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Sociology, Undergraduate, Awards
2022 Outstanding Graduating Students and Usamah Ansari Top Student Award
Usamah Ansari Top Student Award & Outstanding Sociology Graduand Award
What an honour it is to receive these awards. It is amazing to look back at all that my education in sociology has gifted me. I would not be the student nor person I am today without the incredible people who have guided me.
I owe massive gratitude to Dr. Cindy Patton. Not only did she introduce me to incredible and foundational theory from Black, Brown, Indigenous, lesbian, gay and queer theorists too often neglected by the Academy, she also guided me to excel as a writer and thinker, and believed in me even when I did not. I also owe great thanks to Dr. Amanda Watson for her constant encouragement, support, and trust from day one — and for the amazing opportunity of working alongside her. Further, a thank you to Dr. Kyle Willmott for teaching me to think critically about the Academy, its entrenchment in white-ness and colonialism, and what it can look like to be an academic working against these realities. Each of these professors taught me what it means to be a passionate and caring educator, and they have inspired me endlessly. Lastly, an immense thank you to Terrence Yang, without whose patience and support I would not have pursued my honours.
Studying sociology has fundamentally and permanently transformed my understanding of the world and how it functions. In particular my explorations in the Sociology of Knowledge, and of Queer, Trans, Post-Structuralist, and Post-Colonial theory have given me insight into the formation, circulation and power of knowledge. This has all led me further into a life committed to social justice. What I have learned in sociology will be with me wherever I go next. And, with luck, it will enable me to become an educator as transformative as those I have encountered in my time at SFU.
Outstanding Sociology/Anthropology Graduand Award
I am honoured, humbled, and, quite frankly, surprised to achieve the Outstanding Sociology/Anthropology Graduand Award. I reflect upon my undergraduate experience with great fondness, as I had the unique privilege of learning to be a critical thinker, a storyteller, and an active participant in my social world. While studying at SFU, I was encouraged to explore and question the dark corners and unjust complexities of larger social institutions and structures while simultaneously emphasizing the importance of lived experiences.
As a student who navigated half of my undergraduate experience through zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and faculty worked together to understand the unknown online environment. Therefore, before accepting this award, I must recognize my achievements in collaboration with my professors, peers, and IT support. More specifically, I would like to recognize and thank Dr. Natasha Ferenczi, who taught me how to actively listen, develop rapport, and become an observant participator. Although she taught us in the context of anthropological fieldwork, I continue to implement her knowledge throughout my everyday experience, communicating and developing relationships in my community. I would also like to acknowledge and thank Dr. Dara Culhane. She encouraged me to transgress the confines of academic writing and explore the sensorial experience through creativity and performance while emphasizing accessibility to knowledge. Additionally, I want to recognize our furry feline and canine companions who often broke the ice during awkward zoom encounters, vocalized their insight regarding many social issues, and provided us with emotional support during these particularly scary, stressful, and isolating times.
As I consider my next steps, from aspirations toward frontline work or pursuing an academic career, I am confident that I would like to take my newfound knowledge and passion for storytelling to the social world of aging. I hope to explore the complex, mundane, and unexpected stories from an individual’s past and present to apply them as motivation toward a more equitable, accessible, and age-friendly social landscape.
Outstanding Anthropology Graduand Award
I am honoured to receive this year’s Outstanding Anthropology Graduand Award, and deeply grateful to the many faculty members who have helped guide my undergraduate studies. As a mature student and an addict in recovery, I have benefitted greatly from the collegial and supportive atmosphere within the department. I would like to specifically thank Dr. Amanda Watson, Dr. Whitt, and Dr. Stacy Pigg for their inspiring instruction.
I have heard it said that the main sentiment of all good Anthropological work can be summarized as “it’s complicated”. As students in the field, we are encouraged to reject tidy explanations for social phenomena and to embrace the endless variability of human experience–to look for new questions rather than answers. Learning in this vein has changed the way that I understand vital issues of social justice and define concepts like advocacy, freedom, and fairness. Globalization and emergent forms of neoliberal capitalism continually present new questions about what it means to be a citizen, a social actor, and a human being. Through my undergraduate studies in anthropology, I feel better prepared to explore these questions and to act with purpose in all areas of my life.
Though I will be pursuing a different subject in the next phase of my education (I am going to law school at UBC), I aim to bring the ethos of anthropology into my studies. This ethos (as I see it) emphasizes openness, intellectual curiosity, and a profound respect for living beings at the collective and individual levels. I would like to encourage undergrad students currently deciding on a major to consider the political potential of anthropology, as I strongly believe it has made me a more effective advocate.