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Advocating for the Wrongfully Convicted: SFU Criminology student, Asia Clarke, Co-Founds Organization and Fosters Community
Criminology student, Asia Clarke, shares her journey into community building and how she became an advocate for the wrongfully convicted.
When Asia Clarke graduated from high school, she knew she wanted to pursue a career in activism and social justice but was unclear of the path to get there. Inspired by her Law 12 course, she found the Criminology program at Simon Fraser University (SFU) and took what she calls “a leap of faith.”
Clarke’s leap of faith led her to pursue a Certificate in Legal Studies in addition to her Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Criminology. “The moment that solidified my decision to go into law was while taking CRIM 230: Criminal Law with Dr. Tamara O’Doherty. Just hearing from someone who is so passionate about the law really spoke to me,” she explains.
Confident in her chosen area of study, Clarke soon came to realize that she was missing a sense of community.
Second year was a pivotal time for Clarke as she decided it was time to become more involved in SFU’s community. “I realized there were so many amazing opportunities in front of me that I was willfully neglecting,” she says. “That’s when I decided to make a shift and change this narrative of disengagement for myself.”
Clarke met with Brian Fox, the Student Engagement Coordinator at Arts Central, who helped kick-start Clarke’s SFU involvement. “It was Brian who pushed me to take that first step to get involved,” she says, “to finally make me feel like I have a sense of community and belonging at SFU.” With Fox’s encouragement, Clarke became a FASS Connections peer mentor for first year FASS students.
Becoming a peer mentor was only the beginning of Clarke’s involvement at SFU as she also became President of the Criminology Student Association (CSA), a Teaching Assistant for the Criminology department, and a Writing and Learning Peer Educator for SFU’s Student Learning Commons (SLC).
One of her proudest accomplishments in her role of President at the CSA was hosting a virtual career fair. Initially designed to be an in-person event in March 2020, the pandemic caused the CSA to shift gears and host the event online – despite others telling them to cancel the event outright. With two weeks to change plans, Clarke and her team persevered and hosted a successful virtual event. “We had over 100 students attend the event virtually,” she says, “which was important as the event connected so many people during a time of uncertainty.”
"I think the sense of community at SFU was amplified through the pandemic because people were taking extra steps to ensure everyone had that sense of connectedness."
In her final semester, Clarke took a special interest in the course CRIM 438: Wrongful Convictions and Other Miscarriages of Justice taught by Instructor Pamela Glatt. The course inspired Clarke to learn more about wrongful convictions and eventually become an advocate for those impacted by miscarriages of justice. Clarke is a co-founder of the Wrongful Convictions Collective where she is the Director of the Education Initiative. The goal of the WCC is to educate the public on wrongful convictions as well as advocate for those who have been wrongfully convicted. Clarke’s Education Initiative team presents to high school students, typically in Law 12 classes, to educate students on topics of wrongful convictions that are seldom part of their high school curriculum. The WCC has also been successful working with news outlets advocating for the change of problematic story headlines where inappropriate or derogatory language is used towards exonerated peoples.
In September, Clarke will be attending Peter A. Allard Law at UBC to pursue her Juris Doctor degree where she is working towards a career in law. As Clarke looks back at her time at SFU, she is grateful for her Criminology professors, “my professors truly shaped my academic career and helped support me through everything I have done in my undergraduate degree. They even helped me to the point of going to law school!” Specifically, Clarke wanted to thank Professors Pamela Glatt, Dr. Helen Love, Dr. Danielle Murdoch, and Dr. Tamara O’Doherty.
Clarke’s advice to new and incoming students is, “get involved! Start with one thing you are really passionate about and when you devote yourself to that, you can take on more opportunities as they come. If I didn’t take that first step to becoming a peer mentor, I would not be where I am today.”