Gurinder Mann

MA Student
Punjabi language and literature

Gurinder Mann, Asian Studies MA Student

Tell us a little about yourself, your background and how you became interested in Asian Studies?                                                                                                                

I was born and raised in England, and completed my Bachelor’s at UBC in 2004. Although I majored in Psychology, my interest in South Asian Studies and Language led to completing a significant number of credits in the field. I considered graduate studies in the field back then, but unfortunately, there was not a faculty in my area of interest at UBC.

Subsequent to earning my undergraduate degree, I spent ten years working in the non-profit sector, my most recent position being the Executive Director of the CERA Society, a community justice organization serving the Tri-Cities and New Westminster, a position I continue to hold. Additionally, I spent six years working in the field of intelligence for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC), formerly known as the Organized Crime Agency of BC. My interest in justice and law led to earning a Master’s in Applied Legal Studies from SFU as well.

I consider myself immensely fortunate to have had the professional opportunities that I have over the past decade, however, my greatest passion has been studying South Asian Studies at UBC, which is why I have chosen to return to UBC to pursue this.

Why did you choose the Asian Studies program at UBC? Was there an aspect of the program or location that was particularly attractive to you compared to other programs in Canada or internationally?

There are a number of reasons why I choose UBC to pursue my studies, the primary of which was the opportunity to work with Dr. Anne Murphy, who is an outstanding Professor, and immensely knowledgeable in South Asian Studies. In addition, at UBC’s Asian Studies Department, you are offered the rare opportunity to learn from incredible Professors that possess great expertise in various subjects related to Asia.

Being from England, I grew up surrounded by academic campuses, however, one thing I can attest to is that UBC is the most beautiful campus that I have come across. Few campuses can boast having the picturesque view of the mountains complimented with stunning beaches. I remember when a cousin from the UK came to visit me once, I took him to Spanish Banks, and he couldn’t believe the setting of our university.

Finally, since I completed my Bachelor’s degree here, I possess a special connection with UBC, as it’s a place where I have great memories, which encouraged me to come back to make some more!

As someone who is still deciding their thesis topic, what do you hope to research and what is the process of confirming your topic?

Choosing a thesis topic is a major decision, because not only will it be a topic on which you spend an extensive amount of your time during your degree, but it shall also guide your academic direction in the future, so the magnitude of this decision is quite large. Considering the amount of time I shall dedicate to this, I will certainly choose something that ignites my interest, and something that I would be curious to research.

My hope is to conduct research on a topic related to Punjabi language and literature. I shall be aiming to choose a topic that has been discussed in the academic arena, yet shall allow me to continue the discussion and add something new to the conversation. In confirming my topic I shall work closely with my supervisor, who will guide me through the process.

As a graduate student, what are your main activities?

The primary activities are of course completing your coursework and thesis. Graduate level courses do entail a fair amount of reading and research, which ends up being a bulk of what you do. In contrast to undergraduate level courses, which often conclude with a final exam, graduate study involves more writing of papers.

Some students, such as me decide to also become a Teaching Assistant as well. I spent the previous year being the TA for Punjabi 102 and 200, I found the experience to be very positive, and the students to be very pleasant. Activities involve making quizzes, exams, and assignments, and instructing classes at the request of the Instructor.

What has been the most memorable or impactful moment of your graduate experience?  

Although the entire experience thus far has been both enjoyable and memorable, there are two moments that I would share. One has been the sense of comradery with both the graduate students and the faculty. Spending time with fellow students and faculty in the Department has created a sense of family, which certainly enhances the academic experience. Secondly, after recently completing my TA duties for the Punjabi classes I was assigned to, I had the opportunity to read the evaluations. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was very touched and appreciative at what the students had to say, which certainly encouraged me to pursue future TA positions.

What are your goals (career or academic) once you’ve completed the program? And how is our program helping you achieve them?

My passion is South Asian Studies, and I would be delighted to have the opportunity to instruct in the field. I am hopeful that my graduate studies at UBC shall support me in pursuing that desire. I am fortunate that the learning environment in the Asian Studies Department is very conducive to building your academic skills. Faculty in the Department not only support you in becoming better scholars, but guide you in expanding your academic knowledge, through conferences, travel or other endeavors that shall reinforce your educational skillset and better prepare you for a future in instruction.

Can you give any advice to new students in our program or for students considering applying to it?

I strongly believe that life is as much about the journey as it is about the goal, and the journey of a student in the Asian Studies Department shall not only allow you to become a better student, but shall offer you  some great opportunities and fine memories along the way.