January 21, 2016 - 10:15am
Never underestimate the power of a small university with dedicated faculty to change students’ lives.
Just ask Vancouver Island University (VIU) graduate Katelin Albert (née, Bowes).
Albert grew up in Powell River and came to VIU in 2003 to play soccer for the women’s varsity team. At first, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, wasn’t a top student, and had never heard of graduate school. However, she was curious and outgoing and soon began to pursue her interests in psychology and sociology.
The combination of VIU’s small class sizes, personal attention, patient professors and undergraduate research opportunities, coupled with her own natural inquisitiveness, helped Albert blossom. “VIU changed my life,” says Albert, who will be receiving VIU’s 2016 Distinguished Alumni Early Achievement Award at the convocation ceremony on January 28. “I am beyond honoured and humbled to receive this award.”
Albert completed a double Major in Psychology and Sociology with Distinction at VIU in 2008, then a Master’s degree in Sociology at the University of Victoria. She is currently a fifth year PhD candidate in Canada’s top-ranked Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto.
Albert has garnered provincial, national and international acclaim for her scholarship and is well on her way to becoming a university professor. In January, she will begin teaching a fourth year undergraduate level course she developed titled, “Gender, Health, and Medicine.”
“Katelin’s path through graduate school has left her former professors in awe,” says VIU sociology professor, Dr. Linda Derksen.
“She has progressed rapidly through her PhD program, attends national and international conferences where she meets and speaks to leaders in her field. Some have invited her to work with them on a wide variety of projects. It’s truly remarkable for someone at her stage to garner this kind of attention.”
In September 2014, Albert’s first solo authored publication was published in the Canadian Journal of Sociology, titled, “Erasing the social from social science: The intellectual costs of boundary-work and the Canadian Institute of Health Research.”
“Within 24 hours of the paper being posted on the journal’s website, Katelin was receiving emails from scholars across Canada saying that her paper was a ‘must read’ for the year,” says Derksen. “This attention for a student’s first solo authored paper is, in our experience, unprecedented.”
Albert also received international attention for a second solo-authored publication in The American Sociologist titled, “Towards a New Normal: Emergent Elites and Feminist Scholarship.”
“This was an invited critique of a very prominent, senior scholar’s latest book,” explains Derksen. “The author of the book later said that Katelin had posed the ‘toughest’ critique of his work.”
Albert credits VIU and its professors with providing a solid foundation for her success.
“Looking back, going to VIU was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she says. “I wouldn’t have succeeded at a bigger school. I would have fallen through the cracks…. All the professors at VIU are so dedicated to teaching, and students get one-on-one attention. There is no other opportunity like that.”
Albert says her former VIU professors, especially Dr. Linda Derksen and psychology professor Dr. Brad Piekkola, “must have seen a diamond in the rough. They were so dedicated to my success.”
As a teaching assistant for Sociology classes at the University of Victoria, and then in the Department of Sociology at University of Toronto, Albert is aware of the enormous advantage of VIU’s small and diverse classes. In Toronto, she was a teaching assistant for a first year sociology course, which teaches 1,500 students at one time. The class is so large that it is held in Convocation Hall.
“The class would have filled Nanaimo’s Port Theatre,” she says. “Because of the sheer numbers of students at larger schools, it’s difficult for undergrad students to get to know their professors.”
“I have lots of friends with kids going to university. At the end of day, a lot of big schools are hard to navigate as a 17 year old. I see them get overwhelmed. For me, as a young student, VIU was much more manageable. Professors will notice if you’re absent and ask if you are okay. I always felt very supported academically, personally, and emotionally at VIU. The professors really helped me believe in myself and my academic abilities. I hope I can do the same for students when I am a professor.”
As a PhD candidate, Albert’s doctoral dissertation research focuses on the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, a vaccine designed to prevent certain HPV related cancers. She is studying how parents, adolescents, and educators understand this vaccine in relation to adolescent health and sexual health.
Her PhD research is supported by prestigious scholarships including a $40,000 Doctoral Award from the Social Science & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) as well as a $10,000 Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS).
In addition to her own research, Albert currently works as a research assistant for projects on gender-based refugee claims, as well as a project investigating the social, structural, and institutional factors related to sexual violence and assault on university campuses in Toronto.
While keeping busy with her scholarly work, she continues to teach and play music, play and organize women’s soccer, and volunteers as a youth badminton coach.
“To say that we’re proud of Katelin is an understatement,” adds Derksen. “She is an inspiration, and an everyday reminder of why we work so hard for student success at VIU.”
Janina Stajic, Manager, Vancouver Island University
P: 250-740-6288 E: Janina.Stajic@viu.ca Twitter: @VIUNews
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