Semester in Dialogue 2016 brochure

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Meet the Current Cohort

Mariyah Ali is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Sociology at Simon Fraser University. Her passion for her academic discipline arose after a brief introduction at Capilano University, where she began to contextualize her personal experiences, especially as an immigrant and a racialized woman. Mariyah and her family, of which she is the youngest of five children, moved from Bangalore to Coquitlam, eventually settling in West Vancouver, where she resides today. Through her discipline, Mariyah continues to develop both her knowledge and her curiosity regarding the intersectionality of the various communities that compose Vancouver, particularly those of First Nations. Mariyah prides herself on her ability to develop immediate and meaningful relationships, especially through novel and exciting experiences. After her impending graduation, Mariyah hopes to pursue law, specifically contract law. However, before law school, she plans to travel throughout Southeast Asia to visit family and to make new friends.

Ioana Bisca is a 4th-year Health Sciences student at SFU. In Ioana’s 4 years at SFU, she was able to do a co-op with Fraser Health and with another non-profit organization. Ioana is bilingual being fluent in both English and Romanian. Much of her family still lives in Romania so she is able to go back and visit the place she was born to really connect with the culture. During her free time, Ioana enjoys going for walks to find scenic lookout points around the city. She also enjoys reading books and watching movies. Ioana is a vegetarian and is outwardly caring and kind. Throughout this course, she would like to gain new skills, engage with a variety of people and really understand their unique perspectives. Ioana is hoping to connect with nature more deeply and focus on what it means to others.

Originally from the Philippines, John Camino has been living in North Vancouver for half of his life and admiring the green space this city has to offer. He is a third year Biology major and was first inspired by the basic building blocks of human life—cells. After completing his bachelor degree, he aspires to work as a researcher in the city to continue the advancement of cell biology. He was drawn to Semester in Dialogue as a way to gain a more holistic approach of how biology and environments affect communities. When he’s not busy hitting the books, he enjoys playing computer games as well as volunteering with children to promote literacy and tutoring students in general. Above all, John carries with him the motto of, “Be Happy” in all aspects of his life and wishes to share his positive attitude and outlook with the community this semester.

Nikalen Edwards is a fun-loving and friendly individual. Having transferred from UFV, she now studies at Simon Fraser University and is a 3rd year Biology major. After graduating, she plans to pursue becoming a dentist—a goal that she has held since she was 12 years old. Nikalen can be found singing and playing guitar with her church group, or coaching volleyball in her spare time. She also plays the trumpet! Nikalen likes to go walking, and is particularly fond of doing so in the city of Seattle. She connects with nature best when she is outside with her family and friends, making memories. A few fun facts: her favorite animals are bears and turtles, and her favorite color is purple. By participating in Semester in Dialogue, Nikalen is looking forward to gaining different views and perspectives that others have to offer.

Rowan Gentleman-Sylvester is a fun and happy girl who enjoys the nature and loves travelling. Having travelled to many interesting places, Rowan still loves B.C. and now lives in North Vancouver. She likes planning and organizing because for most things in life, she doesn’t want ambiguity. She likes the color green, and waking up to a sunny day and blue sky makes her really excited in the morning. Her dream job is to be a hotel manager at a small and cozy family-owned hotel, but her ultimate dream is to be free of fixed schedules and location constraints.

Erin Grace is a 4th year geography student attending UBC, with a focus on human geography. She was drawn to this program because of her interest in experiential learning and a great curiosity of the impact humans are having on the environment, especially in terms of biodiversity. Her studies have taken her internationally, to both India and Spain, where she further developed her understanding of the fragile but integral relationship that exists between cities and nature. Erin imagines a future where she can improve her Spanish speaking skills and plans to head overseas to work for an NGO and then pursue a career focused on social justice and equity in law or urban planning.

