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Research and Graduate Studies

Student RA Spotlight


“If I met me in my first year, I wouldn’t even recognize me!”

Alicia Dyck knows that she has come a long way since her first semester at UFV. She recalls being a shy, quiet student who lacked a sense of belonging but in her third year, it all changed. “I used to feel like I was at UFV for no reason but then I found my real community and it was an instant click,” Alicia says. 

“It took me a really long time to figure out what I wanted my major to be. I started in history, went to political science then thought I might want to be a teacher. I didn’t know anything about Global Development Studies (GDS). I looked into it and right away thought ‘oh my gosh, I want to do this’.’’

Alicia credits GDS for being the turning point in her university experience. In her 3rd year, she did a practicum with a lawyers group called Advocates Without Borders in South Sudan providing legal representation to anyone needing help, specifically combatting gender-based violence and campaigning for policies. 

The next semester, Alicia registered for a course with Dr. Geetanjali Gill, who she came to admire greatly. Alicia emailed her and asked if she had any research assistant positions. Enter a ground-breaking opportunity in foreign climes! 

In summer 2021, Alicia joined Dr. Gill and Catherine Liao’s project on Albinism in Sierra Leone. Her area of focus was gender-equity. “The project had ten gender champions who we trained remotely in a 4-hours session. Champions took what they learned back to their communities to share their learnings,” Alicia explains. In an effort to further empower persons with albinism in rural regions of Sierra Leone, gender champions were also taught the long-standing cultural tradition of weaving.

Reflecting on the experience, Alicia notes, “when you get to talk to the people you’re working with and they tell you how they’ve been impacted, it’s just the best feeling to know you made a difference. Seeing how you can take your breadth of knowledge, share it with someone else, then see the impact on their life is definitely a huge highlight!” 

“I’m so grateful for Geetanjali and the opportunities. She’s my biggest role model,” Alicia says. “I’m excited to start our next project working with the George Washington Institute for Gender-equality. The topic is gender-based violence in refugee camps in Uganda and Lebanon.” 

Expressing her appreciation for her research assistant experience, Alicia adds, “UFV is so unique in the fact that students get to do student research assistantships and conduct academic research as an undergrad. It’s a small community but when you make good connections, they really stick.” 

Wishing she got involved with research sooner in her academic journey, she shares her advice for the shy student - “professors want to engage with you. They won’t even remember how awkward you were the first time you met. If you like what you study, you’ll love being a research assistant. It’s that simple.”

In addition to her amazing experiences, Alicia recognizes her academic advisor for countless hours of dedication and career advice. “Kristen Trustham, my advisor since day one, is the most amazing and supportive person. I’ve seen her every semester, including summer, and she has always guided me on the right path and encouraged me. I’m sure I changed my major like ten times!” 

Following her practicum, Alicia knew she’d found her calling working in law and once again met with her advisor to confirm her academics were aligned with her career choice. She is thankful for the doors that were opened to her by her time in GDS and in the RA positions that followed. “My involvement with Advocates Without Borders was what got me thinking ‘I could really do this for the rest of my life!’” Alicia has completed her LSAT and is applying to law school.



Kia Neilsen experienced first-hand the impact one high school teacher and one university professor can have on a student’s academic journey, career direction, and personal development.

Kia began her university journey in 2017, like many other students, working a part-time job, only coming to campus for...


Digital mapping. Satellite imagery. Statistical analysis. Sound intriguing? Lyndon Hunter sure thinks so. Mapping travel plans or mapping weather patterns, Lyndon has been interested in mapping as far back as he can remember.  

Lyndon had never taken an agriculture course but...


Raveena Walia graduated from UFV in 2019 with a double-major in history and political science – a pathway, she says, that offered “so many amazing experiences” to explore her passion for human rights.

In May 2017, Raveena took a 300-level course on the history of the Holocaust with Dr. Steven Schroeder, which included a study-abroad tour through...


“You can’t learn everything from a textbook. You need to be able to apply the knowledge - research gives you this opportunity.”

Elahe Tajbakhsh came to UFV as an international student from Iran to pursue...


Born and raised in Chandigarh, Ishpreet Anand began his Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree at UFV India. Two years later, he traveled to UFV Abbotsford as an international student to continue his educational journey.

When Ishpreet arrived on campus, he immediately...


Education is expensive but “getting a job without an education is really tough.” Sien Barnett’s mom shared this insight with him when he was only in grade 7.

At 12 years old, after many cross-country moves, Sien and family settled in BC. “After my mom had kids, she went back to university but as a single mom...


Research is just looking through a microscope, right? Katrina Frankenberger, a fourth year kinesiology student with an extended minor in psychology, fell prey to this misconception when her first research opportunity presented itself. “I always thought of research as...


From photography to formaldehyde. Ken Ku is set to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree (bio-honours, chem minor) but that’s not where university started for him. While Ken had a strong focus on science in high school, he was recruited to...


“What do I really have to share?” was Larissa Kowalski’s first reaction to the request to share her experiences as a UFV student research assistant. While she did add that she had “had some amazing experiences and opportunities”, it was easy to see the extent of her accomplishments and valuable experiences.


RuoYu Xiao came from a hard-working family of farmers with no academic background. RuoYu chuckles as she shares “we never thought I’d be an academic, but now I’m on this path to become a researcher.” As a first-generation university student and an international student from Chengdu, China, RuoYu wanted to maximize ...


Field-based research provided Travis Gingerich with the chance “to experience so many landscapes and remote locations that would otherwise be very difficult to get to. Once there, you get to know them on a much more intimate level than you ever would as a tourist or traveler.” During field studies...


Now what? Emily Rettich graduated high school and wasn’t sure what her next step should be. After a few years off, Emily enrolled at UFV in the area of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) working towards a degree in Physics. It wasn’t until year two when Emily discovered her passion for ...

“When you get to talk to the people you’re working with and they tell you how they’ve been impacted, it’s just the best feeling to know you made a difference. Seeing how you can take your breadth of knowledge, share it with someone else, then see the impact on their life is definitely a huge highlight!”

  • – Alicia Dyck
  •    Global Development Studies (GDS)

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