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Semester in Dialogue 2016 brochure

Meet the Current Cohort

Since his childhood, his intelligence, work ethic and compassion have guided Sean Bains towards work helping others. Sean is a University of British Columbia student majoring in Integrative Sciences, with focuses in Physiology, Neuroscience and Early Childhood Education. Outside of his studies he spends time working for Writer’s Exchange, an organization that aims to bring literacy skills to the inner city district of East Vancouver, as well as the Children’s Foundation, which provides support and services for children in care. Sean began volunteering for these programs, and was eventually hired as a result of his great work.

He also enjoys cooking, and takes great pleasure in preparing healthy, nutritious meals, be they for himself or for his whole family. He stays active, choosing to do so by constantly trying out new activities in search of the next physical challenge.

As he is nearing graduation, Sean saw an opportunity in the Semester in Dialogue program to network and learn where he fits, both as an individual and professionally.

Sean plans on working in Public Health, where those same characteristics that have guided him into the Semester in Dialogue program will help him make a positive impact on all those he helps.

Jakob Breithaupt is a third year student at Simon Fraser University majoring in Biomedical Physiology. Jakob was raised in a small town in the Yukon located about an hour and a half from Whitehorse. He has a strong passion for all things outdoors, including camping, fishing and hunting. Jakob also has a strong passion for hockey and had always seen himself working as a commentator or coach. However, Jakob was inspired by science as a teenager and has since strived to pursue a career in medicine. His passion for pursuing medicine was further invigorated by a trip he took to work in a hospital, located in a small town in Germany where his mother was raised. There he was provided an opportunity that allowed him to explore his cultural background and family roots while receiving a glimpse into the realm of medicine. Jakob’s interest in Semester in Dialogue stemmed from his desire to dig deeper into the complexities of health and wellness, particularly in northern rural populations as this is where his interests lie. Jakob brings a genuine attitude and openness to the program and aims to use his personal struggles to break down the stigmas surrounding mental health.

Renmart Buhay is a third year biomedical physiology student at SFU. If he could use one word to describe his values, it would be ‘sustainability’. For Renmart, sustainability goes beyond caring for the environment, and involves perceiving social, economic, and political issues in our community as inextricably linked to the environment. His passion for the environment was instigated through camping trips and spending time outside. At SFU, Renmart is a research assistant in the Injury Prevention and Mobility Lab, where he is interested in uncovering how to reduce the rate of falls among seniors living in residential care facilities. He is also researching concussion prevention in collegiate ice hockey games. You can also catch him wandering around the city and scouting out new food spots, or pursuing his other diverse interests, such as running, drawing, poetry and dancing. He is also passionate in advocating for youth mental health!

Born and raised in Richmond, B.C., Jenessa Chan spends almost two whole gruelling hours on Vancouver transit each morning in order to assemble with the Spring 2018 Semester in Dialogue class. First-hand experiences with the impact of illness sparked Janessa’s initial interest in the program, and a strong drive to seek knowledge in the field of healthcare fuels her unconditional transit-embarking devotion to the class. Janessa is in her 4th year of Communications and wants to use the skills of her degree to switch gears from previous work in tech, towards work in health and wellness. She hopes that the Semester in Dialogue can help her with this change. Aside from studying Janessa enjoys exercising at the gym, writing poetry, and reading books about theology and philosophy. Janessa has an addiction to caffeine which she consumes via coffee, and she is embarrassed to admit her considerable fear of squirrels, particularly the way they scurry up trees. Luckily however, there are no squirrels at Harbour Center and Janessa can focus on being an indispensable member of the Semester in Dialogue team. 

Zoë Esseiva joins Semester in Dialogue from Simon Fraser University’s Sociology program with a clear goal in mind: To expand her experience both within the field of health sciences, and beyond the research lenses of life sciences. With an ambition to pursue nursing in community health, Zoë hopes to provide focus care for the Downtown Eastside community. Zoë’s passions in health promotion and community engagement are what inspired her to discover new perspectives of health through this program. With her warm personality and curious nature, complemented by her knitting and culinary skills, makes her a excellent addition to the Spring 2018 Cohort.

An upbringing filled with sports allowed Vanessa Gee to develop skills to better understand people while genuinely caring about them. Sports and an interest for people led her to SFU where she is an energetic and enthusiastic Health Sciences undergrad student and former member of the SFU Basketball Women’s Team. Vanessa’s decision to distance herself from basketball to focus on her degree imposed her a new challenge. However, she luckily encountered diverse volunteering experiences that allowed her to merge her two passions, basketball and helping others. These experiences were working for Special Olympics, coaching basketball, and BC Children’s Hospital. These have streamed her passion and career towards issues that involve children. However, her most recent one was volunteering for UNICEF which has further transformed her vision from a local to a global perspective. As she continues to pursue opportunities and challenges to grow professionally and personally, she currently is a participant of Semester in Dialogue, where she hopes to ground her career aspirations and create meaningful connections with her peers.

