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Remembering Sandy Abah

From Alison Taylor and Claudia Ruitenberg

Sandy was the Graduate Program Assistant in Educational Studies between 2013 and 2019. When Alison was Graduate Advisor from 2017 to 2019, she worked closely with her. In the same role, Claudia worked closely with her from 2014 to 2017.

She worked at UBC for almost 25 years and was working as the iSchool Program Assistant when she passed away last year. When we learned of her passing, we decided to write this tribute.

Alison Taylor:

I remember Sandy as a warm person who was a fierce advocate for students. She knew most of the graduate students in the department and always put their interests and needs first. She always wanted to take time with them and make time for them, which often put her at odds with bureaucratic university policies. For example, I remember having discussions with her about how long past the admissions deadline to wait for missing pieces of student applications. She always wanted to wait longer. 🙂 I appreciated and greatly respected her care.

It was never just a job for Sandy, and she made my work as Graduate Advisor more meaningful because of that. Like many of the staff who keep universities running, she did her work diligently and without any fanfare. But we noticed. When she was leaving the department she said, “I love working with you and the faculty and students.” She also said, “I am a teacher and student advocate,” which is exactly how I think of her.

I developed a strong working relationship with her and want to share a few of her messages because I think they speak to the kind of person she was.

On April 5, 2018, at the opening of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, her email to me was simple: “Shall we all go?”

On April 6, 2018, she sent me a link to an article called, “Hunger and homelessness are widespread among college students, study finds.” In addition to its relevance to my work as Grad Advisor, she knew I was researching working students.

After she left EDST, I heard from her periodically on email. Initially, she was in touch because she’d received a few emails from graduate students in EDST and wanted to make sure I responded to them. In April, 2019 she said about her new workplace, “Would you believe we don’t have a coffee maker here??? How would you survive? LOL.”

When I had my first doctoral oral as supervisor at UBC, she wrote to ask how it went. For a month or two, she continued to answer my questions as Graduate Advisor, because admittedly, I was lost without her. Later, she wrote whenever she had something to share, like a healthy juice recipe, a news article, a holiday greeting, or cartoons. She sent me many cartoons, and particularly liked “Peanuts”! I became teary-eyed as I read over our email exchanges.

Claudia Ruitenberg:

I very much enjoyed working with Sandy. As Alison describes, she cared deeply about students and would go above and beyond to try and help them if they came to her in a panic about having missed a deadline. Sandy saw her workday as being done when the important stuff on her to-do list was done, not when the clock said so. Several EDST graduates mention Sandy by name in the acknowledgements of their thesis or dissertation.

Sandy completed a UBC Bachelor of Arts with a major in Religious Studies in 2014, while working in our department. She would tell me about courses she was taking or a final paper that was a struggle. I believe that her own studies at UBC made her even more empathetic with the students in our department. When I suggested we celebrate her graduation during the EDST graduation reception, she did not want to advertise her own achievement. She definitely believed others’ achievements were worth celebrating, however, and there was never a shortage of food if Sandy had ordered the catering for the graduation reception!

Sandy liked her office cozy and personalized. I remember her in her oversized sweater with an extra scarf wrapped around her neck, a blanket on her chair, and multiple coffee mugs on her desk. I think this made students feel more comfortable going to see her to ask a question. She was not a functionary, but a mensch.



We both feel that Sandy contributed to humanizing EDST and wanted to share these reflections.


 You are welcome to add your memories of Sandy by clicking on the + sign in the bottom righthand corner below.

 

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Exploring Histories Confronting White Supremacy: Aneet Kahlon, Erin Villaronga Mulligan, and Mark McLean

This is the first post in a new series from the course “Topics in the History of Education: Histories Confronting White Supremacy,” led by Professor Mona Gleason.

This course delves into colonialization, racism, and systemic oppression, exploring how historical understanding shapes our world today. In this series, students collaborated to craft blog posts where they explore themes related to course topics and share their insights with the larger EDST audience.

Keep an eye out for more posts in this series!


Co-authored by Aneet Kahlon, Erin Villaronga Mulligan, and Mark McLean, this blog post discusses the complexities of historical narratives surrounding education and white supremacy. Drawing insights from the work of Michael Marker and other course readings, the authors reflect on topics like colonial borders, Indigenous experiences, and educational structures.


In this post, we centered our discussion on the work of Michael Marker, an Arapaho scholar, whose invaluable contributions have not only left an enduring impact on the EDST community but have also significantly influenced scholarship in higher education (Gill et al., 2023).

Within our conversations we weave together our understandings of his work with other readings that we have been offered throughout our course to answer the question:

“What have you learned about the past in relation to education and white supremacy that you didn’t know before?”

