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Research, Engagement and Graduate Studies

Student RA Spotlight


RuoYu Xiao came from a hard-working family of farmers with no academic background. RuoYu chuckles as she shares “we never thought I’d be an academic, but now I’m on this path to become a researcher.”

As a first-generation university student and an international student from Chengdu, China, RuoYu wanted to maximize her Canadian university experience and she definitely accomplished that goal by graduating in September of 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Sociology with a research concentration.

When RuoYu began her academic journey, she was nervous. “In the beginning I used to worry, but in the middle of my study, I started to enjoy the chance to gain more knowledge and focus on my research.” 

When the opportunity to work with CHASI (Community Health and Social Innovation) arose, the topics intrigued her. Her first projects as a research assistant were on the first nation community fire risk assessment, sexualized violence prevention, and BC CDC data analysis.

During her undergraduate studies, RuoYo worked on two project – Chinese international students’ perception on internet censorship with Dr. Alicia Horton and Dr. Chantelle Marlor and Ethnic boundary construction between Western and Chinese media with Dr. Katherine Watson. Recognizing that a lot of undergraduate students don’t always get the chance to conduct their own research, especially in a specific area of personal interest, RuoYu whole-heartedly accepted these positions.

Dr. Watson recalls, “as part of her capstone project for the completion of the Social research concentration in her Sociology major, RuoYu compared American and Chinese media coverage of the Uygurs in China. An important and timely study, her critical analysis demonstrated the role of media in constructing ethnic and national boundaries that go beyond ideological differences.”

“Even though I don’t have the background, I got a really good opportunity to explore through Katherine, be the person to contact researchers, gather resources, and conduct the analysis. Now I have a finished article ready to submit which I presented at the Canadian Sociology Association (CSA) 2019 Conference at UBC.” Presenting at the CSA was the first time RuoYu presented at an academic conference and the first time she presented her own study.

“When I came to Canada I decided to study sociology and I love it. The faculty members are so supportive and they gave me the opportunity to take this path. I never thought about it, it just happened so naturally.” Working with CHASI offered many other sociological research projects facilitating close working relations with faculty, research assistants, grad students, and PhD students, while also networking with project stakeholders.

“The experience of being a research assistant has helped me a lot, a lot! I don’t think that door opens to everyone so I appreciate UFV and my department for giving me the resources and really, really opening those doors.”

For students considering becoming involved in research, RuoYu suggests “if you want to learn and do really exciting research, connect with your professors to let them know that you are interested. UFV professors are really supportive so don’t be afraid. Try everything that you haven’t tried. Don’t think too much. If you want to do it, just do it!”

What’s next for RuoYu? She’s going home! “My husband returned home a year ago and it’s been years since I’ve seen my family so I decided to come back to China.” But, that doesn’t mean she’s leaving UFV behind. She’ll continue working on projects with CHASI while spending time with her family.

RuoYu was accepted to Carleton University and began her master’s degree Fall 2021. She was also selected for teaching assistantship funding.



Raveena Walia graduated from UFV in 2019 with a double-major in history and political science – a pathway, she says, that offered “so many amazing experiences” to explore her passion for human rights.

In May 2017, Raveena took a 300-level course on the history of the Holocaust with Dr. Steven Schroeder, which included a study-abroad tour through...


“You can’t learn everything from a textbook. You need to be able to apply the knowledge - research gives you this opportunity.”

Elahe Tajbakhsh came to UFV as an international student from Iran to pursue...


Born and raised in Chandigarh, Ishpreet Anand began his Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree at UFV India. Two years later, he traveled to UFV Abbotsford as an international student to continue his educational journey.

When Ishpreet arrived on campus, he immediately...


Education is expensive but “getting a job without an education is really tough.” Sien Barnett’s mom shared this insight with him when he was only in grade 7.

At 12 years old, after many cross-country moves, Sien and family settled in BC. “After my mom had kids, she went back to university but as a single mom...


Research is just looking through a microscope, right? Katrina Frankenberger, a fourth year kinesiology student with an extended minor in psychology, fell prey to this misconception when her first research opportunity presented itself. “I always thought of research as...


From photography to formaldehyde. Ken Ku is set to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree (bio-honours, chem minor) but that’s not where university started for him. While Ken had a strong focus on science in high school, he was recruited to...


RuoYu Xiao came from a hard-working family of farmers with no academic background. RuoYu chuckles as she shares “we never thought I’d be an academic, but now I’m on this path to become a researcher.” As a first-generation university student and an international student from Chengdu, China, RuoYu wanted to maximize ...


Field-based research provided Travis Gingerich with the chance “to experience so many landscapes and remote locations that would otherwise be very difficult to get to. Once there, you get to know them on a much more intimate level than you ever would as a tourist or traveler.” During field studies...


Now what? Emily Rettich graduated high school and wasn’t sure what her next step should be. After a few years off, Emily enrolled at UFV in the area of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) working towards a degree in Physics. It wasn’t until year two when Emily discovered her passion for ...

“Honestly, I could do research for the rest of my life! I don’t know what it is about (research). There’s so much out there others have looked into but there’s always a gap and that’s the fun part about research.”

  • – Sien Barnett
  •    BA, English

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