Simran Randhawa, SFSS Women of the Year award winner for FASS in 2019 (second from left). Photo credit: Stanley Rashai

Research, Sociology & Anthropology, Departments & programs, Students

Volunteering and activism wins Simran Randhawa 2019 SFSS Women of the Year award

April 03, 2019

A love of volunteering and eagerness to get involved in activism has earned Simran Randhawa a Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Women of the Year award in 2019.

The award, given to one winner per faculty at Simon Fraser University, recognizes self-identified women who set a high bar for achievements and drive positive change in their faculties.

The Young Women in Business (YWiB) organization hosted the SFU International Women’s Day Gala 2019where they recognized the Women of the Year winners. In addition to a citation, winners received a complimentary ticket to attend Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama on March 21.

Randhawa was the winner for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and is currently a third year student in the Department of Psychology.

“I’ve always found it fascinating to understand how people are the way that they are,” says Randhawa. “I’m from India, where there exists a stigma attached to mental illnesses without an understanding of what they actually are. I wanted to learn more about mental illnesses in order to best serve my community.”

In addition to working towards her psychology major, Randhawa is also completing certificates in general criminology, forensic studies, social justice, and liberal arts, and is heavily involved in volunteerism—particularly on campus.

Just to name a few, she’s a Board Member at Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG), the Women Centre Collective’s Representative at the SFSS Council, a collective member at SFSS Out on Campus, and a fundraiser for Amnesty International. In addition to all that, she finds the time to volunteer with Vancouver Coastal Health, and has also been volunteering with the SFSS Women Centre for over four years.

“To oversimplify it, I do anything and everything that these organizations need,” explains Randhawa of her activism. Her volunteer work with Vancouver Coastal Health, for example, involves serving food and providing mental health support and first aid to individuals battling addiction and HIV or AIDS.

“I got involved with all these organizations more than any other place I volunteered at because of the work they do,” says Randhawa. “These organizations have collectively put the needs of marginalized groups first. They fight for equity, inclusion, and things that should be basic human rights, but that fall through the cracks somehow. I wanted to volunteer for them and do what I can to help.”

Randhawa, who intends to continue volunteering as much as time permits, has plans to return to her home country of India for a while after graduation to give back to her community and possibly work for a non-profit.

“If given the opportunity, I would like to work in social work avenues while completing my master’s in psychology,” she says. “I wish to get my PhD in psychology someday, but that’s going to take a while.”

When asked what advice she has for SFU students looking to get involved on campus, Randhawa stresses the importance of not getting overwhelmed, and being open to opportunities offered by equity-focused organizations.

“SFU often looks lonely, but once you get involved in different places—whichever they might be based on your interests—it has the potential of feeling like home.”

Randhawa says that over the course of her undergraduate studies in psychology, her learnings have allowed her to mature and develop as a person.

“I’ve found that throughout my program, I haven’t just been getting a better understanding of mental illnesses, but also of people in general—including myself,” says Randhawa. “I’m growing into a person that is much more understanding and patient, and this growth is something that I enjoy.

“It’s been a beautiful journey.”