Sometimes the area of study that you start at university is not the career you end up in. Thanks to the flexible liberal education environment at the University of Lethbridge, exposure to new classes and ideas led to an inspiring new career for recent graduate Farah Rajan (BASc ’20).

Starting as a psychology major, Rajan needed to fill an elective in her first semester, so she took a women and gender studies class. And then another. And then another. This month, Rajan was proud to graduate with a bachelor of arts and science majoring in women and gender studies and psychology, and start a career that she didn’t know existed a few years ago.

“I think everyone would really benefit from taking a women and gender studies class,” says Rajan. “It’s more than just talking about men and women. We talk about individuals who are non-binary, who are transgender, and their experiences in the world. We talk about qualities such as race, socioeconomic status, sexual and gender identity… there are so many intersecting ways in which an individual’s life can be impacted by societal inequality.”

Compelled by the discussions and passionate faculty, Rajan took on a minor in women and gender studies before going all in and switching her major. The classes, coursework and faculty helped Rajan develop one of the most important skills that she’s taking into her career – critical thinking.

“I learned all of my critical thinking skills from women and gender studies,” confirms Rajan. “Before taking these classes, I was very ‘stick by the books,’ but every women and gender studies class focused on critical thinking and class discussions. It was intimidating at first, but with the help of faculty members and listening to my peers, I was really able to develop those skills and learn new things in every class.”

Rajan says she’s always wanted to work in the non-profit industry, and she quickly realized pursuing an education in women and gender studies would help her reach this goal. She also got involved in volunteer and community work at the University that opened the door to new opportunities.

“In my first year I got involved in the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), a student group that sponsored student refugees to study at the University of Lethbridge,” shares Rajan. “This was when the Syrian refugee crisis was all over the media and I needed to do something to help. I'm really thankful I found this group because the students are all inspiring and driven to make change in this world. Being in WUSC also helped support my decision to go into a career that's based on social justice and the non-profit field.”

Later in her degree, Rajan became involved in the Campus Women’s Centre, a resource and referral centre for uLethbridge students, acting as a coordinator for a year and a half.

“I loved my position at the Campus Women's Center,” says Rajan. “It was really nice to make a positive contribution to the campus and my field. It also pushed me to look for a career focused on gender-based violence, which I hadn't really thought about before. Both WUSC and my experience at the campus women's center really encouraged me and pushed me both personally and academically forward with my career to make some positive differences.”

Before COVID cutbacks, Rajan was proud to start a career at the YWCA Lethbridge and District in the Outreach Services Department.

“I think everyone should take at least one women and gender studies class. It’s important for individuals to see the gaps that are currently in place, in education and in the larger societal structures. By taking these classes, I hope that students are able to be a part of these discussions and make positive contributions to their workplace and their own lives.”