Maryam Golafshani

maryamProgram: School for Advanced Studies in the Arts & Humanities

Year of Study: Four

Hometown: Waterloo, Ontario

Extra-Curricular Involvement: Public Humanities at Western, Arts & Humanities Students' Council (AHCS), Publications Editor (The Word Hoard)

Why did you choose Arts and Humanities at Western?

I started my first year at Western in the Faculty of Science, and switched into the School for Advanced Studies in the Arts and Humanities upon entering my second year. In the midst of courses like Calculus and Chemistry, I took Dr. Bentley’s Enhanced Intro to English Literature, and very quickly discovered that what I wanted from my university education could be more readily found in my arts classes. I craved courses that would challenge me to think beyond memorization, assess me on creativity rather than a “right” answer, and encourage me to debate during seminar-style classes. My experience was that those things were almost always a priority in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, prompting me to make the switch. 

What is one highlight of your Arts and Humanities experience so far?

The opportunity to study abroad for a year at the University of St Andrews on the stunning east coast of Scotland stands out as the most significant highlight of my Western experience. Building a new life in a new place with new people forced me to re-evaluate my habits, complacencies, and assumptions about everything. It also gave me something to compare my Western experience to; I now have no doubt that my Western education is just as thorough and rigorous as prestigious universities around the world, and that student life here is just as bustling and diverse. Studying abroad was just one of the many opportunities I’ve had to engage with diverse people, practices, and cultures because of Western’s increasing value in international experiences, and those experiences have been formative to the way I approach my studies and life.   

What are your plans after graduation?

I hope to eventually pursue medical school, but there are a few things I want to do before that: continue to gain experience in medical settings, conduct research at the intersection of the humanities and health, and pursue an M.A. program. There are still so many arts courses that I wish I could have taken, so I know that my arts education won’t end upon graduation. But I’m also excited to immerse myself in opportunities that let me put to practice (or, at the very least, witness others putting to practice) all that I’ve learned and thought about during my undergrad. More specifically: I’ve spent a lot of my undergrad learning and researching the ways in which what we do in arts and humanities classrooms can be harnessed for medical education and practice, so I’m eager to bring myself closer to clinical environments where that kind of work is actually happening. 

What advice would you give to incoming Arts and Humanities students?

Your passion and work in the arts and humanities is exceptionally valuable. You will have to fight for that sometimes, but that fight is worth it because there are so many challenges the world faces that will be solved through the empathy, creativity, storytelling, story-listening, sensitivity, and critical thinking that an arts and humanities education so rigorously instills in you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re just reading books or watching movies or painting pictures in your classes; the work you do is rigorous and has profound implications for how we navigate the world and how we understand what that world is in the first place. 

What is the best thing about your program/department?

The School for Advanced Studies in the Arts and Humanities’ (SASAH) focus on interdisciplinary and experiential education is what, in my opinion, makes this program so amazing. This recognition that knowledge is increasingly moving beyond the boundaries of disciplines and classrooms reflects how SASAH strives to be at the forefront of the future of education. SASAH is still strongly grounded in rigorous academic research, but also emphasizes how this research should continuously be informed by, engaged with, and applied to broader communities—from different disciplines and activities across our campus, to the broader London community, and the even wider global community. Learning and creating in SASAH happens as community—a community in which what the students, professors, and administrators have to think, say, and do is equally valued. When you have a genuine stake in your own education and when you see the real-world dividends of that education, you inevitably develop an intrinsic motivation to make the best of that learning opportunity—that’s ultimately why SASAH is such an amazing program. 

TEDx Talk: