Full Circle: A Legacy of Teaching & Learning at SFU

June 11, 2024

Greg Sutherland's journey with SFU began in the late '90s and has come full circle with his recent thesis defence. His relationship with SFU is deeply intertwined with his personal and professional growth, marking significant milestones.

Reflecting on his childhood living near SFU, Greg shares, "No one in my immediate family had ever attended university. The mountain's proximity belied its previous inaccessibility to my family." Greg first arrived at SFU as an undergraduate, and his journey has been one of continuous return and contribution, challenging perceptions and the status quo.

After completing his undergraduate degree in 2006, Greg returned to SFU for a master's in English and later for his teacher training in the Faculty of Education. During this time, he met his partner, with whom he now raises a daughter. Reflecting on this cyclical nature of his path, Greg notes, "In Undergraduate Programs (UGP), I now teach the class where, as a Professional Development Program (PDP) student eighteen years ago, I met my partner."

Greg's roles as a Faculty Associate (FA) and sessional instructor have been particularly impactful. Working with pre-service teachers in the Indigenous Perspectives in Teacher Education Module (IPTEM) and the Lifework module, he has seen firsthand the challenges teachers face in transformative work within traditional school systems. "Walking beside new teachers as they enter the profession has been a high-water mark in my career," Greg shares. "These students become colleagues throughout the process, colleagues I am honoured to teach alongside."

His dedication to education is further demonstrated through his innovative research and teaching methods. As a lecturer, Greg has dedicated himself to supporting students in challenging mainstream conceptions of education. "My work has helped me reframe how scholarship can be done in ethical, situated, subjective, and relational ways that constitute an anti-colonial practice," he explains. His research methods are woven with concepts such as self-location, ethical accountability, and métissage, pushing the boundaries of traditional academic practices. 

Greg's doctoral pursuit at SFU culminated in the successful defense of his graphic doctoral dissertation in April 2024, one of the first of its kind in Canada. He aimed to embody a holistic framework as a means for telling the story of the B.C. curriculum for Social Justice 12 as a Métis scholar, secondary teacher, teacher educator, and lecturer. "My dissertation is a 275-page graphic text, so it was essential that my committee was supportive and open to doing scholarship in novel ways," he says. He found unwavering support from his committee members, who fiercely advocated for his work and encouraged his creative approach. "Dr. Suzanne Smythe always fiercely advocated for my work. Dr. Michael Ling was kind and encouraging, and Dr. Vicki Kelly always asked the perfect questions to allow me to further my inquiry."

Balancing his doctoral studies with teaching and personal responsibilities was challenging, yet profoundly enriching. "I have been teaching here [at SFU] and in Coquitlam (SD43) the whole time, so it has been hectic," Greg admits. "Completing comprehensive exams and writing and defending a dissertation is, in many ways, much less about creating a product than growing as a scholar, community member, learner, and teacher."

Greg's advice to current and incoming doctoral students reflects his passion and dedication. "There is a belief in mainstream scholarly practices that inquiry should be done dispassionately. I would encourage anyone taking on this kind of work to do precisely the opposite: find a field of inquiry they are passionate about, as this passion will propel you at moments of despair or doubt."

Looking ahead, Greg remains passionately committed to fostering transformative education and supporting future educators in their journey. "I hope that I will have the chance to work with some of these same students in Graduate Programs in years to come. Perhaps they will become colleagues here at SFU one day."