU to follow my interests, and engage deeply with such a variety of topics. I could not have done half as well as I have without the support of the fantastic students and faculty I was fortunate to work along side. Each and every one has contributed to making me proud to graduate from this department. I came to SFU with the goal of teaching in a high school, but the experience I have had here has diverted my path instead towards graduate school and the academy. A new journey I am extremely excited about. In particular I'd like to thank: Dr Scott for continual support across a wide range of topics that has helped shape my research trajectory; Dr Patton for outstanding teaching in writing and theory that has made an indelible impact on my abilities to read and write theory; and Dr Travers, along with the entire class of SA450/850, for the critical perspectives on empire, colonization, and race that have reshaped much of how I approach my work and the world.

In this particular moment, these tools have served me well to better my understanding of the protest movements surging out of the USA, and the context in which they operate. These tools, and this moment, have given me cause to pause and consider my own path into the academy, and to open questions around what it means to be a white settler scholar, vying for one of the vanishing few positions within a white-supremacist academy. Is it possible to be truly anti-racist in the academy while continuing to take up space within the limited field of knowledge production? I don't yet know how to make sense of the questions I have, but I know that my time at SFU, and the brilliant students and faculty I have learned along side, have equipped me well to engage with them to the best of my ability.

There is one thing I know I can do right now. This award comes with a generous financial contribution, from which I will donate 50% to a variety of funds supporting Black and Indigenous scholars and activists in the United States and Canada. Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to meet Usamah Ansari, but from what I've read I hope he would approve.

Zoe Koenigsfest

Outstanding Anthropology Graduand Award  

I am deeply surprised and honoured to receive the Outstanding Anthropology Graduand Award, and I would like to thank the faculty and staff in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology for inspiring and supporting me throughout my degree.

I was first introduced to the world of cultural studies in a Cross-Cultural Tourism class at Capilano University during which we read Horace Miner’s “Body Rituals Among the Nacirema”. This text reappeared in my Anthropology classes at SFU, and while subsequent analysis has taught me about social structures, Othering, ethnocentrism, reflexivity and notions of normalcy, my initial almost inexplicable interest in learning more about the Nacirema culture has stuck with me. As I progressed through my degree, I realized that the vastness of Anthropology as a discipline allowed me to combine my ongoing intercultural interest with explorations closer to home, such as multiculturalism in Canada and environmental conservation. The thread connecting these different avenues is the importance of questioning hegemonic assumptions, understandings and representations in order to hear and value diverse individual experiences and perceptions.

While both the world and the future seem uncertain at the moment, studying anthropology has taught me to unprivilege preconceived notions and to be open to new experiences and worldviews, and I am confident that these teachings about difference, nuance and reflexivity will help me wherever the future may lead. The world is complex, and I thank you for providing me with the tools to not only explore and analyze this complexity, but also to appreciate it.  

Karlie Tessmer

Outstanding Sociology/Anthropology Graduand Award  

I am very honoured to receive the Outstanding Sociology/ Anthropology Joint (Honours) Graduand Award. As a mature student and the first of my family to pursue a university degree, completing my undergraduate degree has been one of my life’s greatest achievements.

I’d first like to thank all the wonderful staff and faculty of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology for their support and guidance throughout my degree. I’d especially like to thank my mentors, Dr. Crage and Dr. Guffin – I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for your critical eyes and expert insight during my studies. Your encouragement to push beyond my preconceived notions of the world has been paramount in who I have become today. I’d also like to thank my friends, family (especially my sister), and my beloved partner for all their support during my academic endeavours. Finally, I’d like to give a shout out to all my SASU crew – your thoughtful praise, hilarious encouragement, and never-ending friendship will always be cherished.

What I have gained from studying sociology and anthropology feels akin to having superpowers: I can make connections between my own experiences and much larger social processes, structural systems, and historical contexts. I can critically examine my positionality and the assumptions I have about the world; and I have a myriad of tools at my disposal to help me navigate and understand the complexities and intersecting facets of social life. Both disciplines have taught me to be open to new ways of knowing and focus on the nuances of life. In the present moment, my degree offers a pragmatic approach to learning, listening, and understanding the diverse experiences of people during these trying times. Likewise, my degree enables me to take stalk of my own privilege, my relations to power, and how I can use these to fight for a more just and equitable society. While the future is quite unclear at the moment, the life lessons, intellectual tools, and practical skills I have gained during my degree, I am confident that as I proceed into the next chapter of my life, I will pursue the world with the same rigour, compassion, and critical eye as I did throughout my academic career.

Thank you again to all those who have been a part of this journey with me.

Karlie Tessmer