Student Profile: Q&A with Jake Castro Class of 2020
Why did you choose to major/minor in criminology at SFU?
My initial plan coming to SFU did not include criminology. However, I switched my major early on because criminology was where I felt my learning was best. My prior knowledge regarding crime was always proven wrong, largely because my prior knowledge came from sensationalized depictions in media. This initial draw got me interested in learning further and sparked my desire to work in the criminal justice system. I stayed in the program and now strive for more because of the critical aspects of criminology and the potential to advocate for marginalized groups subjected to our criminal justice system.
What were your favorite courses or instructors during your undergraduate degree/graduate degree? What assignments or projects were highlights?
My major is in Criminology and my minor is in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. This is because of my passion for the subjects and intersections between the two disciplines. I enjoyed and benefited from all the courses I completed within these departments. The projects worth highlighting are the ones I completed independently from coursework, in the forms of a GSWS directed reading supervised by Jen Marchbank and an Undergrad Honours thesis supervised by Tamara O’Doherty. With these projects, I was able to explore my research interests in corrections policy for incarcerated transgender people, under the direction of experienced researchers. The Criminology Honours program helped identify my direction and research interests going forward and I completed what I formerly believed unthinkable: a thesis.
What extracurricular activities or campus clubs did you participate in during your time at SFU? What event or activity are you most proud of contributing to?
I briefly participated in one SFU club: The Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Student Union. I was the Special Events Co-ordinator for two semesters. I enjoyed this experience as I got to connect with other SFU students with similar mindsets, values, and goals and we worked towards benefiting other SFU students. Outside of SFU, I volunteered for the Correctional Service of Canada in two parole offices for two years. I am proud of this activity and I recommend it to any student wanting to dip their toes in the workforce. It opens your mind to many work interests and bodes potential for future opportunities. Because of my volunteering, I now work two jobs within the corrections field, with one of them situated within the two parole offices I formerly volunteered in.
What are your short- or long-term goals, now that you are finished your degree?
Starting in the Fall, I will head to the University of Ottawa and start my MA in Criminology with Specialization in Feminist and Gender Studies. Due to the current pandemic, the first semester of the program will be online, so I will be sticking around Vancouver for the time being. I am going to continue working on policy for incarcerated transgender people in my MA thesis. I have an interest in advocating for marginalized Queer people in our criminal justice system and to build and act upon this, I think I would like to pursue a PhD, but I am also interested in government, gender policy, and corrections policy; there are many options!
What has been the key to your success? What advice or words of wisdom or encouragement would you offer to new undergraduate students in your field?
The key to my success has been accepting opportunities that intimidated me. As hard as it can be to overcome fears, there is little chance of success if we do not face them. Beginning work in a halfway house and a parole area was scary at first, but worth the initial fears for the benefits it has all brought me.
Professional experience in the corrections field contributed largely to my academic performance and interests, which also then brought me to the Honours program. Honestly, entering the Honours program terrified me more than my first time facing a group of offenders. However, producing a thesis allowed me to develop my research interests and skills and helped me make decisions for life post-Undergrad. My final words of wisdom: go for the opportunities that you think are unattainable and once you are actively in them, spend each day proving why you attained them.
How were you planning to celebrate your graduation had COVID crisis not happened?
Since I was going to move across the country for my Master's, I was hoping to spend some quality time with friends and family and was planning to travel to Kelowna, Calgary, Minnesota, and possibly Portugal where my family is from, but I have never been. COVID-19 posed many barriers, but I have had some virtual ‘hang outs’ and with restrictions starting to lift in phases, I’m hopeful that I will still be able to visit friends and family before my eventual move!