Caledonia awardees

The Caledonia Awards in World Literature, valued at a minimum of $1,000 each, are granted to full-time undergraduate students who have a formal declaration in the honours, major, joint major, extended minor, or minor in World Literature. 

The awarded students' thoughtful approach to their studies and extracurricular activities demonstrate a commitment to the value of cultural exchange and understanding.

Find out more about the Caledonia Award and how you can apply on our scholarships and awards page.

2019 Caledonia awardees

Mizuki Giffin

Mizuki Giffin is a third-year World Literature student preparing to pursue an Honours Degree with a concentration in Japanese literature. In her first year, she acted as the Assistant Coordinator of the 2018 World Literature Student Conference, going on to become the Coordinator of the WLSC the following year. At the 2019 conference, she presented a paper examining racial miscegenation in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!. Mizuki is currently acting as the Producer of the 2020 World Literature Student Conference.

Since April 2019, Mizuki has also served as President of the World Literature Student Union. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of executives to be working with. They are incredibly dedicated and passionate, and we’ve had so much fun working together over the past couple semesters. It’s been rewarding to watch the Union grow, and to see the impact we can make on campus.”

“World Literature has changed my perspective on literature, the world, and myself in ways that I could never have foreseen, and for that I am extremely grateful. Receiving the Caledonia Award means so much to me, and I cannot thank you enough for your support!”

Molly Mackay

The World Literature program has made me a more empathetic and open person. It has helped me to craft my perspective within politics, and shown me how to eloquently voice my opinion while still staying respectful and understanding of people whom hold different beliefs. What’s more, I have been lucky enough to be a part of the World Literature Student Conference that is held each year and have gone from being a speaker in the program to a stage coordinator.

Last year I was also the Managing Editor of The Lyre, and this year I am Co-Editor in Chief, which I am so excited to explore. I have also just recently signed on as Peer Writing and Learning coach at the SFU library and have found that many of the techniques I have learned in World Literature such as critical analysis and an openness in learning from others, has helped me in tutoring fellow students.

In the end, every task I have taken on through World Literature opens my eyes just a little bit more. I am so, so thankful for this Caledonia award, more than just financial comfort, it makes me feel like all my hard-work in the program is validated and real.

2018 Caledonia awardees

Dawson Campbell

Dawson Campbell is a World Literature and French double major in his final year of study. After taking some time off school to work, Dawson returned to study French with only marginally more direction than when he left. That is until he began taking classes in World Literature. Paired with his French degree, Dawson has found Word Literature to be an amazing vehicle to pursue his passions in language and literature.

Since being introduced to translation studies near the beginning of his foray into World Literature, Dawson has made it his goal to increasingly familiarise himself with the topic. Translation integrates both his interest in language and literature: “not only am I able to read my favourite French authors, I’m able to make them speak my language.” He has had translations published in The Lyre magazine—the World Literature student publication, where Dawson has worked as an associate editor the past two years, and now runs the magazine as Co-Editor-in-Chief—and has an upcoming publication in De Voix vives—the French program’s student review.

This past summer Dawson took part in the Harvard Institute for World Literature, hosted by the university of Tokyo. There Dawson learned and discussed issues past and present in world literature and culture.

“I am deeply grateful for this award. I have been working very hard the past few years and, while my studies have been an absolute joy—for the most part—, it is nice to receive some acknowledgment of my hard work. Thank you!”

Emily Sun

Emily is a fourth-year student pursuing a major in world literature. She studied at Dover Bay Secondary School in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island. She had first discovered the World Literature Program during her senior year in high school through a Google search and fell in love with the idea of studying different cultures through stories from voices across the globe. 

During Emily’s third year at SFU, she went on exchange to study at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. It was the adventure of a lifetime and strengthened her passion to explore the world in as many ways as she can. Currently, she is exploring other subjects within the Faculty of Social Arts and Sciences Program and wondering about her next step in life. 

She is deeply touched to receive the Caledonia Award and is more dedicated than ever to help her peers enrich student life at SFU through volunteer work. 

“I am so thankful to receive the Caledonia Award and the support toward my education it will bring. I wish to extend my appreciation to the World Literature faculty who helped shape me to be the person I am today through their dedicated guidance.”

2017 Caledonia awardees

Maya Gal

Maya had been searching desperately for a literature course to accommodate her schedule when she discovered and then signed up for her first World Literature class. After she experienced the support of staff and the welcome of students in the World Literature Program, she switched majors from biology to English with a minor in World Literature.

Maya experienced many hardships throughout her degree, both mentally and financially, and the Caledonia Award was an amazing help in both those struggles.

