Painting a picture of our people

February 23, 2016

Portraits of MacEwan stories resonate with students, faculty and staff 

Portraits of MacEwan is a series of photos and short stories about students, faculty and staff that the university has been publishing on its Facebook page since July 2015. During that time, more than 70 people have shared a snapshot of their lives with the university community. Here are a few student stories that really seem to resonate—in total, these five stories received 2,353 likes and were shared 349 times.


I moved to Canada from Ukraine with my mom, who’s a doctor, when I was 13 years old. We were searching for a better life. I didn’t speak any English and the school I went to didn’t have an ESL program. Nobody could pronounce my name so they sat me down on my first day of school and said “Jane or Jennifer, pick.” Jane stuck, but my actual name is Yevheniya.

I know how terrifying it was for me and my mom when we arrived in Canada. We had nobody who could answer our questions—what bus should we take or what store do we go shopping at? We felt like nobody would want to talk to us—we didn’t even speak the language—but it turns out most Canadians love helping people and are really patient. I think I have a lot to offer international students because of that personal experience.

Jane, 4th year, Bachelor of Commerce


In Iran, I was a human rights activist working with battered women and minorities. That’s how I got into trouble. I was in the street taking signatures, holding workshops and meetings, and going to officials asking for change around these issues. It was nothing really huge, but I was also a member of the religious minority, and that brought a lot of attention on me. I got arrested once and was sentenced to one year in prison. I was 20 years old.

In appellate court, they delayed my sentence for five years and said I wouldn’t go to prison if I didn’t do anything else in that time. When I came out of prison, it was really beautiful. There were so many people waiting outside—relatives, friends, neighbours and others who had nothing in common with me, but knew I was trying to do something positive and wanted to show their support.

A few months later, I found myself in trouble again, so I ran with my family to Turkey and eventually came to Canada as a refugee.

This summer, I went back to Turkey for two weeks and used many of the things I learned in my first year of Social Work to offer workshops around human rights. It was incredible to learn something and then be able to use that knowledge to give back.

As a refugee and an immigrant, I have seen some of the gaps in the system and I decided that I should be the person to help fix them. I want to get my master’s in social work and eventually work with refugees in some way.

Dorsa, 2nd year, Social Work diploma


I’m from Fort Simpson—a small town of about 1,300 people in the Northwest Territories where the Mackenzie and Liard rivers meet, so I like winter—it’s just normal for me. The first snowfall at home is in early September, so it felt strange to be walking around in November and not have any snow. I feel like my body temperature is so weird. When I walk around outside in Edmonton in the fall, I come indoors and feel overheated. It’s so confusing.

In Fort Simpson, we have one paved road and a ferry that runs for about six months of the year. You can drive across the river on the ice road in the winter, but for a month in the spring and a month in the fall, while it’s freezing or thawing, you can’t.

Last spring, I was able to write my exams a few weeks early so I could make it home in time to drive across before the river melted too much. The two years before I was at a different school and couldn’t leave early so I had to leave my truck and take a helicopter from one side of the river to the other. The ride lasted a few minutes and cost about $300.

Malorey, Arts and Cultural Management


I grew up in a First Nations community and every October, everyone would get upset about the way Aboriginal Peoples were portrayed in Halloween costumes—especially the way women are heavily sexualized.
So when I was taking a sociological research methods class last semester, I decided to use my final research project to look at how these costumes represented Aboriginal women, their culture and identity.

I looked at 52 costumes from two online stores and two storefronts in Edmonton. I examined the costume’s title, description and characteristics, and there were definitely some trends. The costumes reinforced the notion of the Pocahontas Paradox in which Aboriginal women are seen as either the noble princess or sexual savage—and many of the titles and descriptions sexualized Aboriginal women, detailing how wearing the costume would help them attract men, or help them become a rebellious warrior and leave the Aboriginal culture.

Many people say that these costumes do no harm, or that they shouldn’t be taken seriously, but I disagree. They reinforce stereotypes that are in complete contrast to the strong Aboriginal women I’ve known my whole life.

Keestin, 4th year, Bachelor of Arts, presenter at Student Research Week


Finishing my case study on anti-feminism was one of the most relieving moments of my academic career. As a feminist-identifying male and ally to survivor and victim rallies and movements, it was painful—almost soul shattering—to read, watch and listen to anti-feminist web, video and photo content from men’s rights groups.

Since my first encounter with one of Men’s Rights Edmonton’s posters of their "Don't Be That Girl" counter-campaign to the "Don’t Be That Guy" campaign by the Edmonton Police Service in the summer of 2013, I couldn’t help but feel angry and frustrated. I decided to turn those feelings into a personal challenge by researching the notions of male activism that Men’s Rights Edmonton was propagating in sexual assault counter-initiatives.

Sexual assault impacts too many people—often people we know—and needs to be better understood. Victim-blaming and sexual assault myths do an incredible injustice to survivors by delegitimizing their experiences and traumas.

We can’t forget that men are victims of sexual violence too—and they face incredible barriers in reporting. Taking the focus away from anti-sexual assault campaigns not only counteracts feminist accomplishments, it also means the voices of male survivors aren’t given the attention they deserve.

Jason, 4th year, Bachelor of Arts, presenter at Student Research Week

Check out the full collection of Portraits of MacEwan stories and follow MacEwan University on Facebook to see our future posts.

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Read more about our students:

Honours research takes anthropology major out of the classroom and into a Peruvian village
The many faces of student research
18 incredible student moments in 2015

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