Student Interview: Sabrina Ngo

July 27, 2023

Congratulations to doctoral student Sabrina Ngo, who was recently awarded the SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship! "The awarding of the SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship was timely as I was in the middle of collecting data for my study," shares Ngo. "This funding has permitted me to focus for longer and more in-depth research and writing sessions. As with all scholarships, this funding provides the financial flexibility of being able to meet my family commitments while putting my doctoral research at the fore of my goals."

Sabrina Ngo recently discussed her research and experience as a student in the Educational Theory and Practice: Curriculum & Pedagogy Stream program.

See her interview below (Republished with permission from SFU Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies

Q: Why did you choose to come to SFU? 

A: In 2018, after completing the Provincial Instructor Diploma at VCC, I began a community-based MEd Program between SFU and VCC. SFU provided the opportunity for me to rely upon my previous educational and practical experiences as a Legal Administrative Assistant and as a Paralegal to begin the next step of my journey as a junior scholar. These previous experiences of learning legal concepts, researching case law, analyzing legal principles, and applying the same to fact patterns gained from both a paralegal certificate program and real-life work experiences shaped my ability to focus on academic research and writing extensively, providing unconventional ways to think about and locate research. Two years in this program was not enough for me, and soon after completing my final project, I applied for the PhD program in Educational Theory and Practice, with a focus on curriculum and pedagogy. I had identified early on two professors within the Faculty of Education who I would like to work with, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Dr. Wanda Cassidy prior to her retirement, and now Dr. Özlem Sensoy.

Q: How would you describe your research or your program?  

A: Decolonization as a concept and term is largely connected to indigenization. While there is an inherent relationship between the two, if we as settlers focus too closely on this one aspect, we risk alleviating the responsibility we have in connection with truth and reconciliation by shouldering the work to dismantle colonialism on Indigenous Peoples. Looking at decolonization through the lens of vocational education, an educational system that is traditionally rooted in facilitating a student’s path towards employment, we can further look at the connections between the sociopolitical and economic structures that strongly root vocational education in industrial capitalism; a system that is not only embroiled in principles of classism but also deeply located within the ideologies of settler-colonialism. By directly looking at the connections of capitalism and settler-colonialism, we can shift the understanding, and thus the work of decolonization, towards a more salient and impactful approach and within the scope of settler responsibility.

Q: What are you particularly enjoying about your studies/research at SFU?   

A: As a student of Dr. Sensoy’s, I continue to be mentored under her guidance in capacities outside of my dissertation, including as the Centre Coordinator and Lead Research Assistant in the Cassidy Centre for Educational Justice. Here, together with other faculty members and junior scholars, there is a continued opportunity to be part of various research activities that support the Centre’s mandate to advance justice and an equitable, democratic society through education. Working in this Centre while completing my graduate degree has provided me with a unique opportunity to observe how a research centre operates, while also facilitating a deeper connection to the faculty and my overall research purposes.

Q: Have you been the recipient of any major or donor-funded awards? If so, please tell us which ones and how the award(s) have impacted your studies and/or research. 

A: I was recently awarded a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship valued at $20,000 per year for two years. Not only has this funding enabled me to focus more on my research, in many ways being chosen as a recipient continues to validate the place vocational education and vocational research has within academia.

Q: How would you describe your program/postdoc position to someone still searching for a program or postdoc position? 

A: Finding strong mentorship with many inspirational female scholars who continue to push forward in having their voices and research heard, I have often relayed to many of my colleagues and my own students that being a graduate student in the Faculty of Education has truly been one of the best experiences of my personal and professional life. I would encourage anyone who has a desire to engage in their passions and pursuit of education to explore a graduate program in the Faculty of Education, particularly if they are coming from a place of lived experiences in conjunction with their own unorthodox education, as they will find themselves engaged, driven, and cultivated into strong education scholars.