Maya was involved in the 2016 World Literature Student Conference and presented her paper, “The Epic Archer: A Portrayal of Divinity and Humanity.” This fall she will begin an MA in English at SFU, with the hope of following it with a Ph.D.

"This award is far beyond money. It is a treasured appreciation that changed my attitude about my studies.
The Caledonia Award made me believe in myself when I had not done so for some time, and to me, that is utterly priceless, and I am forever grateful for it."

Avnit Garcha

Avnit enjoys competitive bhangra dancing, teaching dance, and reading. She just completed her BA and will be heading to UBC in the fall to join the Teacher Education Program.

Avnit planned to study English when she entered SFU, but after taking World Literature 100 with Ken Seigneurie, she was hooked. She was drawn to the broader area that World Literature covered. She participated in the 2016 World Literature Student Conference and presented her paper, "Performance as a Mode of Female Objectification in the 1993 Bollywood Film Khal Nayak."

Avnit says the Caledonia Award relieved much of the stress associated with tuition for her final semester. She has been working part-time and is now able to put aside money and further her education. She hopes to teach high school English and literature classes once she completes her teacher training.

"I cannot thank you enough for this award, which acknowledges my love for SFU's World Literature Program. I am grateful for the role that the donors of the Caledonia Award have played in my education."

Melanie Hiepler

Melanie is a two-time recipient of the Caledonia Award. She says the award is further confirmation that she made the right decision to pursue World Literature.

She studied in Prague last summer and says the experience proved formative, academically and personally. She hopes to use work she did in Prague as a springboard for her honours in World Literature.

After graduation, Melanie would like to travel and work before pursuing a Master's of Library and Information Sciences at UBC. “I like the idea of becoming a librarian and working either in a research context or in a community-oriented environment,” she said. She is currently completing her first co-op work term as a Junior Communications Officer at Transport Canada, which she describes as a great learning curve in terms of transferring her writing and communication skills from an academic situation to a professional environment.

"Receiving the award for a second time has been very motivating and has inspired me to work even harder at World Literature and to pursue my studies deeper. Thank you. I can't say it enough."

Amanda Rachmat

Amanda always thought she would study English and a social science at university. Coordinators from the First Year Learning Community at SFU Surrey visited her high school and promoted a variety of first-year programs. The Global Issues Program caught her eye as it satisfied her desire for a more worldly education.

Her very first World Literature professor, Ken Seigneurie, convinced her to join the World Literature Program, and after her first semester, she majored in both World Literature and International Studies.

She was honoured to receive the Caledonia Award and plans to use it to travel and gain first-hand experience of the world. Asia has often been the focus of her literary and political research, and her father has family roots in Indonesia.

The World Literature Program has given her a view of human nature, culture, and civilization, and it surprises her that not everyone has the chance to learn about the world in this way. She hopes to pursue a master's degree in either public policy or urban planning, then incorporate what she learns about cities abroad back to life in Canada.

"I cannot thank you enough for your support. The Caledonia Award inspires me to continue to give my best in my studies and back to my community."

Fall 2016 Caledonia awardees

Jaiden Dembo

Jaiden is on exchange in Prague, Czech Republic, and she credits the Caledonia Awards for making this possible. “I am extraordinarily excited to see the world and travel. A World Literature student can only stay immersed in her books so long before she must go out and experience the world she has been reading about. World Literature has been a life changing experience for me, and I wouldn't wish to be in any other program."

"My professors, the content I'm learning, and the friends I've made along the way have truly made my university experience exceptional. I have been shaped and changed."

She presented papers at both the 2015 and 2016 World Literature Student Conference including “Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis: A tale of Freudian Regression.”

She is the Editorial Designer for The Lyre, the Associate Editor for BC Bookworld, and she writes for the arts section of SFU’s student newspaper, The Peak.

She wants to continue writing after graduation. “Every day I am inspired by what I am learning, and by the authors we are reading. I am inspired to create my own literature. This award truly does help my pursuit and I will forever be grateful for it.”

Stephen Kaita

Stephen attended Brookswood Secondary in Langley where his wrestling coach inspired him to become a teacher. When Stephen began his undergraduate career at SFU through the Global Issues First-Year Leaning Community, he wanted to study physics. However, his interest waned in his second year, and he struggled. He then took classes in World Literature and International Studies, and they ignited new passions.

Stephen is the executive administrator of the World Literature Student Union and was the event coordinator for the 2016 World Literature Student Conference.

He commutes six days a week between Langley and Burnaby. He works as an in-game experience and community programs assistant for SFU Athletics where he writes game-day scripts, does announcements, and contacts school groups and choirs to perform in the half-time show.

