News and Events

2024 Outstanding Graduating Student and Usamah Ansari Top Student Awards

June 21, 2024

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology are pleased to announce the recipients of this year's Outstanding Graduating Student Awards and Usamah Ansari Top Student Award. Congratulations to all the winners!

Aahelee Bandyopadhyay

B.A. in Joint Majors - Sociology & Anthropology (First class with Distinction)
Usamah Ansari Top Student Award & Outstanding Sociology/Anthropology Graduand Award

I am deeply thankful and honoured to have received these awards since they reflect not only my achievements but also the collective effort, support, and inspiration from everyone around me. Achieving this milestone would have been impossible without the invaluable support of Dr. Kathleen Millar, Dr. Travers, Dr. Prof-Collins Ifeonu, and Dr. Elle Walks. This recognition reinforces my drive to pursue Sociology and Anthropology in the future and deepens my commitment to exploring and understanding the complexities of human societies and cultures, ultimately contributing to meaningful change and fostering greater empathy and inclusivity in our world.

As an immigrant woman of colour, I have always been curious about my position in these settler colonial lands and how it shapes my identity, experiences, and interactions within a broader social, historical, and cultural context. I wanted to understand how abstract social forces influence individuals and communities at institutional and personal levels, leading to tangible changes. This led me to gravitate towards Sociology and Anthropology, as these disciplines enabled me to critically analyze social structures and power dynamics, understand the complexities of human interactions, and work towards fostering social justice and transformative change. Most importantly, these disciplines taught me to raise questions that prompt more profound reflections, challenge assumptions, and encourage a nuanced understanding of the world around us.

My academic pursuits have significantly influenced my perception, behaviour, and how I show up in spaces. Dr. Kathleen Millar’s course on “Contemporary Ethnographies” revolutionized my understanding of Anthropology, challenging me to unlearn several preconceived notions about what culture is. Simultaneously, the Sociology classes I have taken with Dr. Travers encouraged me to envision a world where social justice, equity, and inclusivity are not just ideals but tangible realities that shape our institutions, interactions, and collective consciousness. The knowledge I have received from the professors at this department liberated me from the subconscious shackles of conformity, allowing me to embrace my intellectual curiosity and pursue a path of independent inquiry and exploration.

My future plans revolve around taking my academic explorations to the grassroots to contribute to communities. I have started working with a non-profit organization that caters to the needs of marginalized youth and families, focussing on mental health, physical health, and social support. It is a grounding experience to be working with communities in need, and I feel privileged to be able to make a meaningful difference in their lives. Eventually, I hope to return to academia to pursue higher education to further my understanding and capacity to address societal challenges and catalyze social changes.

Tara Prasad

B.A. in Sociology (With Distinction)
Outstanding Sociology Graduand Award

I am beyond honoured and grateful to not only receive this award but to share my appreciation for the valuable lessons I have learned in sociology and give thanks to all who have helped me achieve this accomplishment. Without the love and support of my family, friends, and the outstanding faculty who have guided me through my undergraduate degree, receiving this honour would not have been possible.

Through the duration of my time at Simon Fraser University I have been fortunate enough to have received the support of compassionate, dedicated, and engaging professors who believed in me when I often did not believe in myself. I wish to extend a special thank you to Dr. Kyle Willmott who encouraged me to push boundaries and take new approaches to both writing and critical thinking while also solidifying my understanding of how the flow of sociological knowledge is enmeshed in all facets of our life within the academic setting and as ordinary citizens. I would also like to thank Dr. Kathleen Millar whose instruction encouraged me to explore how sociological thinking and theory can enrich my approach to other subjects. I wish to thank you both for your encouragement, devotion to the success of your students, and ability to foster vibrant learning communities that have taught me lessons that will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Studying sociology has transformed my perspective on the world and my place within it. As I consider my next steps I am confident that the knowledge and skills I have been equipped with will mould the path I take and the person I become. Sociology has enriched my life in ways that I could have never expected and I am endlessly grateful for how the subject has allowed my academic strengths, creativity, and confidence to grow and flourish as they have. Thank you again for this recognition that I am so very proud to receive, as it is a reflection of the support of all who have guided me through these past five years.

Kirsten Henderson

B.A. in Anthropology (Honours with Distinction)
Outstanding Anthropology Graduand Award

First and foremost, I am humbled to have had the opportunity and privilege to learn and thrive on the unceded traditional territories of the, the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations, on which SFU is located. I acknowledge my privilege comes at a cost for others—historically and presently.  

I am honoured as a recipient of this award, and to have had the privilege to study and work with an amazing group of students and to be mentored by an outstanding collection of professors. The education I have earned has made me see the world in a whole new way. I am better able to listen and appreciate diversity—to see the beauty of all life, especially in the grey areas. Nothing is as it seems, but when we delve beneath the surface and open our hearts and minds, we can begin to appreciate each other and work towards solutions that can be mutually beneficial for all life on this planet. I have learned that we are a part of one immense beautiful and magical ecosystem, and together, I believe, we can collectively achieve harmony and an equitable life for all.

I would like to express my immense gratitude to Dr. Lindsey Freeman, Dr. Stacey Pigg, Dr. Pamela Stern, and Dr. Jie Yang. It was through their kind and caring mentorship I was able to move into new spaces of understanding to explore my biases and contemplate with curiosity the power of social agency and the wonder of social transformation.

I have carried the dream of studying anthropology with me for numerous years, and as I reflect on all that I have learned over the past four years, I can say that it is more than I ever imagined. I have been given the invaluable gift of knowledge, and I intend to use it wisely. I will be continuing my anthropological studies at graduate school starting this fall with a particular focus on emotions and collective action. I hope to support humans and nature maneuver through these unprecedented times so we can reconcile our past to create and imagine new present and future ways of being in the world—together. Thank you for this extraordinary experience. I will cherish it, always.

Kyra Vergara

B.A. in Sociology (Honours with Distinction)
Outstanding Honours Thesis Award

I am graciously and humbly honoured to receive this award, of which is only possible through the wonderful mentorship of so many sociologists whom I’ve had the privilege of learning from and with – most especially Dr. Nicholas Scott, Dr. Amanda Watson, Dr. Lindsey Freeman, and Baran Fakhri. My little corner of the Earth has grown in incalculable ways to embody the wonder and radical imagination for what the world can and will be, thanks to their guidance and insistence that a better, kinder world exists.

This award is not accepted without recognizing that I exist today as a fruit of the love, support, and camaraderie of friends and family whose love overflows into my work, always. I could go on and on about how this achievement is purely the product of the people and world around me. That is what sociology makes so abundantly, undeniably clear to me – that there is no self without others, as Dr. Freeman shared on the first day of my Intro to Sociology course. In spite of the overwhelming existence of violence and unfathomable oppression, sociology has revealed to me that liberation rests, at least partially, in the ability to sink wholly into true-blue friendships as a form of protest. That every act of resistance is a love letter to the world that could be, and to the one I find myself in now. It is without a doubt that I am privileged to be surrounded by a village of people who enkindle within me the pursuit of truly equitable systems and institutions.

Looking beyond the completion of my BA, there is still so much left to explore. Although my future education plans currently involve pursuing a MA in urban planning in the next few years — a seemingly fitting merger for my Sociology major and Political Science and Sustainable Development double minor — I am certain that the sociological imagination I’ve been so gracefully gifted throughout my undergrad will saturate whatever academic and non-academic futures lie ahead of me.