Student Profile: Sam Teichman

November 22, 2022

Sam Teichman is currently working on her PhD degree in Gerontology. She completed both her bachelor’s degree (Acadia University) and master’s degree (York University) in sociology, researching families, caregiving, and death. Sam’s doctoral research will focus on grief and bereavement care, families and the life course, and communication technologies as care.

Sam’s interest in gerontology began during a research internship with TD Design where she researched families, aging and carework, specifically sandwich caregiving. This research was then used to inform TD’s practices and policies to better support families engaged in this carework and their financial decisions.

After completing her master’s in sociology, Sam decided to move to the west coast to build on her previous research within gerontology. Sam reached out to Dr. Barbara Mitchell, and they connected over their shared research interest in families and the life course. As a woman in academia, Dr. Mitchell, who is now Sam’s supervisor, serves as a key mentor figure for her.

“I decided to transition to gerontology because older adults are the population that are most affected by bereavement, grief, death and dying,” says Sam. “I felt that my research could be applied and be the most effective to help the people that need it the most.”

Throughout Sam’s academic career, she has met several mentors that have facilitated her growth as an individual and as a social researcher. A few notable mentors include: Barbara Mitchell, Rachel Weldrick, Jeanette Auger, Becky Casey, Claudine Bonner, Lesley Frank, Zelda Abramson, Albert Banerjee, Deborah Davidson, Pat Armstrong, and Eric Mykhalovskiy.

Since coming to Simon Fraser University (SFU), Sam has been involved in the Hey Neighbour’s Collective project with Dr. Atiya Mahmood, which advocates for older adults aging in place in multi-unit housing. Sam is also involved in the Aging in the Right Place project under the supervision of Dr. Rachel Weldrick, where she will help coordinate event planning across three cities in the coming year. Over the past few terms, Sam has also been assisting Dr. Mitchell with the development of her online course, GERO 408: Families over the Life Course, which will be taught in the Spring 2023 semester.

Outside of her coursework, Sam has been actively involved in community outreach initiatives, one of them being the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, where she helps with event planning for their annual Walk for Alzheimer’s event. The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada is especially important to her, as her grandma has Alzheimer’s.

As the Co-Chair of the Gerontology Graduate Caucus (GGC), Sam is an advocate for the Gerontology graduate students. Through this position, she has been able to work with students and faculty to improve the student experience for graduate students in the Department of Gerontology. The GGC also promotes career opportunities in Gerontology and organizes social and recreational activities that are held throughout the year.

Sam’s dissertation will focus on funeral practices for older adults in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her research will explore the implications for bereaved older adults during the pandemic and the barriers in participating in mourning and ritual practices due to social distancing regulations. During the pandemic, older adults were faced with bereavement much more frequently than other demographic groups. As a sub question of this research, Sam will examine the role communication technologies played for social connection and bereavement care. By interviewing older adults, Sam will analyze how the creation of virtual spaces for online mourning became more prominent throughout the pandemic. There is limited research accounting for how online mourning impacts the older adult demographic. Sam’s dissertation will look to address the gerontological aspect of online mourning to bridge this gap.

After completing her PhD, Sam wants to stay in academia and teach undergraduate students. Her passion to teach began at an early age but her desire to teach in higher education was shaped by her professors that taught her during her undergrad.   

Sam’s advice for prospective students interested in Gerontology:

  1. In school and in life, it is important to find meaningful work that you are truly passionate about.
  2. Gerontology is rooted in care and compassion – both of which the world could use more of. If you want to work in a field that is fulfilling, Gerontology is a great place to do that!

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