Student Stories

Convocation profile: MA graduate, Jasheil Athalia

October 05, 2021

SFU International Studies MA grad Jasheil Athalia came to the program with a BA in Political Science from SFU. While writing her MA thesis, “Transcending the Islamist-Secular Dichotomy: Transnational Advocacy Networks and Women’s Rights During the Arab Spring Period,” Athalia started working with the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and is still with DEWC today as a program manager in specialized services.

She says one of the most important ways her academic training has informed her grassroots involvement is fostering her “systemic understanding of issues.”

While Athalia will continue to pursue graduate studies with her PhD in 2022, she’s also launching a for-profit women-led think tank with a few other inspiring women from Canada.

Read more about Athalia’s experiences in the School for International Studies…

You completed your BA in Political Science at SFU, what made you decide to pursue an MA degree?

Yes, I did my BA in Political Science. I really appreciate the process of learning in general and I enjoy expanding my understanding of how political and economic systems are inter-connected globally. Essentially, I decided to pursue my MA in International Studies because I wanted an in-depth understanding of the role of international institutions and how that shapes policy development at all the different levels of governance. I think a MA allowed me to gain the required expertise and credibility in my field and allowed me to also explore the process of research in a guided and intentional manner.

You work as Program Manager - Specialized Services at Downtown Eastside Women's Centre and have held that position while completing your degree. How did you get involved in the centre?

I currently work at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center as the Specialized Services Manager. I oversee four different programs (advocacy, victim services, housing, and services navigation) that offer vital services to women in the Vancouver area. During my MA, my research was broadly focused on transnational advocacy networks and how that impacts the development of women’s rights. I wanted to apply some of the insights gained during my research into a context that was closer to home.

And how has your academic background informed your work there?

My MA emphasized more than anything the importance of a systemic understanding of issues. As a resident in Vancouver I wanted to do my part in this city and understand the issues impacting the most marginalized women in Vancouver. This is why I really wanted to get involved with the social services sector and to hopefully gain some insight into the ongoing systemic issues that inform and shape the issues of the DTES.

What’s on your horizon now that your MA degree is concluded?

I am currently in the midst of working on launching a for profit women-led think tank with a few other inspiring women from Canada. The focus of this think tank is education and research that aims to address global issues impacting women globally. We are still in the early stages of this but I am excited about this next phase in my life!

I have also decided to pursue my PhD in 2022. I am currently in the midst of developing my research proposal. I hope to focus my area of research in understanding the scope of global communications and how it is impacting Muslim feminist organizing.

Any words of wisdom for incoming International Studies graduate students? Or students considering an MA?

It is really important to cultivate a sense of openness and curiosity during your graduate studies. I think it is also important to take your time to explore what really interests you. I think often our expectations let us down, but it ultimately is a matter of perspective and what you want to gain out of the whole experience. I personally enjoyed doing my MA at SFU and I truly benefited from the whole experience.