Kate Olivares develops her “superpowers” at SFU

March 31, 2020

For Kate Olivares, getting accepted into the B.C. Legislative Internship Program for 2021 was an absolute dream come true and an opportunity beyond her wildest imagination.

Olivares, a fourth-year political science honours major and an English minor, likens the skills she’s developed at SFU to having superpowers. It was through her political science studies—which Olivares describes as essential to understanding everything she was curious about in life—that she developed her first “superpower”.

“I think having strong critical thinking skills is similar to having a superpower,” says Olivares. “You understand the world more deeply and it enhances every life experience. Critical thinking gives you an extra pair of eyes to better internalize everything from a movie, an international crisis or a Buzzfeed article.”

Olivares started her SFU journey with the Gordon M. Shrum National Scholarship. Only secondary school students with a high grade-point average and a commitment to school and activities like community service receive such a scholarship. Despite that springboard, she initially found the pace and culture of university life challenging. Eventually though, Olivares adjusted.

“I got the hang of course work and really thrived under the school-work balance that’s familiar to so many fellow students,” she says.

In fall 2019, Olivares applied her critical thinking skills when she joined the City of Vancouver’s Women 4 Politics program that encourages women ages 18–23 to become more involved in local politics. While being mentored by a city councilor, Olivares reviewed an existing city policy and, during a mock council session, asked City of Vancouver staff questions and suggested document amendments.

In February 2020, Olivares began her honours project, which she calls her biggest success at SFU. The project called on her superpower once again as she analyzed public opinion surrounding racialized immigrants in B.C.

“I wanted to hear from people in their own words and have the freedom to go as deep into their thoughts as possible,” Olivares says. “I therefore conducted focus groups at the SFU Burnaby and Vancouver campuses.”

As well as developing her critical thinking skills, Olivares has polished her writing and public speaking skills too.

“Writing ability is one of the most transferable skills you can have,” she says. “Being able to convey complex concepts and ideas in a precise manner is not as common as others might think, and political science students sharpen this skill through papers, readings and collaboration.”

Olivares’ speaking skills helped her earn her upcoming internship at the B.C. Legislature.

“A key factor in scoring this internship was the language I developed through my time at SFU,” she says. “By this, I mean the ability to speak about political and current affairs in an elegant and professional manner. This skill was developed through countless tutorials, class discussions and seminars. I learned to be thoughtful and attentive with my language and it has really polished my critical lens.”