Sociology MA graduate Sarah Vanderveer loves the classroom

June 10, 2020

Sociology graduate Sarah Vanderveer wanted her master’s thesis topic to focus on an underrepresented area of study that included gender, equity and social change.

Vanderveer, who is convocating in June, spent a semester in Ghana exploring how women academics there are reshaping university cultures to promote gender equity. With no connections in the West African nation, Vanderveer had to be bold and build a network from the ground up in order to interview dozens of PhD candidates and faculty at four universities.

The experience has been a highlight of her life and she is deeply appreciative of the time, knowledge and trust that her participants have shared with her. Vanderveer’s study has resulted in original research that she has presented at several conferences.

As with many students, Vanderveer’s academic path has not been a straight one. She began her SFU studies with English literature and then philosophy. Then, near the end of her undergraduate degree, she took an introductory sociology course with Professor Ann Travers.

“It changed my life,” Vanderveer says. “I felt like I found what I’d been looking for the entire time.”

She pivoted, diving into sociology, and finished her BA with a major in philosophy, an extended minor in English and a minor in sociology. After graduation, she was accepted into a few MA programs, but when she was invited to join the SFU’s master’s program in sociology with Travers as her senior supervisor, Vanderveer didn’t hesitate to accept the offer.

“Ann saw in me someone who was worthy of being a mentor to,” she says. “And that meant a lot. You never leave a conversation with Ann without feeling like you can do anything.”

At the end of her first year of graduate studies, Vanderveer won the Department of Sociology and Anthropology’s scholarship for excellence.

“Sociology is so much fun,” she says. “I love having every idea that I have held being challenged.”

Vanderveer’s next goal is to excel in the PhD program in sociology at York University beginning in September. She plans to look at (in)formal networks that amplify voices that are often muted by systems of power and oppression, and how people create meaningful change. Ultimately, Vanderveer’s long-term goal is to teach.

For Vanderveer, education hasn’t always been accessible, but she was determined to do everything she could to pursue her education.
“I come from a very working class background and one of the things I’ve always desperately wanted to do in my life is to go to school. I adore education. There are few things in this world I love as much as being in a classroom.”