Originally from Ladysmith, BC, Adrian Genge’s interest in health lead him to Simon Fraser University in pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts in Health Sciences. Now a fourth year student, his yearning for an experiential and cooperative learning environment brought him into Semester in Dialogue. Ultimately, Adrian’s goal for the program is to better understand the complexities within the healthcare field, and to ultimately gain a better sense of who he wants to become within it, post-graduation. Adrian has taken full advantage of his time at SFU, completing an international co-op in Korea, working at CJSF as the Assistant to the Music Director, and earning the titles of 2016 & 2017 Intramural Soccer Champion. In his free time, you’ll likely find Adrian either at home making a batch of authentic Canadian yogurt, or jamming out to his favourite tunes: R&B and funk music. Although he likes to hike, bring your bear spray and headlight—he has a deep-rooted childhood fear of bears.

Born in Prince George and raised in Cloverdale, Amy Gill enjoys the fast-paced atmosphere of Vancouver. She also appreciates the opportunity to meet likeminded people in order to facilitate change, which drew her to the Semester in Dialogue program. As a Biomedical Physiology student in her fourth year, Amy is excited to meet students who share her passion for health. She is looking forward to learning from her peers and to drawing connections between the cohort’s diverse conceptions of health.

In addition to her theoretical knowledge, Amy brings practical experience from various research and co-operative education experiences with the Fraser Health Authority. She is passionate about patient centered care, which drives her desire of pursing medicine. She hopes to practice as a Geriatrician one day and join other physicians who are interested in combating ageism in the current healthcare sector.

Outside of the classroom, Amy volunteers with various organizations both on and off campus. She is also a bit of a daredevil, having gone bungee jumping in the past and much to her family’s dismay, she plans to go skydiving this summer. In her spare time, she enjoys practicing mindfulness meditation, painting, and cooking.

Passionate and involved in health research since her first year of university, Katrina Koehn hopes to find unique solutions for the various social inequalities that exist within her own community. As a research assistant at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, she has studied a wide range of issues including food security, housing and home and community care. As part of the Semester in Dialogue, she hopes to transform this research into tangible social change. She thinks that humility and compassion are underestimated aspects of the research process and health systems. Growing up in Burnaby, she enjoys many things in life, such as biking in the rain, camping, and dry humour. She likes dabbling in the Vancouver brewery scene, particularly because they close early and she can get to bed on time. 

Gursimran Mahendru is a fourth-year student at SFU studying Biology. He was born in Punjab, India. His biggest dream is to get into medical school and become a doctor, a goal that comes from his desire to help people. Throughout his time at SFU, he has had the opportunity to complete co-op terms in places such as the Okanagan, Lethbridge and Rogers Pass. His favourite parts of his co-op terms were having the opportunity to visit different parts of the country and getting to talk to the locals. Gursimran has also spent a lot of his time at SFU volunteering. In his spare time, Gursimran enjoys badminton and swimming, and is teaching himself how to play the guitar. Gursimran was drawn to the Semester in Dialogue program because of its hands-on and practical approach. He plans to put all his effort into the program and is looking forward to the lasting impact that it will have. 

Meet Demi Omojokun: Born and raised in London, England with a Nigerian background she considers herself to be a combination of both cultures. Besides her unique cultural insight, Demi values tranquility and contemplation. Meeting Demi makes you want to critically contemplate about life and share thoughts about historical facts, world issues and even love stories. Although she is a homebody at heart, Demi knows how to have fun as well. Demi believes that in order to change the world we need to establish a new-found appreciation for children and elderly people. She sees valuable potential for change in the future by investing in people’s minds and attitudes, starting from a young age. Ideally, Demi would want to be a diplomat who travels the world and helps people. Luckily, based on Demi’s character and her unique mindset for valuing children and elderly people, this dream is more realistic than she may think. 

Janani Ravikularam gets excited about good food and travelling. Sushi is her equivalent to oxygen, and she can conquer a platter of hummus and bread like no other. She is intrigued by the egalitarian mindset of some Northern European countries and wishes to study abroad in Denmark in the near future. Janani is also passionate about the importance and impact of systems thinking in solving society’s biggest issues. She was drawn to taking Semester in Dialogue – Health and Wellness because she wanted to learn how to tackle complex issues through critically analyzing problems that exist at a systemic level and is especially excited to explore this topic with her fellow classmates who come from different backgrounds and offer different perspectives. She hopes to take the skills she gains from this class in both dialogue and problem solving into her future career and be able to one day tackle the unjust systems that exist in all aspects of our society. She believes that when an individual is suffering from ill health, it is often because the system failed them; they did not fail him/herself, and it is up to systemic change to create sustainable and impactful solutions.

