Health Science Major, Jan Vinoya, Awarded 2023 Sylvester Family Award

March 21, 2023

Running for the third year in a row, the Sylvester Family Award has found a home with one of Simon Fraser University’s student visionaries. The Senate Undergraduate Awards Adjudication Committee, in collaboration with the Semester in Dialogue Awards Committee, had much to consider when making their decision. This year, the recipient is Health Science Major, Jan Vinoya, who has demonstrated a strong commitment to dialogue on racial equity and justice. 

Recently, we had the pleasure of meeting with Jan, who generously shared her experiences during the Semester in Dialogue and the social work she has done and continues to do. Jan Vinoya moved to Vancouver in 2012, from the Philippines, and is now a fifth-year student on the way to completing her honours program. Jan is a genuine spirit who expresses herself authentically and effectively.

Upon initial enrolment in Semester in Dialogue (SID), Jan did not expect the discourse to expand past its set theme of “Trust, Money and Power: Funding Change”. To her surprise, SID covered a wide range of course content including Indigenous perspectives, philanthropic work, cultural awareness, effective communication and dialogue mediation.

Jan Vinoya's Summer 2022 Semester in Dialogue Cohort

Jan expressed her fondness for this program as it aided in her ability to challenge her own preconceived notions in addition to eliciting a wide range of stimulating learning. SID allowed Jan to step outside of her comfort zone as she learned how to think critically, and acknowledge how truth is subjective to lived experience. This sparked a certain realization for Jan as she felt there was more to dissect within her own honours project.

The initial goal of Jan’s honours proposal was to explore the well-being of Filipinos assimilating to Canadian culture. In hopes of destigmatizing Filipino stereotypes and disseminating what it means to be a Filipino immigrant living in British Columbia, Jan found herself involved in many organizations dedicated to a similar cause: Damyan BCSulong UBC, and Migrante BC. Through Semester in Dialogue, reflexive research and working closely with these organizations Jan decided to revise the scope of her honours project to focus on Filipino seniors living in BC.

Jan expressed that with the newfound networking and communications skills derived from SID, she was able to put herself out there and get involved in aiding a community that suffers great vulnerability. She also credits much of her success to mentors who she has met along the way who have taught her a great deal.

“I don’t think I’m doing a lot. I think it’s what I truly want to do. A lot of people I’ve met through this experience have done so much more and it’s amazing to be able to follow in their footsteps,” says Jan.

The Semester in Dialogue proved to be an extraordinarily life changing experience that challenged her perspectives on life. Jan encourages prospective students to come into it with an open mind and embrace the way SID challenges the mind. Much like co-op, Jan explains how SID serves as a learning experience, but instead enables the opportunity for deep social learning and self-reflection.

“It is like learning through each other and building through each other's thoughts” she says. Ultimately, an enriching way to meet new people, build character and learn how to communicate effectively.

“The power of dialogue is so strong, because when I go out into the community now I feel like I can express myself better because of the skills I've learned during the semester in dialogue” - Jan Vinoya

The Sylvester Family Award at the Centre for Dialogue was established at Simon Fraser University in 2020 with a generous three-year commitment from Shauna Sylvester, the Centre’s former Executive Director. At least one award, valued at a minimum of $1,095, will be granted annually to an undergraduate student in good academic standing who has taken a Semester in Dialogue during the calendar year in which the applications are due and has made a demonstrated commitment to dialogue on racial equity and justice.

Want less talk, more conversation? Sign up for dialogue in your inbox.

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Email: *

How would you like to engage with us?