SA 2016 Outstanding Graduating Student Awards for Undergraduates

Dr Stacy Pigg, Undergraduate Program Chair, presented the following awards at a reception for graduands:

  • Anthropology: Michelle Murray Anth-Arch Joint Major, History minor, graduated summer 2015
  • Sociology: Tony Nguyen - Sociology Honours, graduated fall 2015
  • Sociology/Anthropology Joint: Gitan Rakhra  - Soc-Anth Joint Major, graduated fall 2015
  • Michelle Murray is also the winner of the Usamah Ansari Top Student Award
  • Tony Nguyen also receives the Dean's Convocation Medal

Outstanding Graduating Student Awards

June 09, 2016

Outstanding Graduating Student Award in Anthropology and winner of the
Usamah Ansari Top Student Award

Michelle Murray Anth-Arch Joint Major, History minor, graduated summer 2015

I am incredibly honoured and grateful to have received these awards in recognition of my time at SFU. My interest in anthropology, and its approaches to studying people and culture, expanded with each course I took. Professors and texts introduced me to human stories across the world, and encouraged me to be self-reflective at the same time. In reading about any other person, I learned more about myself and reflected on how I have been influenced by my own culture. Anthropology has given me the ability to recognise that each of us is constantly shaping, and being shaped by, our interactions with the world and to consider how these individual stories form larger narratives.

I continually notice the ways in which studying anthropology comes through in my daily life. I see myself being more considerate, empathetic, and inquisitive in my interactions with people and more able to understand alternative perspectives. It has also increased my interest in learning about as many cultures as I can. Since graduating I have spent time traveling, which has been a great opportunity to employ what I have learned at SFU as I met new people from various backgrounds. Through understanding how so much of what I am comfortable with had been normalised by my culture, anthropology has allowed me to be open to new food, new customs, and new experiences.

My success as an undergraduate has motivated me to return to university to complete my Master’s degree in the future. I currently work with children and youth in my community, and am interested in studying socialisation and identity formation of school-aged children. I would like to thank the Department of Sociology and Anthropology for providing this award and supporting the education of students like myself.

Michelle Murray

Outstanding Graduation Student Award in Sociology and recipient of the Dean's Convocation Medal

Tony Nguyen - Sociology Honours, graduated fall 2015

Sociology gave me new ears with which to listen, new eyes with which to see, and a new voice with which to speak. My education has been as much a study of the world around me as it was a study of myself, and it has affirmed for me that we know ourselves best by attempting to understand our worlds. It has, in turn, taught me that to understand each other, we should recognize and seek out the answers to illuminate not just one world, or one truth, privileged over every other, but a plurality. Sociology thus showed me how to stay humble. Sociology taught me how to listen. Sociology taught me respect. Yet, it also taught me how to be critical – to imagine Something Better. Sociology taught me to study and acknowledge the forces outside my control in order to better understand those within it. It taught me the courage to reject the cynicism of reductionism and easy categorical answers. It showed me how to reckon with my most personal biases in order to stand back and be at my most objective. There’s little in my future, personal and professional, that this experience and education in sociology won’t touch. I would like to say it has made me kinder, and more discerning, more open, and more curious. Above all, sociology has taught me that any and all that I’ve accomplished and will do has been a product of not only myself, in isolation, but my community, and to them I say thank you.

Tony Nguyen

Outstanding Graduating Student Award in Sociology/Anthropology Joint

Gitan Rakhra  - Soc-Anth Joint Major, graduated fall 2015

It began at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, where I dabbled in a few Arts courses before realizing that Sociology as a discipline spoke to my heart and mind. I knew that I wanted to pursue a post secondary education, but initially nothing seemed to captivate me. That was until a class with Dr. Fiona Whittington Walsh, a professor who brought the things I actually cared about into a classroom. She offered me a new language to define the injustices and the inners workings of society that I thought about daily. We were talking about racism, sexism, capitalism, ableism, LGBQT issues. Real stuff. Soon enough I had completed my associates’ degree and became eager to continue my studies at SFU, a school that I felt could offer me a wider breadth of courses in this field. In turn, it did and within my first semester I also discovered my affinity for Anthropology.

With the complementary nature of both subjects, it felt instinctive that I pursue the joint major. I was drawn to both Sociology and Anthropology because they each presented me with a theoretical lens in which to understand the world around me.  I wrote papers and delivered speeches about concepts that held my interest, like” Women and the Politics of Cosmetic Surgery”, or “Elder Care Practices through the Lens of Ethnicity”. I was able to engage with my peers about what it meant to be an intersectional feminist, we discussed complex social problems and mulled over potential holistic solutions. We read (a lot) about the rich stories of people’s lives, and their multifaceted encounters with the state, society and their respective communities. I learned the importance of linking together how gender, race, class, ability and various other social attributes frame one's lived experience. These few years have deeply shaped my desire for social change both from a grassroots perspective and an institutional one. I intend to continue the journey with the pursuit of a Masters degree one day, perhaps in Women’s Studies. I am changed as a person because I committed myself to these disciplines and my capacity for empathy, alongside a genuine willingness to understand the complexity of human life will never end. 

Gitan Rakhra