Ivana Zdjelar. Making the Best of It.

October 23, 2020

By Adhil Naidu

Criminology graduate Ivana Zdjelar had hoped to celebrate her achievement with a trip around Europe and Egypt, but the pandemic threw a wrench in those plans. Instead, Zdjelar and her family marked her achievement by visiting a local farm where they took photos among the sunflowers, saw some farm animals, and wandered a corn maze. 

“It wasn’t quite the graduation I had planned, but it turned out better than I could have even imagined,” she says.

Read about Zdjelar’s SFU journey below.

Why did you choose to major in criminology at SFU?

Ever since I was little, I’ve enjoyed a good mystery. I remember sneaking around behind my parents’ backs to watch Forensic Files as a child. As I grew up, I changed my mind a million times on what I wanted to do for a career, but somehow it always came back to solving mysteries. When it was time to apply to university, criminology just made sense! I have to admit though, having a sister who was doing her degree in criminology at SFU helped me make my decision. I had a few years to see my sister and her friends going through their degrees, and I just knew I wanted to be a part of that.

What were your favorite courses or instructors during your undergraduate studies? And which assignments or projects were highlights? 

My favorite courses were the Special Topics in Criminology classes. The most memorable ones were State-Sponsored Crimes with Professor Charmaine Perkins, The Advocacy of Homicide with Professor Eric Beauregard, and (perhaps my favorite) Victimology with Professor Jordana Gallison. Each of these special topics class was fascinating in its own way and opened up a new section of criminology that I was eager to explore. 

One of my favorite professors during my undergraduate degree was Professor Evan McCuish. Over the years, I’ve taken several classes with him, but we met in CRIM 103 during my first year. At that time, I felt unsure if the university was the right fit for me. To be honest, I wanted to quit. That semester I spent numerous office hours with Evan working through my first paper. He was one of the first professors that made me feel like I was smart, capable, and that I deserved to be there. Needless to say, I didn’t give up! 

What extracurricular activities or campus clubs did you participate in during your time at SFU? Which event or activity are you most proud of contributing to?

During my time at SFU, I got involved with the FASS Peer Mentorship Program and with the Criminology Student Association (CSA). My time with the CSA was one of the most memorable parts of my life at SFU. During my first year with the CSA, I got elected into the secretary role. The next year I was asked to run as president, and I got elected into the role as well. It was hard work and overwhelming at times, but I had an amazing team. The event I was most proud of being a part of was the Bob Ross paint nights we put together. I left that position with a lot of lessons learned and a few lifelong friends.

What are your short- or long-term goals, now that you are finished your degree?

If I am being honest, this year has made me re-evaluate all of my short-term goals. Before the pandemic, I would have said that a goal of mine was to take a moment to really enjoy my life and travel. Now I cannot say the same. I’ve taken this time to readjust my goals and focus on furthering my career instead. I plan on going back to school to do a Post-Baccalaureate diploma before doing my master’s degree. My long-term goal is to one day work with B.C. Coroners Service.

What has been the key to your success? Can you offer any advice or words of wisdom and encouragement to new undergraduate students in your field? 

The key to my success would have to be knowing when to ask for help. In my second-year life threw me a curveball, and I realised that one person simply cannot do everything by themself. In fact, I learned that it was really brave to say I need help and that someone would always show up for me. 

If there was one piece of advice I could give new students, it would be not to get sucked into how much work or how little work others around you are doing. The comparison will drain you. Focus on your work. Remember to make time for fun. Most importantly, take care of yourself. Your degree will go by faster than you could ever imagine. 



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