During the summer, he works at Langley’s Thunderbird Show Park as a horse show announcer.

He volunteers at a high school and plans to pursue SFU’s professional teaching credential this fall so that he can teach English and Social Justice.

"I want to thank the donors for making this award for World Literature — it shows that it’s not just grades that matter. That recognition is huge."

Spring 2016 Caledonia awardees

Stephanie Hefti

Stephanie Hefti is a fourth-year student from Port Coquitlam who is pursuing a major in history and a minor in world literature. When she dropped out of high school, she never imagined she would go back.

She eventually moved into a career managing a call centre while raising her son as a single parent. She then worked at Kodak on a contract that ended after four years. At the age of 35, she found herself at a crossroads. “I started thinking: What do I want to be when I grow up? All of a sudden I was middle-aged and I didn’t know what I wanted in life.”

She considered finishing high school, but talked herself out of it. “I thought it was financially impossible. I thought I couldn’t. I thought it was irresponsible.” A friend convinced her that she had to go for it. As soon as she committed to the opportunity, doors opened. She finished her high school diploma, then enrolled at SFU. “It was a blessing in disguise.”

Her son is now 14 and supports her efforts. At SFU, Stephanie has rediscovered her love of education and writing. She has contributed to The Tartan (a magazine published by The Peak) and is enjoying all the opportunities available at SFU. She is passionate about human rights, African-American history and diaspora, and learning about history and other cultures. She sees world literature as providing a subjective lens on historical events that demonstrate human perspective and insight. By reading about other cultures in world literature, she perceives a shared humanity.

After finishing her undergraduate degree, she plans to pursue her teaching qualification through SFU’s Professional Development Program (PDP). She is also considering a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. Now that she has experienced post-secondary education, she knows how valuable it is. “I can’t imagine not having done it. The more you learn, the more you feel it’s essential.”

Anna Lechintan

Anna is a second-year student pursuing a major in world literature and a minor in anthropology. She studied at Thomas Haney Secondary School in Maple Ridge, then joined the Global Issues First Year Leaning Community in her first year at SFU Surrey. While she enjoyed courses in international studies and history, it was her exposure to world literature that inspired her adoption of the major.

She had been worried that studying world literature would limit her career opportunities, but as she continued with her studies, she realized world literature is multidimensional. “You get to study art and literature, and it encourages freedom. It’s creative and every text is like opening a door. It crosses national boundaries, takes down borders, and builds bridges. It’s changed my worldview. It puts everything into perspective and shows that there is so much more out there.”

Anna helped plan the academic panels for the first World Literature Student Conference. She also edited and is now a publisher for Lyre Magazine. She dreams of becoming a professor and would love to stay connected to the university environment regardless of where her career leads her.

She was waiting for a friend at Renaissance Coffee when she read the email that she had received the Caledonia Award. Just as her friend arrived, she let out a scream of joy. The award encouraged Anna and confirmed that she made the right choice in choosing her major.

Anna is amazed that the Caledonia Awards were created by an SFU alumni family to help current world literature students. “It’s amazing that they’re doing this. It’s so nice to know that someone cares about our program.” The award has inspired her to pay it forward by helping other students through philanthropy in the future.

Janelle Lee

Janelle is a fourth-year student pursuing a major in world literature and a minor in mathematics. She studied at Heritage Woods Secondary School in Port Moody. An entrance scholarship convinced her to attend SFU over another university, and it was here that she was exposed to world literature. Her two favourite subjects in high school were math and English, and she had planned to continue with them at SFU. When she took a world literature class, she realized the study of different cultures was her calling.

She describes the World Literature Program as a small department that is comfortable and less intimidating with small, interactive classes led by professors who get to know their students. The world literature major was flexible enough to allow her to continue with math, which she believes she might have had to drop had she taken a different major.

Janelle loves that she can discover new cultures through world literature. “It’s made me realize how little I knew about the world.” Last year, she had a chance to travel and expand her understanding of other places and people during an exchange at the University of Leeds.

When she completes her BA, she plans to pursue her teaching credential and begin a career teaching math or English in high school. She has been gaining teaching experience through the Friends of Simon tutoring program. “Receiving the Caledonia Award definitely validated what I’m doing. It’s nice to be recognized for something you love.”

Danielle Paillé

Danielle is a fourth-year student pursuing a major in world literature and a minor in kinesiology. She came to SFU directly after completing high school at Fleetwood Park Secondary School in Surrey. The Explorations first-year program at SFU’s Surrey campus introduced her to world literature, anthropology, and kinesiology. She had trouble deciding which subject would be her main focus until a class with Dr. Ortabasi confirmed Danielle’s love for world literature. Her courses have taught her the value of close reading, of interpretation, and of critical thinking -- skills she applies to other areas of life.

