March 19, 2019 correction: The original version of this article stated that Simran Sanghera was the winner from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. This has been corrected to Simran Randhawa. 

On March 9, 2019, the winners of the inaugural Simon Fraser Student Society Women of the Year Awards were announced at the Young Women in Business SFU International Women’s Day Gala held in Vancouver.

The Women of the Year Awards were presented to seven undergraduate students from several SFU faculties. The recipients were: Dawn Chandler, Simran Randhawa, Cameron Lust, Edna Batengas, Mireta Strandberg-Salmon, Zahra Haq, and Krista Bohlen.

The student society’s definition of the women of the year is “a self-identified [woman] who has demonstrated leadership in the SFU community and actively advocated for positive changes in society, particularly for women. Also more broadly this year’s theme was focused towards how they have raised, reached, or redefined the glass ceiling for all women,” stated Tawanda Masawi, vice-president student life in an email interview with The Peak.

According to Masawi, the SFSS events committee decided to create these awards because they “wanted to move away from the traditional approach of engaging students through regular events [ . . . ] to find a more progressive approach to engaging with students around campus.”

“By launching this initiative, we were able to use the questions that we asked nominees as a platform for them to think about their roles when it comes down to making the SFU community a more equitable campus for women,” said Masawi.

“The awards serve to increase the profile of outstanding women and champions of women in our community. The purpose of these awards is to recognize outstanding student efforts to create a climate that encourages women to succeed at Simon Fraser University,” he further added.

Masawi shared that there were over 50 submissions for the awards and the selection process was carried out by a committee that consisted of SFSS staff.

“The purpose of this was to ensure that no [SFSS] board members could influence the outcome of the awards . . . SFSS Board members were also not eligible to be nominated for the awards,” he explained.

The nomination process was opened from February 14–24, 2019, and it required nominators to submit an online application form for their nominee and self-nominations were also permitted, stated Masawi.

Two finalists were chosen from each faculty by the selection committee (in total there were 14 finalists) and the seven recipients of the awards were voted by students during a three-day open voting period, explained Masawi.

The winners included students from the Faculty of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Beedie School of Business, Faculty of Communications, Art, and Technology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Faculty of Environment, and Faculty of Science.

The recipients were provided with complimentary tickets to Michelle Obama’s Becoming Tour and they were invited to the International Women’s Day Gala where they received a glass award for their achievement, said Masawi.

When asked about the reception of the awards, Masawi shared: “The awards have only received positive feedback and will only continue to grow and get better as the years go on. This was the first time that they have been hosted so there is room for improvement in many places.”

In terms of the continuation of the awards in the future, Masawi stated that it will depend on the future board’s decision.

“The SFSS is excited to have launched this initiative, the project will only continue to grow. To our current knowledge the SFSS is the first student society to do something in this capacity for students. Hopefully we will be able to serve as an inspiration to other student unions and share our experience with them,” noted Masawi.  

The Peak had the opportunity to interview some of the winners regarding their thoughts on winning the award.

Strandberg-Salmon, winner from the Faculty of Environment shared: “I feel fortunate to be studying at a school that is so encouraging of student leadership and engagement. I hope that my efforts and the work of all the women in the Faculty of Environment and at SFU more broadly continue to inspire others to take action to help promote resilience and sustainability in their communities.”

Lust, another recipient of the award, stated: “I was extremely flattered to be nominated for this award alongside these other truly impressive, passionate and accomplished women across a multitude of faculties. I believe this initiative [. . .] will bring immense value to the SFU community as we continue to shine light on female leadership.”

Chandler, a computing science student at SFU commented: “When I was a high-school student, I never could have dreamed that I’d end up here, that I would have: learned to code and excel in math, developed so many skills that I’m proud of, and helped so many women along the way. Having come so far, and having met so many inspiring technical women who’ve accomplished far more than I have, I’ve made it my goal to help other women and girls realize that they’re capable of so much more than they think.”

Haq, recipient from the Faculty of Health Sciences said: “I am grateful to not only SFSS and the team who made this happen this year, but to also to everyone who took the time out to vote and reach out. I’m immensely proud to be part of the SFU community, and grateful to everyone who has made these last five years incredible.”

Randhawa, winner from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences mentioned: “Being nominated in itself was one of the most gratifying feelings of all, especially considering that around 5 people  nominated me [ . . . ] My heart skipped a beat when I won and was honoured amongst such fantastic women, and so many people who believed in me being deserving of this award.”

Lastly, Batengas, winner from the Faculty of Communication, Art, and Technology said: “I am so pleased, honored and humbled to accept this award for FCAT. A huge thanks to those of who supported my nomination, couldn’t have gotten here without them.”

The Peak did not receive a response from Bohlen in time for our print publication.