ANEET: In other classes, we’ve talked about how borders are arbitrary concepts, but Michael Marker’s (2015) article, “Borders and Borderless Coast Salish: Decolonizing Historiographies of Indigenous Schooling,” made me think about this idea within the context of B.C.

India Pakistan border

It’s new for me to think about how Canadian residential schools and American boarding schools affected a single community differently depending on what side of the border they were on. It reminded me about the partition of India and Pakistan, where connected communities were forced to migrate to a specific side of a border randomly drawn up by a white man. I also think about my research because focusing on B.C. educational policies is a constraint that’s inherently colonizing. Indigenous communities don’t end at the border just because my analysis does.

MARK: I’m thinking about how many times Marker walks up to an idea and then shows that it’s too complex to follow in a short article, and instead notes another author in that space. These threads are worth pulling, and need to be pulled, and that makes the idea more complex.

ANEET: It’s been helpful to complicate ideas in this class!

MARK: When I read Marker’s work, I connected it back to a chapter of Thomas King’s (2012) book The Inconvenient Indian that we read; they both serve as a call to complicate things and acknowledge their complexity. As opposed to a flattened perspective, just on one side of the border. There is a quote in King’s work that says, “North America hates the Legal Indian. Savagely. The Legal Indian was one of those errors in judgment that North America made and has been trying to correct for the past 150 years” (King, 2012, p. 69). Each country wants to have a story to tell about what is going on with Indigenous peoples, Indigenous existence, and epistemologies, but all ignore complexity. In the U.S. it was public schools where Indigenous students experienced more racism, whereas Marker suggests that boarding schools were places where Indigenous students could also connect and define their own identity. This made me think about identity and what King (2012) called the “Dead Indian,” because as a nation, we’re not seeking out these complexities.

ERIN: Having done my undergraduate work at a U.S. institution, I guess I’ve never tried to fully articulate the experience of studying structural racism of public schools and educational inequality in an American context to learning about movements of indigenizing or decolonizing public schools in British Columbia. Because of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, I think many people are so focused on the historical aspect of residential schools, and not as much on the broader racist and colonial structures of modern public schooling systems. This is a complete flip in perspective for me; something that I’m processing as I talk through it now.

MARK: Yeah! Both articles speak to the idea of treating residential schools like they only existed in the past. And Canadians love a chance to forgive ourselves. We’re less concerned with the transition out of residential school systems, and how much racism and damage happened in that situation. Everything didn’t just end when the last residential school closed. Again, it’s just flattening a narrative.

CBC Article: Vehicle torched, lobster pounds storing Mi'kmaw catches trashed during night of unrest in N.S.

When we talked about the Boldt Decision and how the judge decided on fishing rights for Indigenous peoples in America, it reminded me of the CBC article talking about the Mi’kmaq lobster disputes in Nova Scotia. Canadian media didn’t know how to approach what was basically terrorism by white fisherman. So much of this results from an educational system where we’ve been taught this flat story, flat story, flat story. How different would it be if there was an understanding of the complexity of all this, for the Mi’kmaq and for our case, the Coast Salish?

Exploring histories of white supremacy

ERIN: I want to shout out a different article from one of Mona’s classes. It’s “‘The children show unmistakable signs of Indian blood’: Indigenous children attending public schools in British Columbia, 1872-1925” by Sean Carleton (2021). He writes about the history of Indigenous children that attended public schools in British Columbia. It was an interesting read for me not having known a lot about how public schools were established here. The stories of those children and the adults (Indigenous and settler) that facilitated their enrollment in those public schools added another dimension to that normally flat story you’re talking about, Mark. The histories of white supremacy and those fighting against it in the world of education don’t all follow the singular residential school narrative that gets told.

ANEET: Mark, you’ve made a good point! What we learn about through Canadian education systems must fit within the constraints of what Eurocentric values want us to learn. For example, social studies curriculum teaches “Canadian” or “B.C.’s” history. A bordered history. These constraints act as a mechanism of validating those imaginary borders.

MARK: Yeah! I keep thinking, Aneet, about your comment about the border in Punjab, and how people had to swap back and forth across the border. I just googled the Salish Sea because I never think about it as a unit in the same way that we think about the Mediterranean as a unit. It’s so hard to untangle… yeah, it’s just really hard to not see borders.

ERIN: And all our other units of geographical organization. Water borders have always been especially bizarre to me. Because water is water! You just can’t draw a border in water! And that really emphasizes another idea that I think Marker brings us face to face with within this article: about  how settlers conceptualize not only land, but place.

Place-based education is big, especially in early childhood right now, with things like forest schools, but we need to be careful about what type of teaching is still reinscribing very particular understandings of place that don’t align with the original stewards of this land. I don’t know if it’s possible to reach the same understanding. But if we’re taking children out for nature walks and talking about street names and showing them “borders” of parks and such, it’s almost like, what’s the point?

