“We’re graduating in a time when it’s more important than ever to stand up and fight for what we believe in.”
As a recently graduated SFU alumni, Brianna Mau reflects on her time as a student at Simon Fraser University. Last fall, Mau completed her undergraduate degree with a major in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (GSWS), and a double minor in Sociology & Anthropology and Communications. She also completed the Social Justice Certificate from the department of Sociology & Anthropology.
With personal interests in intersectionality and feminism, Mau says she saw these reflected in courses offered by the GSWS department. She found GSWS faculty and instructors to be insightful and knowledgeable and says they were incredibly influential in her learning. In particular, Mau says Dr. Coleman Nye and Dr. Rebecca Yoshizawa created a safe but engaging learning environment which was necessary for approaching the sometimes challenging topics she encountered.
While Mau enjoyed all of her instructors and coursework, she said two courses have had lasting impacts on her: Critical Disability Studies (GSWS 315), where she learned about accessibility issues and how rampant they are, and Fat Studies (Special Topics in GSWS), which challenged her biases about health and revealed how deeply ingrained into society and how harmful fatphobia is.
In her Critical Disability Studies’ class, Mau says one class project that was particularly engaging was when students were instructed to add audio description over a Youtube clip. She says this project “made clear to me how important accessibility to media content is, and also how much that area is lacking.” It’s a perspective and knowledge she’s certain to carry with her into future jobs and during her everyday life.
Outside of classes, Mau also volunteered as a Peer Mentor for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS). Among its many benefits, like gaining leadership and mentorship skills, her role as peer mentor led to a longer-term paid position within FASS.
Mau also took advantage of the exchange program through Study Abroad at SFU and hopes to travel internationally again one day, once it is safe to do so.
These days, Mau holds two permanent part-time jobs that keep her busy and challenged creatively.
Learning about systems of oppression and how living under them can impact and marginalize the lived experience of real individuals has been eye-opening and changed her overall world perspective. Mau is committed to approaching her work with an anti-oppression lens. “I'll be applying a lot of what I learned in GSWS to not only my jobs but also to my life,” she says.
When asked what advice she gives to current students, Mau says finding time management and organizational skills that work for you are paramount. Thanks to regular use of planners and list-making, she says she managed to complete her entire undergrad without ever having to pull a dreaded “all-nighter.” To her peers, Mau urges them “to take all those countless hours spent researching, reading, and writing papers, and transform them into real, impactful actions that create lasting change.”
This story was originally published on the Gender Sexuality, and Women's Studies website on March 16, 2021.