2017 Outstanding Graduating Student and Usamah Ansari Top Student Awards

June 19, 2017

Pamela Moodie

Outstanding Graduating Student Award in Anthropology and winner of the Usamah Ansari Top Student Award

I am profoundly surprised and humbled to receive the SFU Anthropology Graduand and Usamah Ansari awards. Both were entirely unexpected and represent a significant validation of my later life decision to pursue a post-secondary education. I retired early from a successful career, and have faced frequent questions from people who did not understand why I would pursue a degree that was unrelated to career advancement but, for me, this was not about careers and opportunities. The lack of a university education has been a multi-decades long regret, now resolved.

I did not have any specific academic goals, except to absorb and fully participate in whatever drew my interest. I told people I planned to take ‘ologies’: anthropology, sociology, archeology, psychology, criminology and history. This is exactly what I did. Along the way, I had a moment of revelation in John Bogardus’ SA201W class, when I suddenly realized that studying Anthropology would give me a theoretical framework for my lifelong interest in peoples’ stories and motivations.  My first Labour Studies elective provided the inspiration to pursue courses that would allow me to learn about the wider social forces at work to create the many events I had either participated in, or been affected by throughout my life. We think we understand what is happening around us, but a study of the broader view can be highly revealing, and this is the life enrichment I found in all of my classes.   

Despite receiving encouragement to continue with a Master’s program, I do not intend to go on. I have achieved the goal I set for myself many years ago. However, I am not finished learning and if I ever feel inclined to return to university, I will do it with a great deal more confidence and assurance that I will be supported and encouraged to do the best possible work I am capable of achieving.   

My grateful thanks go to all members of the SFU community who assisted my learning. These include my fellow students, sessional instructors, guest lecturers, professors and other SFU staff.  

Shaughna Cooper

Outstanding Graduating Student Award in Sociology

My first experience with sociology was in an introductory course at Langara College titled simply “Animals and Society” led by Dr. Karen Eisler. Dr. Eisler primarily used symbolic interactionism as a theoretical framework to critically analyze the impact of non-human animals on society.  It is difficult for me to articulate precisely why this particular course had such a profound impact on me other than to say that it fundamentally shifted the way I understand the social world.  It seamlessly shattered so many deeply embedded and taken-for-granted assumptions I had about non-human animals in an inalterable way. It was also the first time I excelled academically; until that point I had been a somewhat apathetic student continuously looking to expend the least amount of effort possible. Not with sociology. With sociology, I wanted to read more, study more, and learn more. I was hooked on the sociological perspective. I immediately decided to abandon my longstanding plan to pursue a psychology degree and began to voraciously consume the content of many sociology and anthropology courses at SFU. I was invigorated by the radical, complicated and often messy conclusions I was challenged by in these courses. I have recently been accepted in SFU’s Sociology Master’s program that begins in September 2017. While I would like to say that my interest in sociology is a purely altruistic one motivated by the desire to help others, I realized over the course of my undergraduate degree that this is a perspective is likely a feature of the particular privileges associated with my social location. I hope that there are positive outcomes of my work but not in a paternalistic sense. Instead I strive to have an impact, however limited, on the social world through my work in such a way that recognizes the interdependent nature of freedom whereby my freedom is ultimately bound by the availability or lack of freedom for others.