FASS News, Convocation, Students

Political science grad, Janmie Gunawardena is taking on chances and finding the big picture

October 01, 2021

By Tiffany Lau


Politics plays a fundamental role in all aspects of society. From the water we drink to the welfare programs that combat social injustice and oppression, all are governed by laws and policies. The 2015 Canadian federal election inspired Political Science grad convocation student speaker, Janmie Gunawardena to take a keen interest in politics. She began an undergraduate degree in political science at SFU, sparked by her passion to contribute to society.


“It was important for me to learn how policy works,” she says, “how it is or is not effective when implemented, and the intervening variables that prevent it from being changed after implementation.”


Gunawardena chose communication as her second major due to her interests in political communications and journalism. 


“The media is the watchdog in a democratic society, she states. “Just as I wanted to learn the ins and outs of policy and governance, I wanted to learn about how policy is communicated to the public, as well as instances of government corruption or ineffectiveness for example.”


Gunawardena remembers a couple of her favourite courses from her undergraduate studies were POL 349 - Media and Terrorism with Dr. Aaron Hoffman and POL 846 - International Security Studies with Dr. Elis Vllasi.


“My interests within political science lie with national security, international relations and terrorism. I was very excited to take these classes and had a great time. With POL 349, I learned how to improve my writing and synthesize my skills. I also recall a simulation where an act of terrorism was committed, and we had to respond as if we were the officials of the states involved.” She adds, “In POL 846, I participated in more discussions than I had in my entire undergrad. It is the type of class that forces you to engage heavily with the readings and apply all of the concepts to real and ongoing political events.”


In addition to her studies, Gunawardena thoroughly enjoyed being a photographer for Embark Sustainability, as well as her role as Senior Community Leader for SFU’s Global Connections Program.


Gunawardena found these to be wonderful opportunities, not only to give back to the community by helping first-year students acclimate to SFU, but also to improve her event organizing and public speaking skills, which are useful in both academic and professional settings.


Gunawardena’s advice to current and future students is to take advantage of and adapt to every opportunity.


She recalls how her enrollment in SFU’s Exchange Program was cancelled due to the pandemic. As a result, she applied to her department’s Honours program, which was still accepting applications at the time. 


“I took a chance, because why not? Luckily, I was accepted,” Gunawardena says. The Honours designation is another glowing aspect of her graduation transcript that will give her an advantage in her future pursuits.


While the Honours program was the most stressful period of her academic journey, it was during this time that Gunawardena made some of her most meaningful memories and the most genuine connections with her peers.


“If I hadn’t applied, I wouldn’t have had that experience or made new friends, she states.

The Honours program and her extra-curricular involvement, including a co-operative position with the Canada Border Services Agency, gave Gunawardena the academic excellence, skills and work experience she needed to recently secure employment with the Government of Canada.


“I intend to work in public service and pursue a Master’s in international relations or political science in the future.” she says, “Perhaps, that’ll finally be my chance to experience the Political Science department’s national security courses.”


In the lead-up to Fall 2021 Convocation, SFU will share stories from our eight faculties about some of our amazing graduands.

SFU’s Fall 2021 Convocation will be held Oct. 5-8. It will be the university’s first in-person convocation since 2019. The ceremonies will be webcast on SFU’s YouTube channel for those wanting to join in from home and around the world. For more information about SFU’s Fall 2021 Convocation, visit http://www.sfu.ca/convocation.html. Read more about our exceptional graduands here.

Be sure to share your convocation experience on social media by using the #MySFUGrad hashtag.