" SFU's location is hard to beat. The Canadian West Coast is beautiful with great opportunities to develop sides of me different from academia, like hiking and skiing."

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Mariana Pinzon-Caicedo

January 15, 2024

Sociology and Anthropology doctoral student in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Tell us a little about yourself, including what inspires you to learn and continue in your chosen field

Growing up, I knew I could ask a thousand questions to my parents and they would gladly give me an answer to every single one of them. In fact, I was always encouraged to ask more. Pursuing a PhD is an endless search for questions and answers to those questions, and I think it was my parent's willingness and kindness answering my questions as a child what inspired me to be curious, and try to solve mind puzzles. Currently I limit my questions (and my research) to social issues. My goal is to contribute to a more just world, where everyone has access to sufficient opportunities to develop the life each person wants to live.

Why did you choose to come to SFU?

SFU's location is hard to beat. The Canadian West Coast is beautiful with great opportunities to develop sides of me different from academia, like hiking and skiing.

How would you describe your research or your program to a family member?

Nearly all households and individuals are exposed to unforeseen negative events at one point in life, like illnesses, death and injuries. Some households, unfortunately, are hit by these events in a more severe way. For instance, when the main breadwinner dies, or a household member needs constant care or assistance given illness or injury. Through my research, I am exploring the social implications of these events. I would like to analyze the ways these events affect the standing of affected members in small groups, and whether this leads to social exclusion.

What three (3) keywords would you use to describe your research?

Shocks, social ties, and exclusion

How have your courses, RA-ships, TA-ships, or non-academic school experiences contributed to your academic and/or professional development?

I have been working for many years towards the full inclusion of all members in society regardless of income, race, gender, sexual orientation and disability status. I am hoping that I will be able to leverage my previous experience and knowledge in my research to ask relevant questions for policy making.

What have been the most valuable lessons you've learned along your graduate student journey (or in becoming a graduate student)?

As an older graduate student, one of the most valuable lessons I've learned so far is humility. I am constantly amazed at how, regardless of my years of experience, there still is a lot to learn. I am excited to be taking this time to read and expand my knowledge.

What are some tips for balancing your academic and personal life?

I love this question because study-life balance is key. First, I think body movement is crucial. Everyone needs to figure out what works best for them. I am not very good at going to the gym to exercise by myself, but something that works very well for me is enrolling in gym classes. At SFU I have tried Masters Swimming, Zumba, Pilates and Yoga, and I try to do something a least twice a week. Having the commitment of the class pushes me to show up and give my body some movement. I have also started ice skating, Vancouver is a great place to learn. Second, having something else outside the thesis/course work. Studying sometimes gets hard, and it's easy to lose commitment. For me, staying involved in some of the projects I was working before has been great. Some friends have book clubs or comedy clubs that gives them purpose outside of the studies. I cannot stress enough how important it has been for me to have commitments and exciting things to do outside of my studies.

If you could dedicate your research to anyone (past, present and/or future), who would that be and why?

Lately I have been thinking in someone who represents who I would want to dedicate my research to. When I was in my late teens I met a teen my age who had lost his family and had been recruited by the paramilitaries in Colombia to fight a war that wasn't his. We spoke for hours for one week while I was on a volunteering program, and he shared with me many things from his life. I never heard back from him, and I hope he is thriving in life. My research is dedicated to him, and others like him, who have had to overcome many obstacles in life.


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