2020 Convocation Medal winners

The deans’ convocation medals for undergraduate studies and graduate studies recognize graduating students whose grades place them in the top five per cent of their class.

This year, both convocation medal winners from the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology are from the School of Communication. Congratulations!

Ben McGuinness: Undergraduate Convocation Medal  

What was your study focus within Communications? Why did this interest you?

I was really interested in studying the affordances and drawbacks of communication mediums and platforms. We live with a set of powerful new communications tools, so it's important to understand the good and bad implications of each. For example, a smartphone is obviously way more powerful than the traditional telephone but is also has a more complex impact on our lives. This perspective really helps to contextualize the new technologies and platforms that become available to us, and to think about how we can maximize their positive potential in our work, personal lives, and activism.

What are you planning to do next?

At the moment I'm applying to jobs, hoping to find a Communications role that continues where I left off with my Co-op and academic experiences. I see there are positions that synthesize everything I've learned, and it would be exciting to land one like that. Down the line I'll also explore graduate school options, thinking about what program might compliment my career aspirations.

Can you share a bit about you experience at SFU?

There was a lot to explore at SFU when I looked for it, and lots of people ready to connect with you. I myself engaged with the Communication Co-op Program, The Peak student newspaper, volunteering at events with the Student Ambassador Program, and some of the free lectures and seminars open to the public. I found myself zig-zagging around campus many days and saying hi to people I met along the way. And the School of Communication itself is full of very smart teachers and students who were really fun to work with.

What does the medal mean to you?

I really tried my best to do well in classes, to learn and grow, and to engage with as many people as I could during my time at SFU. Having transferred to SFU for my third year, I had to quickly catch up in getting to know SFU and all the things going on and on offer for students. Receiving the medal made me feel recognized for my efforts, and really confirmed to me that I did in fact make an impression on the people I met. It made me feel like I had made the right decisions as an undergrad.

What would you tell future students or undergraduate students who might just be starting university?

A little bit of effort, both in class and outside of class, goes a really long way to creating a positive experience and building connections to people. Engaging with what you're doing doesn't have to be hard but it's always worth it. And you don't have to be sure about exactly what you want to study or do, just be on the lookout for things that interest you and gravitate towards them—and let them gravitate towards you!

Sibo Chen: Graduate Convocation Medal

What did you research and focus on at SFU? Why did this interest you?

My research at SFU focused on environmental communication, and in my Ph.D. dissertation, I explored public debates surrounding British Columbia's pursuit of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export since 2011. This public controversy first caught my attention back in 2016 when I was exploring climate change related media coverage. What intrigued me the most was the extensive discussions on environmental stewardship found in LNG's official promotional materials. After looking into related news coverage, I gradually realized the socio-economic and political tensions underlying the controversy, which eventually let me focus on it for my dissertation research.

What are you doing at Ryerson?

I am now an Assistant Professor at Ryerson's School of Professional Communication. Besides teaching courses such as "communication and social media", "intercultural communication", and "interpersonal communication", I carry on my research on public communication of risks and crises. Recently, I have started a new project that explores alternative media's coverage of COVID-19.

Can you share a bit about your experience at SFU?

I spent seven years at SFU School of Communication (for both my M.A. and Ph.D.). Needless to say, I felt very emotional when I moved to Toronto last fall. I spent most of my SFU years on the Burnaby mountain. While Vancouver's vibrant downtown may attract some, I enjoyed the quietness brought by the mountain. I also enjoyed the diversity of critical scholarship at the School of Communication. I learnt so much from professors and classmates, and I will try my best to inspire the spirit of critical thinking among students I teach at Ryerson.

What does the medal mean to you?

It's my great honour to receive the Dean's convocation medal, which I view as a remarkable milestone symbolizing all the hard work, friendship, and happiness I had over the years at SFU.  

What would you tell future students or undergraduate students who might be interested in graduate work?

When I came to Vancouver in 2012, I never thought it would become my second hometown. Graduate work comes with a lot of uncertainties, but I think this is the beauty of it — you never know what your research interests will bring to you. If you are interested in graduate work, I would encourage you to explore existing opportunities. To me, graduate school is a life-changing experience.