MARK: Totally! This connects well to “Decolonization is not a metaphor” by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang:

“These fantasies can mean the adoption of Indigenous practices and knowledge, but more, refer to those narratives in the settler colonial imagination in which the Native (understanding that he is becoming extinct) hands over his land, his claim to the land, his very Indian-ness to the settler for safe-keeping. This is a fantasy that is invested in a settler futurity and dependent on the foreclosure of an Indigenous futurity.”

Essentially, when settlers adopt watered-down practices of place-based learning, its main purpose is to reinforce a safe settler future.


We went for a walk in Musqueam territory for Pro-D day and they pointed out Iona Beach Regional Park across the river and showed us that it didn’t count as their territory. Musqueam has fishing rights, but they’re hampered by the actions of the logging industry across the river. I imagined these lines across the water and it’s an absurd, imposing, and abstract idea. It’s just a river.

musqueam teaching kit map

I wanted to share this map with you. Musqueam collaborates with the Museum of Anthropology, and they have a map that shows how the delta formed over 10,000 years ago. It made me think… MAN! Richmond didn’t exist 10,000 years ago. Indigenous peoples were here before Richmond existed as a physical land. Not only are these lines arbitrary, they’re also shifting!

References:

Announcing: The Research Day Blog Publication Award

As we prepare for this year’s “Research Day” in EDST…

We’re eager to explore a range of topics in educational research under the theme of “Power Revisited: Practices Against Complacency in Education,” chosen in honor of our department’s 30th anniversary.

Research Day is a wonderful opportunity to bring your research interests and work to others in the department, and to engage in dialogue with EDST colleagues.

Presentations will take on many forms, including:

    • Traditional paper presentations,
    • Ignite presentations (20 slides in 5 minutes),
    • art, film, and performance pieces,
    • Poster presentations.

Additionally, the day will feature roundtable and panel sessions with formats like: panelist presentations, group discussions, book presentations, and informal Scholars’ Café sessions.


One exciting addition to this year’s Research Day is the introduction of the Research Day Blog Publication Award.

Current EDST students who present at Research Day and subsequently transform their presentations into blog posts will be eligible to win 1 of 5 $50 UBC Bookstore gift card prizes. Blog posts are typically 500-1,000 words and follow a public facing writing format. The winners of the awards will be selected by the Blog’s Editorial Board.

We are excited for this collaboration between the EDST Blog and Research Day, and to showcase some of the exciting work by EDST students!

Deadline extend to May 31st

Click here to submit to this award.


The blog has several examples of past Research Day presentations transformed into blog posts, including:

To aid students in the process of transforming their Research Day presentations into blog posts, we’ve created a short template (below).

The template is intended as a resource to help students get started thinking about writing for a blog audience, and distilling the essential pieces of their presentation to include in a blog post.

Download the Template Here

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Submissions due: May 17th. Click below to submit.

Research Day Publication Award, Submission Button

Stay tuned for more details about this award at EDST Research Day.

Students with questions are encouraged to reach out to blog editor, Jessica Lussier (edstblog.editor@ubc.ca), for questions or support.

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Navigating Anti-Colonialism in Education: An Interview with Aneet Kahlon

This post is the second in a series of interviews with EDST student representatives.

The first post featured an interview with Silas Krabbe, GAA representative on GPACC.

Aneet Kahlon Banner

Today I am thrilled to introduce Aneet Kahlon (she/her/hers), a MA student and student representative in EDST. Aneet graciously took the time to share insights into her academic journey, research interests, and experiences within EDST.

Map of Calgart

From Science to SCPE

Aneet’s background before coming to EDST was in science learning. Coming from Calgary, AB Aneet earned her Biological Sciences degree at the University of Calgary, as well as a Bachelor of Education from the University of Alberta.

Originally wanting to come to UBC to study Marine Biology straight out high school, Aneet instead joined the Educational Studies department in fall 2022.

Finding Her Niche: SCPE and Anti-Racism 

In her pursuit of a Masters degree, Aneet found EDST’s SCPE (Society, Culture and Politics in Education) a wonderful fit, focusing on anti-racism and educational policy. Much of her previous university experiences were large, lecture-format classes, so she has really enjoyed the switch to smaller classes and the ability to talk about and engage in coursework with others.

Getting Involved as a Student Representative

Aneet is currently the student representative on the Scholarships and Awards Committee. While she hasn’t had the chance to meet with the committee this year, she is no stranger to volunteering in the department. Last year she was a SCPE student representative, and found it was a great way to meet people in EDST and get to know more about the inner-workings of the program.

