February 18, 1999 Vol . 14, No. 4

Djwa wins mentoring honour

Nineteen-ninety-nine has barely kicked in, but it can hardly get any better for Sandra Djwa (right).

"So far it's been a very good year," says the SFU English professor.
Djwa recently gave the Garnett Gladwin Sedgewick memorial lecture at UBC, the first woman to give the lecture since it was established 44 years ago. Past lectures have been given by international scholars such as Northrop Frye. Djwa was invited as a distinguished alumna and because she recently finished a biography called Professing English: A Life of Roy Daniells, a Poet and Scholar.

Djwa was recently named winner, along with five others, of Trimark Investments' first Canadian Women's Mentor Awards.
Winners were selected in six categories from 600 nominations. Djwa was nominated in the science and education category by her colleague Mary Ann Gillies.

"In 1990, Sandra convinced me to accept a position at SFU by promising to mentor me. Her words weren't hollow: she has personally helped me write grant applications and has been a wonderful sounding board, helping me sort through more than one difficult chain of ideas in my research projects; she also encouraged and supported the innovations I implemented in my teaching," wrote Gillies in her nomination letter.

"But her mentoring has gone well beyond simple career advice. She provides a model of how a woman can succeed in a highly competitive field while retaining a uniquely female presence, and while retaining the idealism that prompted her career choice, even in an era that looks toward technology for its solutions rather than toward the humanities."

Djwa, who's now busy researching a biography on P.K. Page, a Victoria poet, novelist and artist, says she knew she had been nominated, but was surprised she had won.

Djwa says mentoring young people is important. "As a young professor I was helped by Roy Daniells of UBC and Carl Klinck, of Western Ontario. So I've been aware that young women and men in the field sometimes do need help to get started. But the mentoring process works both ways. I've learned from my younger colleagues."

Djwa, the author of seven books, joined SFU's English department in 1968. Since then she has chaired her department for eight years.

At the same time she worked nationally and internationally to raise the profile of Canadian literature. In the 1970s she co-founded the Association of Canadian and Quebec Literatures. Five years ago she was elected to the Royal Society of Canada.


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