2018 Outstanding Graduating Student and Usamah Ansari Top Student Awards

June 13, 2018

Anna Wren

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

My experiences as a sociology student at SFU have been invaluable in helping me navigate a political and social landscape increasingly filled with polarized attitudes and misleading information with confidence and an attitude geared towards advocating for justice, equality, and fairness.

One of my most formative educational experiences in the SFU Sociology department was when I did a directed studies course with Dr. Pamela Stern. The subject of my ethnographic project in that course was a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women’s health.  Even though the female patients were not the subjects of my student, I still had to learn to be sensitive to ethical and moral boundaries, cultural differences, and power imbalances while being a participant and observer. It was an edifying experience where I got the opportunity to translate theory into practice.

I plan on working towards my teaching degree and certification. The critical thinking, writing, and self-reflection skills that I sharpened during my time here are skills I hope to help my own prospective students develop. The Sociology and Anthropology professors that I have interacted with at SFU have all left deep impressions on me with their ability to understand complicated issues from multiple perspectives, while still taking a stance backed by carefully researched evidence, theory, and critical thought. My professors encouraged us to come to our own set of conclusions using the same degree of intellectual rigour they asked of themselves. I have also observed my professors in the SFU Sociology and Anthropology department put in tremendous effort to make academic material engaging , carry themselves with the utmost professionalism, and treat their students with empathy and respect. This is a model that I hope to replicate as a teacher.

Given a political climate that seems to grow more treacherous each day, I feel some measure of fear for what our world will look like in the future. But my experience as a student in the SFU Sociology and Anthropology department has helped quell those anxieties because I have the tools, knowledge, and intellectual capacity to understand, explain, and help shape a future where understanding and dialogue (as opposed to fear) dominate our social discourse.

Jeremy Davis

Outstanding Graduating Student Award in Anthropology

First and foremost, I would like to thank all my professors and the SFU Anthropology Department for giving me this Graduand Award and most importantly introducing me to the fascinating world of anthropology. One of the most powerful skills that I was able to learn through the course of obtaining my anthropology degree was to truly gain the ability to listen to what people have to say and to make an effort to value the richly diverse opinions that people express in everyday life. Anthropology at SFU has shown me that the world is beautifully complex and that this is not something to be afraid of, but rather embraced, and the first step to embracing this complexity is through genuine listening. At many points throughout the course of my academic career, I was exposed to ideas and concepts that went against my own personal understanding of how the world really “works”. It was through these materials and lectures, which challenged my own presumptions, that I learnt the most from and will continue to make use of for the rest of my life.

While I am still unsure if I will continue with my post‐secondary education, there is a good possibility that I will eventually return to school to get a master’s degree. Regardless of whether I decide to pursue future academic accolades or not, the skills I have learnt while learning anthropology at SFU will greatly shape and enrich my life in the classroom as well as at work or with friends and family. For this, I would like to thank the entire SFU Anthropology Department for enriching my life, and meaningfully impacting my world view in a positive way. Thank you.