Championing change

Jun 14 2017
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Sociology student reflects how experiences inside and outside the classroom made him a better human being

IMAGE_Convocation_Jason_G


When Jason Garcia walked through MacEwan’s doors as a student for the first time, he knew what he was here to do: check off all the requirements he needed for a future in neuroscience. But almost immediately his plan to study the brain was flipped on its head.

“I remember sitting in my first-year sociology class and hearing my prof say that the things we would be learning were essential life skills—things that would make us all better human beings. It felt so important, and it turned my life around. I knew I wanted to develop the ideas I had been thinking all along, and to learn how to think more critically about them.”

A month into that course, Jason was already mapping out a major in sociology—a path that dovetailed with the experiences he found himself having outside the classroom.

“ It makes me so happy to feel like the things other students and I have said, written or done here have actually turned into something meaningful.” JASON GARCIA 

“I think the moment I went to my first InQueeries club meeting was the same moment when I started getting the most out of my MacEwan experience,” he says. “It was a place where I could be myself, where I felt a sense of community, and had the opportunity to learn about why safer spaces matter.”

Over the next year, Jason became an executive member of InQueeries, then a peer supporter, a MacEwan ambassador and eventually, in his fourth year, SAMU’s vice-president of student life. In each role, he has been a champion for equality, LGBTQ issues, ending sexual violence and creating safe spaces.

They’re themes that wove their way into his academic work as well—taking part in initiatives like the #breakingstereotypes campaign and an anti-prejudice forum, a research project that challenged a local group’s efforts to reinforce rape myths, and an independent study with a classmate that involved creating a blog focused on connecting big ideas in sociology to current events, personal experiences, laws and policies.

“By the end of the semester, we had 4,000 people reading our blog and, by extension, involved in our class. I’m really proud of that. It’s different than presenting research at a conference, but it showed how important it is to make sociological and feminist knowledge more accessible. And that matters.”

Having conversations about tough subjects clearly isn’t something Jason shies away from—whether he was invited to contribute to discussions that would lead to an awareness campaign to end sexual violence, MacEwan hosting its first PRIDE Week, or introducing gender neutral washrooms and the ability for MacEwan students to designate a preferred name in university records.

“I think any institution struggles to have these difficult conversations, but I knew that at MacEwan we could trust that they could happen in a meaningful way,” says Jason. “It makes me so happy to feel like the things other students and I have said, written or done here have actually turned into something meaningful.”

Jason says he can’t think of a better way to demonstrate those changes than a recent Facebook post that found its way into his feed.

“A student had taken side-by-side photos of their former ID card and their new ID card after changing their name. They talked about how happy they were to be starting a new semester and that they could do it using their preferred name. It illustrates one of many changes that I think reflect our dynamic student population—changes I know will continue. I can’t help but think that 10 years from now MacEwan will look so different—only because I can’t imagine it looking the same.”

Jason will still be part of making those changes—at least for the coming year when he’s returning to MacEwan for his second mandate as a SAMU VP. After that, he’s considering a law degree or a master’s in sociology. But whatever path he follows, he knows it will involve advocating for marginalized groups and human rights.

“I got so much more than I originally thought I would when I went to MacEwan’s Open House as a high school student. I come away from my degree having learned a new language, done research and grown into a leader. And learning how to be a better human being. My sociology prof was right.”
 

MacEwan University is proud to celebrate the Class of 2017. Congratulations to this year's graduates, medal recipients and distinguished award honourees.


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