Monir Shahzeidi is this year's Governor General’s Academic Medal gold medal recipient

From accounting student to graduate researcher

July 26, 2021
Author: Eric Zimmer

Monir Shahzeidi is this year’s recipient of VIU's Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal

A decision to switch from pursuing a Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) designation to the recreation and tourism field paid dividends for Monir Shahzeidi.

Monir recently finished a Master of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management at VIU. Beyond just graduating, however, she is also recipient of this year's Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal award.

The annual award recognizes the student who has achieved the highest academic standing upon graduation from a VIU master’s degree program.

“It is absolutely the most honorable award I could even imagine in my life,” says Monir. “I feel proud and am grateful for the recognition of my research, which was made possible from the amazing support I received at VIU.”

The recognition “motivates me to pursue my passion even stronger than before and promote equity, diversity and inclusion through my research,” she adds.

Monir's research thesis focuses on the influence of leisure on the quality of life of refugees, as well as on people’s behaviour during outdoor recreative activities.

We caught up with Monir to get her thoughts on the program, the award, and her overall experience at VIU. 

What drew you to pursue the Master of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management at VIU?

Prior to starting my master’s, I was a CPA student. However, I have been engaged in leisure and tourism as a research assistant and also as my personal interest. I worked as a research assistant and was actively engaged in nature-based tourism research at the University of Alberta and the University of Northern BC. I decided to switch to leisure and tourism management as it fits well with my interests. The Master of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management program at VIU was a great opportunity for me to pursue this goal. I aim to contribute to knowledge generation through collaborative research and bridge my experiences to theoretical perspectives, practical applications and rigorous research, and the MASLM program provided me with this opportunity.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced (COVID-19) or otherwise, and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge was that I started my thesis research when the global pandemic happened, so I had to change my research design quite a bit. I launched my survey through online platforms instead of a paper questionnaire. My participants were located outside of Canada and my original plan was to travel to their place of residents to conduct my survey and interviews. I had to make significant changes to my research plan to fit with social restrictions. It took some time to adapt to the new challenges and apply changes. However, I learned how to manage unavoidable changes, stay focused, and connected with my peers and supervisor.

What’s next for you?

I plan to continue my education and research. Recently I’ve been admitted into the doctoral program at University of British Columbia. This will provide me with the opportunity to expand my knowledge and understanding of research. My research goal is to study vulnerable populations’ challenges and to increase awareness of these challenges to improve their quality of life. 

How do feel your time at VIU helped in your path towards achieving this goal?

VIU supported me in pursuing my academic and professional goals. I was encouraged and supported by the most professional and experienced professors at VIU. Completing the MASLM program prepared me for conducting rigorous research and disseminating my research findings. 

What was the highlight of your time at VIU, and what has been the biggest takeaway? 

If I had to highlight just one thing, it’s the friendly environment of the MASLM program. All the professors, staff and students are there to provide you with a fantastic experience and a positive learning environment. The multicultural setting introduced me to lovely people from multiple different cultures and those people are now my friends from across the globe. Diversity and inclusion are the highlights of MALSM and VIU if I want to name the top ones.   

Outside of school, what are some of your hobbies or recreational pursuits?

I love travelling. This is not only fun but also allows me to improve my resilience, interact with people and learn about different cultures. My favourite daily activities are nature-based adventures. I do a lot of backcountry hiking. 

Anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for the opportunity. I hope I have the chance to continue and improve my research to generate quality knowledge that can solve humanity’s challenges.   

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