People's Shadows (clipart)

Aneet shared her motivation for joining committees as a student representative, in that she aims to expand her involvement beyond classroom learning, emphasizing the importance of understanding the program’s decision-making processes.

Life Beyond EDST

When asked about hobbies, Aneet shared that she is learning to draw. In addition to taking drawing lessons, Aneet also enjoys doing other arts and crafts like embroidery, creative writing, journaling and poetry.

Aneet is hoping to incorporate her newfound passion for drawing into her thesis through the inclusion of family photos she has been drawing. She described how the process of carefully studying the small details of family photos has been a moving process which has allowed her to feel more connected to her grandparents and family memories. She credits one of her supervisors, Hartej Gill, for encouraging her to integrate creative outlets into her thesis, as she had incorporated creative writing into her own dissertation.

Around Vancouver

When asked about her favorite spots around Vancouver, Aneet shared that one of her favorite peaceful getaways is New Brighton Beach near Powell Street.

Another favorite spot is Main Street, particularly Caffe Artigiano. She might often be spotted browsing at a nearby bookstore before settling in to study at Caffe Artigiano with one of their delicious oat milk chai lattes. Aneet also enjoys immersing herself in Vancouver’s live music scene and appreciates the diverse range of local artists and the vibrant energy of the music scene.

Aneet’s Research and Experience with EDST

Aneet’s primary focus is on education policy research, specifically delving into anti-racism policy through an anti-colonial lens. Her thesis, titled “Anti-Colonial Content Analysis of Surrey School District’s Racial Equity Strategic Plan,” will examine how policy production impacts students, teachers, and communities. Her research is driven by a desire to challenge the status quo and advocate for anti-colonialism in education, aiming to create inclusive spaces where diverse voices are valued and heard.

As Aneet reflects on her journey, she’s grateful for the supportive community and the diverse perspectives she’s encountered in her time with EDST.

Thanks to Aneet for sharing her story!


Clipart of question and answer bubbles

This blog post was the second in a series of interviews with EDST student representatives. Click here to learn more about EDST’s committees and opportunities to get involved.

Are you a student representative interested in being featured on the EDST blog? Click here to reach out to our blog editor, Jessica Lussier.


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Navigating Education and Community: An interview with Silas Krabbe

This post is the first in a series of interviews with EDST student representatives.

Banner that reads "EDST Student Rep: Silas Krabbe"

Silas Krabbe (he/him/his) is a PhD student in UBC’S Educational Studies department. Silas was born and raised in Calgary, AB, but moved to Fraser Valley in 2007 for college. In 2013 he moved to Vancouver to begin his graduate studies, and in fall of 2019 he joined EDST to earn his MEd in SCPE (Society, Culture and Politics in Education).

In 2021 Silas rejoined EDST to begin his PhD in Educational Studies.

Clipart of document with magnifying glass

His research interests include violence, pedagogy, and philosophy of education. Some of his recent work includes:

In addition to these recent publications, Silas is currently co-editing a special issue on “antifacist education” for the journal Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies.

Silas currently serves as a GAA in the department, as well as the GAA research representative on the Graduate Programs Advisory and Curriculum Committee (GPACC). He chose to become an EDST representative to gain a better understanding of the department, and to learn more about where the department is heading.

Typically meeting once a month, the GPACC advises on all matters related to graduate education within EDST. Members review, advise, and assess the department’s educational philosophy, and curriculum development, as well as coordinate student enrolment, and organize student orientation and graduation activities.

For example, Silas shared that currently the GPACC is processing course approvals and reviewing syllabi for the summer terms. The other current discussion taking place in the committee is the topic of how many future courses ought to be offered in online, hybrid, and in-person modalities.

“One goal I try and keep in mind as a student rep is trying to consider how the decisions being made will effect the experience of EDST students in terms of having something of a learning community throughout their course of study.”

Starting his PhD program in the fall of 2021, Silas understands the importance of learning communities for EDST students, and shares:

"This goal is rooted in my own belief that education is best done with others and not in isolation.”

Beyond academia, on winter weekends Silas can found downhill skiing, while in the summers his free time is spent sailing around the Salish sea. Around the city, Silas might be found taking a walk through Pacific Spirit Park or at a Vancouver bar called “The Narrow.”


Interested in learning more about Silas’ work?

Silas will be presenting at EDST’s Doctoral Colloquium series, 

12-1:30pm, Thursday, January 11th.

Click below to RSVP for this catered event!

Banner describing Silas' Doctoral Colloquium event


Clipart of question and answer bubbles

This blog post was the first in a series of interviews with EDST student representatives. Click here to learn more about EDST’s committees and opportunities to get involved.

Are you a student representative interested in being featured on the EDST blog? Click here to reach out to our blog editor, Jessica Lussier.