Dr. Jen Marchbank (centre) with Sylvia Traphan (left) and Dr Balbir Gurm (right) at the 2022 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards gala Photographer: Chriss Mann

Dr. Jen Marchbank wins 2022 YWCA Women of Distinction Award

June 06, 2022
By Casey McCarthy

Dr. Jen Marchbank, professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (GSWS) at Simon Fraser University (SFU), has won a 2022 YWCA Women of Distinction Award in the category of Education, Training & Development.

The 39th annual celebration of remarkable women took place on May 26, 2022 at the Parq Vancouver. In total, 75 nominees were recognized in 14 categories, including five nominees in Dr. Marchbank’s category of Education, Training & Development. “After two years of lockdown, I enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate simply being nominated alongside so many women who are leading amazing work in our community,” says Dr. Marchbank. “Being in such brilliant company, I was surprised when my name was called. Walking up and down the stage stairs in heels and a cocktail dress was challenging, being so out of practice!”

This is not the first time the GSWS professor has received accolades for her innovative approach to engaging her students and the community in understanding important issues. As a winner of the SFU Excellence in Teaching Award in 2019, Dr. Marchbank has earned a reputation among the campus community as a dedicated educator. Additionally, in 2020, Dr. Marchbank won the Shakti Award for Academic Excellence. Her win at the 2022 YWCA Women of Distinction Award is further testament to her impact as a researcher, educator, and activist.

In recent years, podcasting has provided an inspiring medium for Dr. Marchbank to share knowledge and facilitate discussions between the generations. She recently produced a podcast bringing together youth and elders to present oral histories from the LGBQT2S+ community. “I want to bring people into conversation and out of their chairs, especially during the pandemic,” say Dr. Marchbank. “Creating podcasts has been a fantastic way to teach during COVID. It is very engaging for my students and allows them the flexibility to learn while going for a walk, riding the bus, or even cleaning their home.”

Her interest in facilitating interactive educational experiences is also evident in Dr. Marchbank’s work curating exhibitions on LGBQT2S+ history. To mark the 50th anniversary of Omnibus Bill C150 in 2019, Dr. Marchbank’s curated “Beyond 1969: An intergenerational oral history,” which toured Surrey City Hall, as well as five of Surrey's libraries in summer 2019. Her newest exhibition opens on June 7 at the Museum of Surrey.

A dedicated community volunteer, Dr. Marchbank’s academic work is strongly guided by her principles as an activist. Among other volunteer roles advocating for the local LGBQT2S+ community, Dr. Marchbank serves as secretary for the Surrey Pride Society, and previously served as its president. To provide needed support and education to LGBQT2S+ youth, she co-founded Youth for a Change (Y4AC) a decade ago with her wife, Sylvia Traphan. In addition to working to empower youth, her research focused on LGBQT2S+ elders has provided another outlet for Dr. Marchbank’s activism, including collaborating with the SFU Gerontology Research Center and creating intergenerational resources to end elder abuse.

It was Dr. Marchbank’s dedication as both an activist and academic that led her colleagues on the NEVR (Network to Eliminate Violence in Relationships) project to nominate her for a YWCA Women of Distinction Award. The NEVR project’s founder, Dr Balbir Gurm, a nursing faculty member at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, is herself a past winner of the award. Dr. Gurm joined Dr. Marchbank and her wife at the ceremony. “I must thank my wife Sylvia, who is my closest collaborator, my colleagues, and my fellow nominees for this honour,” says Dr. Marchbank. “I was humbled by the number of people, including my colleagues at SFU, who reached out to congratulate me. To my surprise, Premier John Horgan even sent me a letter, which speaks to the esteem the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards holds in our province. I am very grateful to be recognized alongside so many remarkable women.”