Julie Han is going to her third year in International Studies at Simon Fraser University. With a concentration in environmental issues, economics and international development, Julie finds her inspiration for her studies in stories told to her by her grandmother, whose rural village in Korea has experienced loss of meaningful biodiversity. Having grown up first in the North Shore mountains and now in Coquitlam nature has always surrounded her. She's excited to further her studies through study abroad next year at the University of Amsterdam. After her undergraduate degree she is hoping to continue her academic career focussing her studies on post colonialism, immigration and urbanization. Her interests in school translate to the rest of her life as well, in her free time she watches Japanese and Korean horror films on Netflix because she appreciates their social commentaries over American “jump/scare” films. Her discipline and drive can be attributed to the competitive fencing that she took part in her earlier years and are clearly translated into her academic career.

Sydney Hara is a 3rd year Geography student at Simon Fraser University. Born and raised in Burnaby, BC, Sydney has always held an interest about the environment, and learning about the physical space around her. She has developed a passion for understanding issues surrounding water consumption, and the commodification of water. Sydney also loves to travel, and most recently she travelled to Ecuador with the charity organization called Free the Children. Her experience in the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest opened up her mind to all the possibilities and paths she could take to pursue and showcase her passion for the environment. Sydney used this experience as an inspiration to pursue the Semester in Dialogue, and she hopes to put in to practice in Vancouver, some of the sustainable practices she learned about in Ecuador. After Sydney finishes her undergraduate degree she wants to travel to parts of Southeast Asia, Africa, and India.

Ahmed Lelamo was born in Adis Ababa in Ethiopia. He is a fourth year Cognitive Science student of Simon Fraser University and would graduate in spring of 2018. Ahmed likes to play sports in his spare time, and his two favorite sports are soccer and basketball. He played soccer a lot as kid and has memories of playing soccer very close to a church in Rome and really annoying the members of the church, and his favorite soccer team is Juventus. Ahmed joined the Semester in Dialogue mainly because of the dialogue part of the program. In Ahmed's opinion dialogue is the only way to solve problem people have, and the only other ways which he knows problems are solved is through coercion and persuasion but they do not provide a lasting solution. At the end of this semester Ahmed hopes to be able to communicate and understand people better in other to be able to solve their problems.

Sasha Makhneva has a passion for nature, specifically for plants. Her passion has led her to SFU where she studies environmental science applied biology and hopes to one day become a naturalist. Sasha is driven by her belief that nature shows the secrets of the world, and is creating a website to uncover some of those secrets by showcasing and describing various types of plants. Her love for nature transcends even into her spare time which she spends hiking and exploring the pacific northwest. She also enjoys playing the piano, singing and drawing; but what Sasha enjoys best is engaging with anyone she meets and learning their unique and interesting stories. She stands up for what she believes in and with her magnetic and kind personality driving her, Sasha hopes to make a meaningful impact on the environment.

Megan McLellan is a 4th year Communications student at SFU and is planning on graduating after her completion of City Studio. She was excited to end her degree with this program as she wants to hone her dialogue and communications skills, particularly in the realm of community engagement. She is very interested in creating common ground between people and communities, and finding innovative ways to increase access to nature for urban residents. Megan is also an avid photographer and strives to create work that provides a connection to the outside world. She hopes to bring the skills she will gain at City Studio to her photography career and expand her opportunities at home and abroad.

Samantha Miess is a fourth year Communications major and French minor student from Langley. With a passion for learning about different modes of communication, she currently volunteers at Simon Fraser University's campus radio as well as Vancouver Co-op Radio. Sam was drawn to Semester in Dialogue because, just like the radio communities, she can listen to others' stories and collaborate with locals. Becoming a vegetarian almost six years ago sparked a consciousness in her of connecting all activities and lifestyle choices to the environment. After graduating she hopes to explore the field of emergency management for a potential career path. In her spare time she can be found watercolour painting and dogspotting as she explores new trails in towns and cities.

