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2019 Outstanding Graduating Student and Usamah Ansari Top Student Awards
Outstanding Graduating Student Award in Anthropology and Usamah Ansari Top Student Award
I am very honoured and appreciative to have received the 2019 SFU Anthropology Graduand and Usamah Ansari awards. I would first of all like to thank all of the faculty in the Sociology & Anthropology Department who have inspired and supported me during my Undergraduate Degree. My experience as an Anthropology student has been enhanced by the stimulating coursework and enlightening conversations that we have had along the way. I would like to take this time to say a special thank you to Dr. Pamela Stern. Dr. Stern, who I am now fortunate enough to call my Master’s senior supervisor, hired me as Research Assistant in my third year and encouraged me to pursue my academic passions. I would also like to thank my family, who have whole-heartedly had my back ever since I decided to attend post-secondary education as a mature student.
Anthropology has taught me to appreciate and delve into difference while at the same time to recognize human commonalities and experiences. It is in these blended spaces of uniqueness and similarity that my curiosity gets to run wild, and I am forever grateful for stumbling across an Ethnic Relations class my first year at Capilano University. After exploring the field through courses such as Biological Anthropology, Archaeology, and Gender and Society, I found myself most inspired by the work critically addressing social, cultural, and environmental injustices in Canada. Having gained and ruminated over this analytical framework during my time as an undergraduate student, I decided to pursue graduate work relating to Inuit Food Sovereignty. I was accepted in SFU’s Anthropology Master’s program in September 2018 and feel incredibly privileged that I am about to embark on fieldwork in the Arctic.
I would once again like to extend my thanks for all of the camaraderie and support I received from staff, faculty, and students alike.
Outstanding Graduating Student Award in Sociology
I have always had a contentious relationship with school. As a teenager, I dropped out and avoided all formal learning for over a decade. School became my greatest fear and the thing I wanted more than anything. Eventually, I returned to school to pursue a degree in Psychology. I wanted to better understand the cultural erasure faced by new migrants in canada; the roots of technology addiction; and why toxic masculinity is so pervasive. I quickly realized that Sociology, not Psychology, was the field that best complimented my curiosities.
Benita Bunjun, Dany Lacombe, Indira Prohst, and Ann Travers cemented my love for Sociology by introducing me to Indigenous ways of knowing and Anti-racist, Decolonial, Black Feminist, and Narrative theory and practice. Dr. Bunjun, Dr. Dorothy Christian of the Secwepemc and Syilx Nations, and Dr. Travers helped me recognize the effects of ongoing colonization on Indigenous Peoples, as well as the intersecting responsibilities and privileges held by Settlers like myself and Settler institutions like SFU, Langara, and the City of Vancouver.
I am tremendously grateful for the lessons Dr. Bunjun and Dr. Christian taught me, namely, that knowledge without heart, without conviction, runs the risk of serving itself and failing communities. It is with their guidance that I began a lifelong decolonization practice and to contend with what it means to live, work, and play on the ancestral stolen lands of the Tsleil-Waututh (səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ), Kwikwetlem (kʷikʷəƛ̓əm), Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh) and Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) Nations which SFU’s Vancouver and Burnaby campuses reside on.
I am also thankful for the ways that Dr. Bunjun, Dr. Lacombe, and Dr. Travers connected theory to lived experience and policies relevant to living and working in Vancouver. When studying so much structural theory it is easy to forget that there is, indeed, a major gap between theory and everyday life. Dr. Lacombe, in particular, taught me to be slow to holding onto narrow or sweeping views and encouraged complexity and seemingly contradictory perspectives.
As I begin this next phase, I feel ready, grounded, and equipped to do the work that I am most passionate about: helping men find healing and culturally-informed ways into loving relationships with their communities, families, and, most importantly, themselves.
Outstanding Graduating Student Award in Sociology-Anthropology Joint Honours | Outstanding Graduating Student Award from the Canadian Anthropology Society
The simplest thing to say would be that this degree gave me the tools to critically approach the increasingly complex social, cultural, political, environmental, philosophical, and economic discourses that shape my daily life and our collective practices.
The less simple thing to say is that I've come to terms with being unsure of how best to be when feelings of concern overwhelm me.
I navigated my degree a bit haphazardly, engaging in subjects I was most curious about and finding the people who could best challenge my thinking. I began thinking I really knew something about the world, and now on the other side I still know a thing or two, but I'm more willing to throw everything into question.
With parallel interests in contemporary dance, I found that my education at SFU was providing me with the necessary and appropriate language to address pressing questions around power, subjectivity, and performance. In each class I could use the course work to extend and enrich a network of concepts and practices in attempts to make sense of what we do and, potentially, how to do things differently towards a notion of flourishing.
Going forward, I'll be pursuing a master's degree in anthropology around embodiment. In other words, my degree solidified my nerdiness to orient myself towards analysis and knowledge production. But still, I'm a practicing dance artist, and everything I gleaned from my joint sociology/anthropology degree is applicable to this dance practice. I take what I learned and poke at the relations that make such a practice possible and impactful (for myself, my collaborators, and audiences at home and abroad).
Ultimately I can't be certain of how I'll use what I learned in the future, but I feel confident that I'll be able to navigate the shifting terrain of social life and the performing arts with excitement and care.
Association recognition for outstanding students graduation from the department with Honours:
Ileanna Chelady: Outstanding Graduating Anthropology Student Award from the Canadian Anthropology Society
Pegah Niktash: Outstanding Graduating Sociology Student Award from the Canadian Sociological Association