" The International Studies (IS) department has an incredibly helpful faculty with a diverse range of expertise that can be especially helpful when trying to narrow down research interests."

Meet More Students in Arts + Social Sciences


Curate your digital footprint

Want to be featured on our website? Complete our online submission form.

Submit your profile

Tanaya Parmar

January 08, 2024

International Studies master's 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

I am deeply inspired by my personal experiences growing up in Kenya where I witnessed pervasive issues surrounding gender, race, class, tribe, and religion. This led me to pursue work and volunteer opportunities that were focused on combating social justice issues faced by women and girls in the slum areas of Nairobi, as well as in Vancouver. While many of these roles centered around day-to-day damage control, my desire is to contribute to initiatives aimed at establishing long-term solutions. This drives my ongoing effort to enhance my knowledge, with the aim of positioning myself to effect meaningful change, whether on a significant or smaller scale.

Why did you choose to come to SFU?

Upon completing my Bachelor's in International Studies (IS) at SFU, I chose to advance my academic journey by pursuing a Master's in IS at the same institution. I found this program appealing due to its interdisciplinary framework which offers students wide avenues of study that are adaptable to individual research goals. Additionally, the IS department has an incredibly helpful faculty with a diverse range of expertise that can be especially helpful when trying to narrow down research interests. Of special interest to me was the opportunity to work alongside Doctor Elizabeth Cooper who has regional expertise in Kenya, which is where my research will be taking place.

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

My research is focused on the impact of race relations, specifically between Indians and Africans, on domestic work in Kenya. Scholarship about Indian-African relations in Kenya aims to fill a gap in knowledge by moving beyond studies that frame the colonizer and subject, or Black and White, as the singular most important relationship in postcolonial studies of Sub-Saharan Africa. This aims to draw attention to the complex diasporic identities of Indians in Kenya that have had undeniable impacts on the economic, political, and social structures of Kenyan society.

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

Race relations, domestic work, Kenya.

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

As a research assistant under the guidance of Dr. Elizabeth Cooper, I have the invaluable opportunity to enhance my research skills and demonstrate adaptability in tackling a diverse range of tasks. This experience not only contributes to my professional growth but also deepens my insight into academia as a potential career path.

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 am honored to be the recipient of the Simons Foundation Canada Graduate Fellowship in International Studies. The award has afforded me the privilege of pursuing full-time studies without having to simultaneously juggle a full-time job. This in turn has provided me with the invaluable time and dedication needed to excel in an intensive 1 year masters program, ultimately empowering me to make a substantive contribution to scholarship.

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

Some of the most valuable lessons I have learnt along my journey as a student are: Don’t let fear stop you from pursuing opportunities, trust in your capabilities. Get comfortable with failure, and see it as an opportunity for growth. Make yourself aware of the resources provided to students, and try to take advantage of them while you can. Don't forget about the other important aspects of your life: your health, family, friends, and fun.

How do you approach networking and building connections in and outside of your academic community?

In terms of networking, I found that staying informed about what projects certain professors were involved in gave me an opportunity to find avenues that interested me and connect with them over those. Forming study groups allowed me to connect with other students in my courses. Additionally, taking advantage of networking events held by the university was also helpful. Outside of the academic community I was able to engage in martial arts, beading, and more recently yoga, which has allowed me to bond with other people who have similar interests as me. I find that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to building connections and most times it takes trial and error to find what suits you.

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

Some tips for balancing your academic and personal life that I have learnt include: Make a schedule with your priorities listed, and leave room for flexibility outside of those. Things will always come up, so leaving some space in your schedule to let life happen can be helpful. Engaging in a creative hobby or a sport can help you build community and release stress in a healthy manner. Study groups or solo cafe study sessions can make studying feel less isolating and can create room for socializing.

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

I would dedicate my research to Mary Kakuvi and Patricia Mutua, who played a huge role in raising me to be the person I am today. Mary and Patricia are domestic workers that have been with my family in Kenya for more than 25 years. I hope that my research can help contribute to efforts aimed at providing fair and decent work for domestic workers around the world.


Contact Tanaya:tanaya_parmar@sfu.ca

Additional Links