Born and raised in Surrey B.C., Alisha Parmar is the youngest member of her family of 4. She is currently in her third year of her undergraduate degree in communications at Simon Fraser University. She is specifically interested in the marketing and political side of communications with a focus in power structures within companies. She is currently employed at a lottery centre and is an active writer in the SFU chapter of 'Her Campus'. Her Campus is an online magazine with the target demographic of the modern female college student. She has written a variety of articles that span from topics such as indecisiveness (which she knows much about) and documentary reviews. On her spare time she enjoys listening to country music and is currently watching the t.v. series "Nashville". Alisha is enthusiastic about participating in semester in dialogue primarily because of the shift away from learning in a traditional classroom setting.  

Richard Pepple is originally from Port Harcourt, Nigeria. When faced with the decision of choosing a country to attend university in, he consulted his father. Together they decided that Canada was the best prospect since it appeared to be the most friendly place to live. Now Richard is enrolled in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) at the University of Simon Fraser. Before determining which field of study to focus on, he considered several programs (medicine, engineering, computing science) but ultimately elected SIAT seeing that the combination of design and code best fit his skillset and interest. Richard is outgoing and enjoys playing video games, especially FIFA. He likes researching  new innovations at the cutting edge of technology and in the future hopes to integrate his design and coding skills and pursue a career in software development.

Andreea Pirvu likes to be called Dre. As Dre was growing up in Romania, Japan, United States and Canada, she was always very brave. She enjoyed climbing everything she could find, doing gymnastics, and even riding unicycles. Dre is the type of person who is not afraid to make a change in the world, and her strength is that when she wishes for such a change she takes action and gets it done. She studies Criminology at SFU with a focus on organized crime. Currently, Dre enjoys snowboarding, rock climbing, hiking and hand to hand partner acrobatics. Dre is excited to be a part of semester in dialogue because it’s an opportunity for her to combine school and nature into one commitment. In the future she wants to see the northern lights. The people around her have no doubt that she is going to live beyond her wildest dreams because of her courage.

John Tarlit is a fourth-year environmental geography major who currently lives in Vancouver. He was born in Kamloops and is first generation Canadian. John has two brothers and is the middle child. He began singing in a choir at the age of nine and has travelled across Canada with the British Boys Choir and Corpus Christi Chamber Choir. If he had more free time he would love to continue singing in choir. His hobbies include snowboarding and biking. John currently works at Earls Test Kitchen as a bartender. He decided to take part in Semester in Dialogue after hearing great things about it from a friend and thought it would be a great way to end his final year at SFU.

Naomi Whiffen teaches swimming and is a lifeguard. She has been swimming since age three. She switched from an English major to General Education when she realized, through teaching swimming lessons, that she wanted to teach grade 3 and 4 rather than high school. Naomi also loves swimming in open waters and doesn’t mind cold water. She loves reading and went to middle school in Japan for 3-4 months. She attended Encounters with Canada under the subject ecology. She joined Semester in Dialogue because she was intrigued about learning outside in a park and dialogue. Her favourite season is spring, and her favourite colour is light blue, and she enjoys sweet things.

Roz Yazdanmehr is a fourth year political-science major who presented her honours thesis at the WPSA conference this year. She chose to take Rewilding Vancouver during her last semester in order to help promote responsible practices in government. She is currently working in the legislative assembly, and would one day like to be a ministerial advisor in the Ministry of Environment. Her passions include reading, writing, spoken word poetry, dancing, and academic research. One of her areas of interest in research is the persecution of minorities in government. Roz is also an avid traveler, having traveled to every continent. She particularly enjoys spending time in cities that are an amalgamation of mixed cultures.

Sam Zhao was born in Beijing before moving to BC in 2008. His passion has always been based around the world of technology and computers. As a young boy, Sam developed a fascination for software development to make the most of each piece of computing hardware at his disposal. This interest led to begin coding. His initial interest in coding was to create animations but soon progressed far beyond those limitations. High school was a busy time for Sam as he not only began his early freelance career, but also competed in Mandarin singing contests where he showcased his beat boxing skills in tandem with his homemade audio loop system. Now a SIAT Major at SFU, Sam spends his free time working on freelance projects in software, marketing, and more recently, consulting. You can find him working productively at his neighbourhood Blenz coffee shop in Richmond.