Fall 2015 Caledonia Awardees
Please click the student names to access their bios.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”