Aleah Bastien (BA '21) came to the University of Lethbridge with very different academic plans from the path she is currently on. As an undergrad, Aleah discovered her passion for research and activism. With the encouragement of her professors, she has actualized a path of continued post-secondary education as she works towards finishing her master's thesis for her MA in women and gender studies.

This environment fosters community and compassion and has allowed me to grow as an individual and an academic. I genuinely don't know what my life or career would look like without the opportunities I've been granted academically and personally at ULethbridge.

Meet Aleah | Advocate. Feminist Killjoy. Academic.
Program: Master of Arts | Major: Women & Gender Studies

Why did you choose ULethbridge?

I initially came to ULethbridge for my undergraduate degree and chose to stay for my graduate degree, given the opportunity to work within a leading research institution. I had never considered, nor did I believe, that I would be able to pursue graduate studies. However, my professors encouraged and supported my decision to continue my studies. Pursuing graduate studies at ULethbridge has granted me opportunities I never dreamed I would have.

What is your research based on? What unique opportunities do you get by taking part in this research?

My research focuses on access to sexual violence services for 2SLGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and faith-affirmed communities on campus and within Lethbridge/rural surroundings. During my research process, I have had the opportunity to work with the Chinook Sexual Assault Centre through a MITACS-funded internship. Through this research, I was able to learn a front-line trauma-informed perspective when it comes to sexual violence prevention and outreach. Working with the Chinook Sexual Assault Centre also allowed me to determine the practical application of my research is just as important as the theoretical aspects of my research. Without my time at the Centre, I would not have been able to develop my research to the extent that I have, nor would I be able to fully understand the importance of a trauma-informed framework and outreach work when it comes to anti-sexual violence resources and efforts.

What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience?

Recently, I represented the Department of Women & Gender Studies (WGST) during New Student Orientation (NSO). It was an incredibly nostalgic moment, as I remember being a first-year student with little to no idea where my time at university would take me. It filled me with immense pride to represent the WGST department and the University, which have granted me many opportunities to become a scholar and an advocate.

How have your professors impacted your education?

Without the support of my professors, I don't believe I would have ever thought I was capable enough to pursue a graduate degree. The professors I have had the pleasure of learning from here at the University of Lethbridge have always encouraged me to critically ask “why” — a simple question but one that has carried me throughout my undergraduate and graduate degree. The lessons of my professors have fuelled my research and my passion for creating spaces for compassion, empathy, and kindness.

In her aim to serve diverse communities experiencing sexual assault and seeking compassionate services, Ms. Bastien's research anticipates the creation of more inclusive institutional and organizational Gender and Sexual Violence policies and modes of delivering trauma-informed care. – Dr. Carol Williams, Department of Women & Gender Studies, nominated Aleah as a Shining Student.

Is there someone else who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?

I wouldn't be the academic or the person I am without the influence and support of on-campus student organizations like the Campus Collective Centre. The Campus Collective Centre offered me the space and the ability to connect with my peers in ways I never had before — aligning my work with my university and my passion for advocacy.

Have you received any scholarships and awards?

I have received the Mitacs-funded internship - partially funded by the Chinook Sexual Assault Centre. This scholarship was one of the first initial reasons I considered graduate school a possibility. The confidence CEO Kristine Cassie showed in my work by contributing half of the allotted scholarship money helped immensely. This helped financially, but it also helped reassure me that I was taking the right steps in pursuing graduate schooling — and CSAC's continued support of my work is humbling and greatly appreciated.

I have also received the Alberta Graduate Excellence Award and the University of Lethbridge Graduate Research Award. Both helped ensure I had little to no worries about the cost of living, tuition, and research costs. Without the help of these awards, I honestly would not have been able to complete my degree.

What is the most important lesson you have learned so far at ULethbridge?

Follow your curiosity, and don’t hesitate to step out of your comfort zone. If I hadn't followed my curiosity about social justice, equity, and feminism, I would not have had the same opportunities or experience. Stepping out of your comfort zone is also a sure way to change the path that you're on — most times for the better — which you may not even realize.

What are your hopes/plans for the future?

I hope my research can bring about positive change within academic institutions and anti-sexual violence advocacy efforts.

I'm also planning to pursue a PhD in sociology at the University of Alberta to become a professor one day. I want to encourage and mentor students who, like me, don’t believe they have the ability to succeed in university.

What advice would you like to give those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?

Connecting with student organizations and groups on campus can be life-changing. These connections you make are strong and will help you get through the (unavoidable) mess of university life. I'd also say it's okay to take your time. You don't have to be in and out in four years —you can take longer. In my experience, taking a little bit longer ensures you have a university experience you enjoy and are proud of.

Quick Answers

Top things to do in or around Lethbridge

  1. I like to go to the Penny and enjoy a hot chocolate while reading.
  2. I enjoy many other local food spots like the Umami Shop, Mocha Cabana, and Lighthouse.
  3. I enjoy relaxing outside when I'm not in the library (while the weather is still nice).

Favourite class: Queer Theory, Queer Lives (WGST 4900) or Culture & History (CSPT 5207)

Favourite social activity at ULethbridge: Club Rush

Favourite place to study: Level 9 of the library or by the Starbucks

About Shining Students

Shining Students engage inside and outside of the classroom. What makes a student shine may differ from person to person, but they all share a passion for learning. They may be top students, involved in an innovative project, participating in ground-breaking research, playing Pronghorn athletics, fighting for social issues or all of the above! When students find something they enjoy and combine it with what they are good at, they shine.

Each year, the Faculty of Arts & Science's faculty and staff nominate students who exemplify the ULethbridge student spirit. Congratulations Aleah!