Danielle had received a scholarship in a previous term and had been struggling to maintain the GPA requirement while working part-time in a goal to graduate debt free. She eventually missed the GPA requirement by 0.01%. Her scholarship was cancelled, and she was devastated. A world literature professor suggested she apply for the Caledonia Award based on the strength of her marks and passion for the subject. The award has alleviated much of the stress she had been under in trying to renew her previous scholarship to finance her studies and participate in an international practicum.

She plans to pursue her teaching credential in Fall 2017 and inspire new generations of students by becoming an elementary school teacher.

Jacqueline (Jackie) Parsons

Jackie is a fourth-year student pursuing a major in world literature and a minor in political science. She was overjoyed to receive the Caledonia Award. “I literally gasped. I was sitting in class when I saw the email announcing that I got the award.”

She attended Brookswood Secondary School in Langley where representatives from different universities gave presentations. She recalled being blown away by SFU, and impressed with the World Literature Program’s flexibility to combine a major with other concentrations.

By attending university, she honours her mother who was the first member of her family to receive a post-secondary education. “My mom grew up in poverty. She always told me that university was the key to her happiness and to her ability to have a good job, a house, and the best possible quality of life.” Jackie believes that a university education creates more informed and engaged citizens.

The Caledonia Award helped Jackie with expenses while on exchanges, including a term studying literature in France; a political science exchange at Sciences Po in France; and attendance at the Prague Field School. She also travelled to Valencia, Spain, where she visited landmarks that inspired Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.

After graduation, she plans to apply for a six-month internship program at the Legislative Assembly in Victoria; she hopes to develop a career in government administration.

2015 Caledonia awardees

Melanie Heipler

Melanie is a third-year student who has returned to SFU after taking a year off to pursue theological studies at Christ College in Surrey (now Pacific Life Bible College). Previously, she had come to SFU directly from high school and had participated in the Global Issues First-Year Learning Community at the Surrey campus.

Melanie has been interested in literature since childhood. “I would run away and hide to read books. I’ve always loved an intellectual challenge, and World Literature provides that because it’s so interdisciplinary.”

The program has also taught Melanie to think critically, particularly when looking at beliefs, religion, literary and social theories, and the biases we bring to these discourses. “I’m always close reading,” she says. “World Literature has an interdisciplinary global focus, and seeks to include texts from all cultures in its discourse. It’s an invaluable program to SFU. [SFU] claims to have a global focus—‘engaging the world’—and World Literature actually does that.”

“Critical thinking, ideology, and talking about how societies work are just as important as the machines that make it all work. The strength of World Literature is in its approach and in its not being confined to a single canon. You can trace how a text travels, and it opens up more meaning when you see the text as a framework to highlight issues of its time.”

Melanie is Co-Editor-in-Chief of Lyre Magazine and is pursuing a publishing minor to complement her World Literature major. She is considering going into education, and has been volunteering as a learning and writing peer at the Student Learning Commons.

The World Literature Student Conference in April 2015 was a highlight of her year. She presented a paper on power and agency in Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” music video, and also helped plan the academic layout and themes of the conference. She is thinking about doing a master’s degree, but before that, she hopes to spend a semester in Prague, where she will study literature alongside other liberal studies and language courses.

Melanie is determined to put herself through school, and has been able to do so by working full time in the summers, keeping a part-time job, and saving up for tuition. Receiving this award has allowed her to leave her part-time retail job to focus on her studies. “When you donate scholarship money to World Literature,” she says, “You’re supporting thinkers—people who will be leading classrooms and working in government and in other leadership positions—the backbone of who we are as a society.”

Ken Ip

Ken is a fourth-year student who was inspired to attend SFU by his brother, an alumnus. Their parents immigrated from Hong Kong, and Ken was born and raised in Richmond where in his youth he attended French immersion, as well as participated in Cadets and Scouts Canada.

He began at SFU with the Social and Behavioural Sciences First-Year Learning Community at SFU Surrey and decided to take a world literature class on a whim. He had always read, and was attracted to the social science aspect of world literature. Ken is incorporating a major in world literature with two extended minors in communications and sociology.

Ken was a conference moderator at the World Literature Student Conference in April 2015, facilitating a session titled "Society and Struggle". He also presented a paper on the nature of the traumatic sublime in Coetzee's Disgrace. He is currently Executive Administrator for the World Literature Student Union, a learning and writing peer at the Student Learning Commons; a peer advisor in the Student Engagement and Transitions Program; and a peer leader in the Faculty of Arts and Social Science’s FASS One first-year program. He also designs for Lyre Magazine.

