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Doctoral student Dr. Olivia Kanna receives 2020 Dean's Convocation Medal

June 08, 2020
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Written by Candice Chic. Courtesy of SFU Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies

As one of SFU's most outstanding graduate students from the Faculty of Education, Dr. Olivia Kanna is being recognized with the Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal. On behalf of SFU, we congratulate Dr. Kanna on her outstanding achievements.

In her research, Dr. Olivia Kanna focused on identifying educational theories and practices that are successful in addressing trauma and finding wellbeing and healing in the language classroom. Kanna's thesis has significant value to all educators and policymakers at the highest levels of government.

Kanna, a triple gold medalist in her B.A., M.A., and M.Phil. English examinations, earned her third Master's degree in Education at SFU, in Teaching English as an Additional Language. Her academic achievements, combined with her 12 years of work experience as a language educator for refugees and new immigrants, led her to investigate pedagogies to address trauma in the classroom and work towards wellbeing and healing.

Dr. Kanna was accepted into the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT) at Harvard Medical School where she underwent postdoctoral training in trauma treatment with world-renowned psychiatrists and neuroscientists. She is under consideration as a qualified candidate for the position of Human Rights Officer at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at the United Nations in Geneva, and hopes to make a transformative impact on the lives of the unfortunate and marginalized.

Dr. Heesoon Bai, Dr. Kanna's Supervisor, describes her dissertation research, "Olivia's work offers a significant contribution to the rapidly growing field of contemplative inquiry, demonstrating how contemplative approaches can be applied in ways that exemplify theory into action, and a holistic approach that embodies the ethics of care in action."

Says Kanna, “I believe gratitude begets grace, and I shall always be grateful to my Supervisor, Dr. Heesoon Bai, whose compelling case for the need for compassion and the ethics of care resonated with me deeply and set me on my research path, quite in keeping with my everyday work as an educator. Sitting in those hallowed halls of learning at SFU was truly life changing for me, and having won the Dean’s Convocation Medal now is the greatest honor I could have ever dreamed of.”

Dr. Olivia Kanna teaches English in a federally-funded government language program for newcomers to Canada, and is currently working on publishing her thesis as part of a book series, on the topic "Transforming Education for the Future."