Laurine Harrison loved gardening, cooking and exploring. She also loved music and was a talented percussionist who played with a local Brazilian jazz ensemble.

FASS News, Awards

Laurine Harrison award creates lasting legacy of student support

April 27, 2020
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Laurine Harrison helped many people during the 30 years she worked at the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS), first running Cinema Simon Fraser then as Fieldwork Relations Officer and finally as the SFU Ombudsperson for close to 18 years. She was well known for providing exceptional service and wise counsel to students, faculty and staff.

When Harrison passed away suddenly in June 2007, her partner, Susan Cox, worked with colleagues and friends to raise $100,000 to establish a student award that would memorialize Harrison’s contributions to SFU and ensure that her legacy of helping students would continue long into the future.

“Laurine was a very passionate advocate for students who were systematically oppressed in some way, be they students from Indigenous communities, students with disabilities or from working class families where they were the first to attend university,” says Cox, a professor of in the School of Population and Public Health and Centre for Applied Ethics at the University of British Columbia. “She had a great reservoir of patience and passion for helping them navigate the administrative complexities of a university where things can be confusing and policies can be overwhelming.”

Laurine Harrison (left) and Susan Cox.

Harrison and Cox met through the Graduate Issues Council, the forerunner of today’s Graduate Student Society, which Harrison organized and facilitated through her role at SFSS. One particular idea that emerged from their work together was an ‘exit scholarship’ to fund graduate students who were pushing to finish their thesis but struggling as time and money were in short supply.

People who knew and worked with Harrison donated to the fund. Then Cox and a group of friends stepped in with fundraising events, including two cake auctions.

“I made 51 cakes in a week in Laurine’s honour because she was 51 when she died,” says Cox. “We made $12,000 dollars auctioning off the cakes. It was so successful that I did it again the following year.”

The fund surpassed its goal when SFU matched Cox’s contributions dollar for dollar to a maximum of $50,000, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees local 5396, which represents employees of the Simon Fraser Student Society, donated $15,000.

Beginning in 2009, the fund allowed for three student awards established in Laurine's memory to be funded in perpetuity; one to a Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences master's student nearing their final thesis-writing term (an exit scholarship), the second to a student facing any significant challenge in their studies, and the third to one who has served on behalf of other students at SFU.

Each year Cox hosts a tea to meet the current award winners where she hears firsthand the impact that the awards have for them.

“When you lose someone who is very important to you, the legacy you create through awards like this is very helpful therapeutically,” Cox says. “When I meet the students it’s like seeing how Laurine continues to help them. Every year I have usually three or four cakes because I tell them the story of how I did the fundraising with the cake auctions. It’s always a lot of fun.”

Glaucia Salgado

Glaucia Salgado, winner of the 2019 Laurine Harrison Graduate Thesis Award.

Glaucia Salgado is a Master of Arts candidate in the SFU Department of Gerontology. She has worked with older adults as a physical education instructor, as researcher assistant at the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, and at SFU’s Older Adults Digital Storytelling project (2016-2019). Besides working with visible minority older adults and wellness projects at the Neighbourhood Houses in Vancouver since 2016, Salgado is currently working on a digital open book about violence among minority groups. She has received six academic awards for academic excellence and is currently finishing her thesis on the role of Neighbourhood Houses to the wellness of immigrants from visible minority older adults.

Monique Sekhon

Monique Sekhon, winner of the 2019 Laurine Harrison Undergraduate Service Award

Monique Sekhon graduated from SFU’s Health Sciences Program in 2019. During her time as an undergraduate, she took many opportunities to maximize her experiences through the co-op program and student organizations. Notably, these included working with SFU Health & Counselling as a Peer Health Educator, followed by a term as co-lead of SFU's Student Health Advisory Committee where she conducted research on student mental health across all three campuses and initiated SFU's first World Mental Health Day event. In 2016, Sekhon founded Care-2-Share, a non-profit organization for mental health and substance use awareness. She currently works with the B.C. Ministry of Health as a Senior Project Management Advisor, and acts as a Youth Council Member for both the City of Victoria and Foundry B.C.

Jason Gallant

Jason Gallant, winner of the 2019 Laurine Harrison Courage to Succeed Award

Jason Gallant is an older student who has overcome some adversity in his past. He is committed to work that supports community and is currently employed as a youth care worker in an elementary school. Gallant recently completed a psychology degree at SFU and plans to continue supporting youth as a counselor/social worker by completing a social work master’s degree.