For Ken, university is about learning, independence, structure, and exposure to the unfamiliar. It’s his way to connect with people and find a community. “The sciences without the arts are diminished,” he says. “In the arts there is a flexibility of thought in the method. It’s worth having that perspective to broaden horizons and build personal innovation and creativity.”

Just before the World Literature Student Conference, he heard that World Literature students were getting their own award. To then receive it is an important achievement for him, and it affirms he is on the right track. He is currently looking towards graduate school opportunities.

Iulia Sincraian

Iulia is a third-year student pursuing a joint major in world literature and international studies. She immigrated from Romania and hopes to one day work in immigration, either by helping with settlement or by facilitating the communication process for new immigrants.

Since taking a world literature course in high school as part of her International Baccalaureate program, Iulia has loved the field. However, it wasn’t until she came to SFU that she considered it as a possible career option, as she had planned to major in international studies. She then decided to include world literature within a joint major after taking a world literature class at SFU.

World literature complements her international studies classes because it considers the customs and beliefs of a place—not just the economics. She notes, “It’s important to recognize that people are creative beings and that we create culture. Studying it is essential to understanding how the world runs.”

With additional aspirations to become a teacher or a professor of world literature, she seems well on her way to an academic career. She was the youngest participant, and only undergraduate, at the 2015 summer school session hosted by Harvard’s Institute for World Literature in Lisbon, Portugal. She is also an editor for Lyre Magazine, an undergraduate student-run creative literary magazine produced annually by the World Literature Program. She also organized speakers and presented at SFU’s first ever World Literature Student Conference in Spring 2015. Iulia writes children’s stories and hopes to publish and share them with the world.

When she found out she was a recipient of the Caledonia Award, she says “I danced. Getting the award made me realize that I’m on the right track and gave me more confidence in myself. It’s given me more time to study and made it easier to pay tuition. It’s great to see that world literature is getting funding and attention. It makes it seem like a viable option, and it’s comforting to know that what I love to do is something I can do in the future.”

Kiera Wass

Kiera completed her degree requirements for her BA with a major in world literature in December 2015. Her SFU career began at the Surrey campus when she took her first world literature course to replace a “terrible” calculus class. She loved it and found her calling.

Her mother, also an SFU alumna, is a single parent who had not been able to save for Kiera to attend university. Kiera has always worked throughout her degree in order to pay for tuition, and this award has lessened that burden. “The donor should be proud of creating this award,” she says.

With a relatively small number of faculty members and students, Kiera described world literature as being very friendly and “more like a family than a faculty.” The program has inspired her to travel and see cultures she has read about.

Of her application for the Caledonia Award, she notes, “It was cathartic to write the essay. It was a bit of a farewell to my world literature classes, and I could talk about what I had learned and on an individual level how it rounded me out.”

She remembers fondly her role as the Executive Event Coordinator with the World Literature Student Conference and ending the night dancing with all the students and professors. They even did a dance to a song from Cabaret that they had all learned in a class focused on musical theatre!

Kiera is working on her application to join the Professional Development Program (PDP) teaching certification in September 2016 and volunteers in a grade six classroom to prepare for her next calling.

Kelsey Wilson

Kelsey is a fourth-year world literature major pursuing additional minors in linguistics and publishing. Her mother is an SFU alumna who inspired her decision to study here.

She describes world literature as “what you missed in English class” and loves that the Program expands its view beyond English literature. World literature allows her to explore other perspectives and cultures, and to combine lessons from other disciplines including history and philosophy.

She is currently assisting Professor Azadeh Yamini-Hamedani on a promotional video for the program, and serves as President of the World Literature Student Union and Managing Editor of Lyre Magazine. She took on the role of emcee and presented one of her essays at the World Literature Student Conference in April 2015. This helped her get over the anxiety of public speaking.

The program’s broad cultural study has also inspired her to be a more global citizen and to consider visiting faraway places. “I’m a very anxious person and terrified of travelling,” she notes. After studying world literature, however, she describes herself as more open to the idea. She found the program’s multi-disciplinary, adaptable skills have allowed her to relate to people and understand other perspectives. “World literature teaches you how to approach things in different ways and find new ways of doing things”, she says. “It also teaches respectful disagreement and discussion and well thought out, reasoned arguments.”

Kelsey is thrilled to receive the Caledonia Award and notes that world literature students encourage and help each other with their essays and applications. The award reduces her stress level as now she doesn’t have to worry about the cost of taking the time to pursue her honours thesis.

“This award has given me inspiration”, she says. “That there is a world literature alumna who has become successful enough to give back—it’s inspired me to work harder.”