Castlegar Selkirk student earns prestigious title of UBC Chancellor Scholar
Fraser Sutherland entered Selkirk College with an open mind to the meanderings of her post-secondary interests, confident the School of University Arts & Sciences would point her in the right direction.
“If you are not sure what you want to do or where you want to go, Selkirk provides that opportunity to explore,” says the 19-year-old, who graduated from Castlegar’s Stanley Humphries Secondary and came straight to Selkirk College. “The teachers really mentor you, they really invest in you and foster your learning. It gives you more confidence and helps you find what you are passionate about and what interests you the most.”
After two years of connecting with her educational passions, Sutherland is off to the University of British Columbia (UBC) where she enters as a Chancellor Scholar. For the fall semester, Sutherland will begin her third year of a double-major in creative writing and history.
UBC awards the prestigious Chancellor Scholar distinction to those students who enter the Vancouver-based university with an outstanding academic background. In her four semesters at Selkirk College, Sutherland maintained a perfect 4.0 grade-point-average.
“It takes lots of work… and good notes,” laughs Sutherland. “There is a lot of pressure in maintaining those grades, but getting to that point provides a lot of pride.”
Parents Set the Tone for Education
Sutherland’s academic achievements are impressive, but not surprising considering her lineage. Her grandfather was a history professor at UBC, her mother majored in history and her father is a history instructor at Selkirk College.
Though her pathway may seem obvious now, it wasn’t always the case.
“There was a time between 12 and 14 when we were on vacation, my dad would want to go to another museum and you would think: ‘No, not another one!’” she says. “You grow out of that and then you start to enjoy it… then you major in it.”
Her parents were enthusiastic about history and politics, but Sutherland says they never pushed a specific academic route. Instead, they encouraged their oldest daughter to figure it out on her own. It finally clicked in high school.
“There was a semester when I didn’t have social studies in high school and then I realized how much I really missed it,” says Sutherland. “I really like the stories and humanity… looking at people and seeing the differences, but also the similarities throughout time.”
Rewards for Hard Work
Sutherland entered Selkirk College with a high school entrance scholarship and her continued academic success provided more financial assistance once she arrived. She received numerous scholarships over the two years and to prepare for entrance into UBC was awarded the prestigious Ike Barber Transfer Scholarship.
Combined with jobs at the Castlegar Library and Rossland Museum over the last two years, Sutherland has managed to make the often daunting cost of a post-secondary education less challenging.
“By living at home and working, I actually made more money than I spent on school. It’s been a big help,” she says.
An Unexpected Outlet for Expression
Sutherland entered Selkirk College with a focus on history, but early in her post-secondary studies found an additional passion with creative writing.
When she was in high school, Sutherland wrote every day. It was more of a hobby and a way to look at everyday life from a different angle.
“Sometimes you have to stop, look at the world and figure out how you can twist it into art,” she says. “It’s a process of how can I make a simple table into something beautiful through words.”
She enjoyed writing, but hadn’t given it much thought beyond the volumes of notepads on her shelf. Then Sutherland took a creative writing course with instructor Almeda Glenn Miller and was hooked.
“She cares so much about your learning experience and really believes in her students,” says Sutherland. “For me, Almeda really understood my individual learning style and helped bring out the best in my writing.”
With the spark for taking writing more seriously ignited, Sutherland ended up taking six creative writing classes over her two years. Her confidence grew to the point where she submitted her portfolio to UBC’s Creative Writing Program which is considered Canada’s most prestigious incubators of talent.
“It’s a very competitive program and I didn’t give myself much of a chance,” says Sutherland. “It’s pretty special to be accepted and to know my work is at that level.”
It All Started Close to Home
Sutherland is excited to be spreading her wings and embarking on a new journey at a much larger school. Though she is understandably nervous about the transition, Sutherland is emboldened by the foundation provided by Selkirk College.
“It was the right choice for me, no question,” she says.
Sutherland admits she will miss the cozy classroom atmosphere at Selkirk College and familiar setting of her hometown.
“The environment at Selkirk College is the best part,” she says. “You arrive there in the morning and there will be somebody playing piano in The Pit, then you go to class and the instructor knows your name. You eat the soup-of-the-day with your friends in the cafeteria and it really feels comfortable to be on campus. I wish they had a four-year program so I could stay.”