Leslie Sanchez is currently in her 4th year at Simon Fraser University majoring in Communications. What Leslie loves most about Vancouver is the people, food, active lifestyle and temperate weather. Born and raised in Mexico, she found her passion for working with children while being a nanny as well as watching her mother being a teacher. Additionally, she engaged with many children who lacked access to necessary healthcare and witnessed firsthand the negative consequences it had on their  health and wellbeing.  Through these experiences, Leslie learned the importance of early childhood development and organization of health care systems on an individual’s life-long health and wellbeing. As a result, Leslie aspires to work in the health care field and ensure that children receive the care necessary for them to reach their full potential. 

Through Leslie’s personal experiences with children and  genuine interest in the organization of health care systems, Leslie is enthusiastic to take part in the Semester in Dialogue and develop solutions to complex issues within the health care system with her fellow classmates as well make meaningful connections with peers and find interest in different career aspirations.

This is Pegah Tavakolfar, born and raised in Germany whilst her parents Persian heritage was mixed into her daily life through food, stories and traditions. In 2008, Pegah and her family decided to make a change and moved to Canada. And Pegah’s adventure continues still in Vancouver, Canada as part of the Semester in Dialogue cohort. From childhood dreams of becoming a pianist, maybe even like her favorite pianist Ludovico Einaudi, much has changed since then. Pegah is currently completing a degree in Health Sciences and hopes that her time in the Semester in Dialogue will open up her world with novel experiences to connect with others, learn about herself and make a difference.

Pegah is grounded in her faith and values authenticity, respect, determination and love. For her future, Pegah hopes be in a position that will allow her to increase the respect and protection of people’s rights and also help to hold a space that allows others to own their individuality while fostering understanding of these differences.

On the road to realizing her dreams, Pegah sweetens the journey by spending time outdoors. Her German heritage has instilled a love for the outdoors with soccer being a favorite pass time. 

Justine Teoh is a passionate advocate for vulnerable individuals. After completing her BSc in Population and Quantitative Health Sciences at SFU, Justine wants to apply her education and experience to improving the quality of life of those with invisible disabilities. Her potential to do so was realized and confirmed by her extensive work with children with ASD and older adults who have cognitive impairments. She completed a co-op term in public health and has a lot to bring to the table. Justine is excited to join the Semester in Dialogue as she values an interdisciplinary approach to health care and recognizes the importance of building on multiple perspectives. Born and raised in Burnaby, she believes that Vancouver is the most beautiful city and is thrilled to relate her studies to the immediate world around her. When she’s not saving the world, Justine enjoys baking, knitting, and swimming.

Rachel Tong is a fourth-year Criminology student who was born and raised in Vancouver. Despite growing up in a densely-populated city, she finds that Vancouver can perpetuate feelings of loneliness and isolation. These feelings spurred her to discover her passion for student and community engagement.

Currently, she volunteers at the SFSS Women’s Center and in the past, she was also involved with the Peer Education program at SFU. She has completed two co-operative education placements with two organizations, one that overcome homelessness and another that supports grandparents who raise their grandchildren.

Rachel hopes to bring her critical thinking, creativity, and passion for engaging other likeminded people to the cohort. She is looking forward to strengthening these skills during Semester in Dialogue. Rachel also hopes to gain more knowledge and insight about the domino effects of the current healthcare system and to challenge herself with learning new perspectives on healthcare from her classmates.

In her spare time, Rachel enjoys reading and writing poetry.

Lindsay Wu is a keen and passionate 4th year Communications student. She is a lover of food (especially when it involves ramen noodles) and loves to try new cuisines in Vancouver. In her spare time she likes to draw, take photos of scenery, and read books of both fiction and nonfiction genre. She loves the faculty she is part of at SFU and her favourite part about being a communications student is the opportunities to exercise critical analysis of socio-political topics in her classes. Lindsay was drawn to be a part of this Semester in Dialogue term because she deeply appreciates intimate, group conversations and the dynamic that comes from an interdisciplinary group of students. Under the umbrella of “health and wellness,” she is particularly interested in how our healthcare system delivers mental health services, as well as how the people of different backgrounds and groups experience the healthcare system differently. Lindsay is looking forward to immersing herself in the complex health topics to come this semester and is excited for all that this passionate cohort will achieve in the upcoming months.