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2023 Outstanding Graduating Student and Usamah Ansari Top Student Awards
Jorge Andrade Morales
B.A. in Sociology (First class with Distinction)
Usamah Ansari Top Student Award & Outstanding Sociology Graduand Award
I am humbled and honoured to receive these awards. As a queer refugee, this accomplishment is a significant milestone in my life, and I will never take my education for granted. During my academic journey at Simon Fraser University, I met a passionate and dedicated team of professors, students, and faculty members who encouraged me and challenged me to be a critical thinker. Without their support, I would not have made it.
Specifically, I would like to thank Dr. Natasha Ferenczi, whose creativity, exceptional fieldwork, and focus on relational dynamics made me a more ethical social researcher. I would also like to thank Dr. Suzanna Crage, whose passion for teaching and supportive spirit allowed me to excel at those quantitative courses I never thought I could. I would also like to thank Rainbow Refugee Society. Volunteering and working with them inspired me to pursue Sociology in the first place. The fantastic work they do for LGBTQ+ refugees inspires me every day. Finally, I would like to thank my family, especially my mother, Lorena, who did the impossible to travel from Ecuador and meet me all the times I doubted myself and dealt with homesickness as a refugee. These awards are dedicated to her.
Studying Sociology at Simon Fraser University has helped me become a better social advocate and changed how I view social injustices. While courses in my counselling minor provided me with tools to support others facing trauma-based challenges, sociology allowed me to understand how these challenges are embedded in social structures. I will use this knowledge to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work. I hope to continue my research on bureaucratic violence against LGBTQ refugees and to support marginalized communities through social advocacy.
B.A. in Anthropology (Honours with Distinction)
Outstanding Anthropology Graduand Award
I feel both honoured and lucky to have received this award, and to be able to share my feelings about what anthropology has brought to my life. I would first like to say that receiving this award was made possible by the engaging, caring, and passionate professors within this department and also my family who took such care of me during the process. Likewise, I feel as though the disposition of anthropology itself has allowed for both my creativity and ambition to flourish as it has.
My commencement into anthropology, though, was not straightforward. I studied Creative Writing at Langara and Indigenous Studies at Concordia before realizing that anthropology allowed for an appropriate amalgamation of the two; creative and descriptive writing, done in the form of culturally and socially-attuned endeavours. After taking my first anthropology course, I came to witness its central theme, which is that everyone has a voice which ought to be listened to, with genuine care and curiosity, so as to both understand and connect the world and its myriad individuals.
The way I see and act within the world has been greatly affected by my studies. I have Dr. Kathleen Millar and Dr. Pamela Stern to thank for my introduction to, and continual understanding of, anthropology as I have come to know it. Moreover, I wish to thank them both for sharing their passion and curiosity for the field which has subsequently shaped my own diligence within the field, and beyond. I have not only gained knowledge about the world and its peoples(s) through anthropology, but also existential knowledge regarding where I fit into the world.
While my future plans are flexible and bourgeoning – in other words, still unknown to me – I am interested in continuing my education in the near future, now with the understanding that, as anthropologist David Graeber once said, “the ultimate hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently.” Accordingly, anthropology will, regardless of where I go in the near or far future, have a profound impact upon how I weave and forge my way through life, with and amidst the world around me.
Many thanks for this recognition – it is truly an honour and something I feel quite lucky, and proud, to have achieved; made possible with the help of those who have guided me through my studies, and led me to where I am now.
Regina Baeza Martinez
B.A. in Sociology (Honours with Distinction)
Outstanding Honours Thesis Award
I am very grateful and honoured to be recognized for this award. I have been privileged to receive aid and mentorship from many faculty members including Dr. Evelyn Encalada Grez, Dr. Nicholas Scott, Dr. Suzanna Crage, and Dr. Michael Hathaway. Thank you all for your constant support and encouragement.
I decided to study Sociology at SFU because I wanted answers to my many pressing questions about social systems, institutions, webs of inequity, and power dynamics. With a wide array of course offerings, the SA Department offered in-depth explanations and analyses on these topics. However, the most satisfying part of my undergraduate education was the extensive questions that further emerged with every answer that was posed. In the end, I finished my degree with more questions than answers, and I am grateful for this as I now see the value of asking important questions.
This fall, I am going to continue seeking answers -- and building questions -- by pursuing an MA in Sociology at SFU. My future research project will explore relations to land, as well as place-making and community-building practices among Mayan temporary agricultural workers from Guatemala, living and working in BC. This project will also explore transnational intersections, relations and connections between these Mayan workers and Indigenous Host Nations.
While pursuing my studies, I will also continue working as a Research Assistant on two research projects: Transnationally Indigenous, under the supervision of Professor Hathaway, and Temporary Foreign Worker Programs, Indigeneity, and Livelihoods: The case of Mayan Migrant Farmworkers in Canada, under the supervision of Dr. Encalada Grez. My work on these two projects, and my undergraduate and graduate course work, will inform the development of my own research and the opportunities that I seek out thereafter.
B.A. in Joint Majors - Sociology & Anthropology (Honours with Distinction)
Outstanding Sociology/Anthropology Graduand Award