Alumni, Humanities

Alumna Profile: Layli Antinuk, Humanities

July 02, 2014

Humanities alumna Layli Antinuk now lives in the Czech Republic, working as a lawyer for the successful global law firm KPMG. Antinuk attributes much of her current success to the knowledge and skills she acquired while an undergraduate at SFU, which she says prepared her for a career as a tax lawyer. Originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Antinuk moved to British Columbia with her family when she was 8, and spent much of her youth touring with the Maxwell Dance Workshop, where she was first exposed to social and political issues.

She transferred to SFU after one year at the University of Victoria, intending to pursue a major in Psychology. However, by her third year of studies, Antinuk began looking for courses that were less quantitative and more qualitative in their approach to understanding the world. Browsing through the course calendar, she “stumbled upon the Humanities Department, picked three courses, dove in and fell in love.” Shortly after, Antinuk “switched majors and never, ever looked back.”

Recalling her time at SFU, Antinuk fondly thinks of going for runs along the mountain trails, enjoying the beauty of foggy campus days, and socializing with friends and faculty at the Highland Pub. One particularly happy memory involves Antinuk singing with classmates and teaching them dance steps while taking a course on the evolution of music in America; Antinuk felt intellectually inspired by many Humanities professors, giving special praise to Dr. Samir Gandesha, Dr. Anne-Marie Feenberg-Dibon and Dr. Christine Jones, for their dedication, for helping her develop critical thinking and research skills, and for the “ability to find patterns in chaos and seeming disorder.”

Antinuk graduated from SFU in 2005 and has since built an impressive career, beginning with law school at the University of Victoria, where she was awarded the prestigious First Year Medal in Law for excellence in academics, community service and school spirit. While at law school, Antinuk worked as a research assistant and at the BC Department of Justice’s Business and Regulatory Litigation Section. She also articled with the tax law firm Dwyer Tax in Victoria, and upon graduating in 2008 she clerked for the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Despite criticisms that degrees in the arts and social sciences don’t equip students with specific skills for the contemporary workplace, alumni like Antinuk demonstrate the ongoing importance of qualitative skills in a professional context. Likewise, a recent Statistics Canada study reveals that one-third of students who graduated with a Humanities degree were actually overqualified for their current job, suggesting that the skills associated with this type of learning are invaluable. And in more technical fields, such as engineering and science, employers are looking for job candidates who possess people and communication skills in addition to formal education or training.

Antinuk’s academic and professional journey certainly reflect this reality. Once in the professional world, she found herself applying critical thinking skills to her work such as looking for “flaws in logic, dishonesty, slip ups in stories and hidden motives.” Upon reflection, Antinuk explains how it’s not so much the “specific details of an education” that matter, but rather the “skills and abilities” developed. Moreover, the kind of active student learning found in Humanities' small seminar-based courses helped Antinuk become more confident in expressing and communicating her ideas to diverse groups, including people more knowledgeable than her. In the business world, she says, these skills are imperative: “It’s vitally important to be able to communicate with clients, superiors and colleagues in a friendly, professional, intelligent manner. I think it’s the most important business skill when you’re actually on the ground.”

Nine years after graduating from SFU, Antinuk offers the following wisdom to current students: “My biggest piece of advice is to kick back a bit, let your mind drink up all that amazing intellectual wine that’s available in university and relax a bit. I can promise that it’s one of the most stimulating, challenging yet laid back environments you’ll ever be a part of. Enjoy it while you can.”