"Makhfirat is a faculty colleague and we have worked collaboratively at the University of Central Asia for many years. Many things never cease to amaze me about Makhfirat, from her boundless energy to being a natural born leader with exceptional organisational, communication and professional skills. An incredible and kind personality, that lights up any room and conversation. I was therefore delighted that she chose to come to SFU from other offers, to do her doctoral studies with a joint UCA-SFU faculty development scholarship.

Makhfirat takes her role as an educator very seriously, more than most I have met in my decades of working in academia. She is very passionate about the role of international education and in particular justice, equity, diversity, access and inclusion. Makhfirat takes great pride in helping and mentoring others achieve success and their potential. SFU is lucky to have such a powerful ambassador in its community."

Professor Salim Sumar, PhD (London, UK)

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Student Profile: Makhfirat Olimshoeva

February 17, 2022
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Individualized Studies doctoral student in the Faculty of Education

I am a member of faculty at the University of Central Asia (Tajikistan), currently in my second year of my PhD studies at SFU. Born in Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous Pamir region, south-central Tajikistan, makes me a proud ‘Pamiri’ mountain girl.

My home (Khorog), is situated near the border with Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan in the southwestern Pamirs mountain range at an elevation of around 2,200 m. The Victorian explorers were the first to refer to the Pamir as the “Roof of the World” given its mountains and plateaus spread across Asia through Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush, Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan range, China’s Kunlun as well as the Himalayas themselves, most over 4,000 m in height.

Pamiris are widely considered to constitute a separate ethnic group, in terms of language, religion and culture. Local tradition has it that the Pamiris are descendants of Alexander the Great from his 4th century BC invasions into the remote and inaccessible Pamir mountain valleys. Pamiris have strikingly European features for people living in so remote an area of Central Asia.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

That was not a difficult decision at all despite having other offers from top universities in the West. SFU had sent a delegation to my university (University of Central Asia, Khorog Tajikistan) and unlike most other delegations before, this had very senior management from SFU who took the trouble to visit us. Their entire approach and conversation were of genuinely wanting to work collaboratively. Their taking time to understand us and warmth made this a very easy decision.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?

My research is a focus on what factors emerge as the primary drivers of success and failure among Central Asian students at the University of Central Asia (UCA). This study is therefore a prospective investigation of some of the academic, personal/family factors, school systems, culture, socioeconomic status, cognitive, pedagogy and demographic as predictors. The study hopes to promote equity of access and a fair chance of success for all seeking to realise their potential through higher education, while eradicating all forms of discrimination and redressing inequalities from our colonial past. There is currently little evidence of any research contributing to this as most are set within a western context and have little relevance to CA.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

My research cuts across several obvious disciplines and SFU allows me to consider these in an integrated manner, which is unique and very progressive. I enjoy the challenges of this diverse academic setting which allows me to show case how unique our findings can be based on our region, history, culture, and language

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.

I have been extremely lucky and blessed to have received a joint SFU-UCA scholarship as part of the MOU signed only in 2019 between our two universities, where the initial focus was on faculty development of staff at my university.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM/POSTDOC POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM OR POSTDOC POSITION?

My advice would be that there must be a strong and instant connect between you, the university, senior management, your supervisors. An understanding that you would be allowed the academic freedom as your thoughts, experience and vision may be equally important to the university and is valued.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?

One key success factor has been the support I have received from before I arrived in Canada at the peak of the pandemic. The postgraduate and international office are why I came to SFU academically from the very first day we met in Khorog, but their pastoral support was beyond the call of duty and continues. Thank you both offices as I simply would have struggled without you.