From top left to bottom right: Kebira Khattak, Breyden Chong, Jasmeen Gill, Carissa Gauthier, Jonson Lee, Christina Manning, Melissa Theon, Chelsea Davis, Yutaka Yen, Seana Semchishen, Tabatha Mason

FASS News, Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies, Psychology, Political Science, Students

FASS undergrads rise to new heights in 2020 Student Learning Commons Writing Contest

March 16, 2021
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By Michael Wu

Congratulations to students from across the university and especially across the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) who again received top honours in the annual Student Learning Commons (SLC) Writing Contest!

The 2020 edition of the contest featured the same excellent work done by SFU students as in years prior, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant that a lot more virtual correspondence was needed than usual in order to host the event. Still, the contest was a breath of fresh air for SLC Writing Services Coordinator Julia Lane, who took the opportunity to get back to her comfort zone of connecting with people for the job she loves.

“This year, the competition was fierce,” Lane says. “Everyone involved in reviewing the papers commented on how strong they were collectively, as well as how difficult it was to select the top submissions. This all reflects incredibly positively on all of the courageous students who submitted their work to be judged, which, it should be noted, is a very vulnerable thing to do.”

All winning papers and honourable mentions from the contest will be published in the SLC Open Journal, hosted by the SFU Public Knowledge Project. Read what this year’s top participants from FASS had to say about their papers and experiences sharing their academic writing.

Lower Division Category:

1st place - Melissa Thoen (Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies)
Tempering Temperament: A Critical Evaluation of INSIGHTS into Children’s Temperaments

“I love writing and watching my ideas come together on paper,” says Melissa Thoen from GSWS, “but it is hard work. Putting together a paper I am proud of takes a lot of time and effort for me, so being able to give one of my papers a second life, so to speak, was immediately appealing to me.”

Thoen says the paper she submitted was more formal and research-based than she was used to, but stepping out of her comfort zone was a big motivator for both the writing and submitting of the paper.  “It's really encouraging to know that even though doing and writing about research is still a bit alien to me, it’s something that is within my capabilities.”

Thoen began her studies at SFU at the start of the pandemic and says participating in the contest helped give her “a sense of belonging at SFU.”

“I’ve never actually been in a real classroom or even been to campus. It’s been a bit disheartening at times, but being part of this contest has given me a glimpse of the sense of community that exists at SFU, and has encouraged me to seek out more opportunities for involvement in the future.“

3rd place - Kebira Khattak (Psychology)
The Effects of Binaural Beats on Working Memory

Kebira Khattak from Psychology recounts that the paper submitted has special meaning to her as the first empirical study she conducted.

“Although I analysed fake data in my experiment (due to COVID-19), the experience gave me an insight into the processes that researchers undertake to interpret findings and apply them to solve real-world problems. Although I don't intend to work as a researcher or data analyst, this paper taught me the importance of empirical research and gave me a renewed appreciation for how it can help improve our lives.”

Khattak is grateful to have her work recognized and says her confidence has increased as a result of participating in the competition. “As soon as I hit that "submit" button, I felt proud of myself not just as a writer but also as someone who faces their fears. I appreciate SFU's commitment to celebrating student achievement and look forward to participating in other opportunities!”

Honourable mention - Jasmeen Gill (Psychology, Political Science)
Canada’s Prime Minister Wields Excessive Power

Jasmeen Gill, who is studying psychology and political science at SFU, says the motivation for entering the SLC contest was to challenge herself and gauge how strong her writing skills were.

The paper Gill submitted to the contest had garnered top marks in a political science class and while she felt good to ‘make the grade’ in the class, Gill was gratified to see the paper place in the competition.

“I think all students can relate to this,” she says, “it feels as if your hard work has paid off. It feels even better when your work is recognized. It motivates you to keep studying hard and putting sincere effort into your work. After finding out that I received an honourable mention, I was really proud of myself. One thing I learnt from this experience was to not doubt yourself. You should push yourself to do better because you have that capability of improving and learning by building new experiences.”

Honourable mention - Carissa Gauthier-Goodison (Psychology)
De-stigmatizing Relationship Statuses: The Benefits of Being Raised by a Village

Psychology’s Carissa Gauthier-Goodison says she entered the SLC writing contest “on a whim” but was passionate about the topic and happy to see the judges found the paper equally interesting.

“I wrote about the negative impacts of having prejudice towards consensual non-monogamy (CNM) on the children from CNM families. I was inspired by my interest in relationship diversity and education for young people to have more relationship knowledge. I will be polishing up the paper for the final publication. I will also be doing my first presentation at the Undergraduate Research Symposium and will be speaking about the work I did on CNM relationships and the impacts on their children.”

Upper Division Category:

Honourable mention - Seana Semchishen (Psychology)
The Influence of Puberty on Depression Symptoms and Altered Cortisol Secretion in Adulthood: A Literature Review

Seana Semchishen of Psychology says she chose to submit to get more practice writing for a general audience, and took extra time to edit the piece for that purpose.

“I began with a writing piece that was focused on a specific topic and geared towards professors who were knowledgeable of the research area, editing it to take out technical jargon and explain things that might not be so obvious to people outside of my discipline. I thought that having judges with various backgrounds review my work would be a great way to test if I was successful at altering my writing for a different audience. After receiving an honourable mention, I can proudly say that I think I did a good job of this!”