Dr. Rebecca Yoshizawa is a sociology instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University who specializes in the sociology of sciences.
When did you join the KPU community, and why?
I was a student at Kwantlen in the years 2000 to 2001. When I had my very first [English] class ever in September of 2000, the instructor, her name is Dr. Gaye Hickman-Barr, walked into the class, and she said, “I have two PhDs, one in English and one in women’s studies.” I just felt instantly connected to her. As soon as she said women’s studies, I knew that I wanted to major in women’s studies.
I went to Simon Fraser University and Queen’s University and got my PhD and came back home to B.C. and was looking for somewhere I could land my career, and KPU called me again. So I was lucky enough to have a dream fulfilled that started at Kwantlen and ended at Kwantlen in becoming an instructor.
What is your favourite story of your time at KPU?
One of my favourite topics to teach is qualitative research methods, and this is a third-year course. It’s very unique in the sense that most of the time in your undergraduate degree, you’re consuming and learning from other people’s research and other people’s research practices. In the course that I teach, my students do their own empirical, real-world research with human participants.
I remember I had a set of students that were doing a study. It was a focus group study, and it was on the relationship between makeup and race. There were a lot of components of racialization that were associated with how beauty culture was evolving, that the way you highlight and contour your face could be creating an illusion of a Eurocentric idea of beauty.
They did their focus group, and I remember they came back to the class one or two days after they did the focus group, and they were so downtrodden and they thought their study was a giant failure because none of their participants talked about race.
Transforming something that you perceive to be a mistake or a failure into the awareness that this actually is an outcome, this is a learning experience and this actually is a finding. That the general consciousness about makeup at the time wasn’t clued into the ways that racialization was playing a role in how beauty is seen.
I was so excited to see how they were able to transform that into a real success story and a learning event. Just being able to help students and show students along the way that nothing is ever a mistake or an error or a failure, that it’s actually about all of the outcomes you can produce in your growth and how you can grow into yourself as a sociologist.
What is something you’d like to say to people new to the community?
Kwantlen is a great launching pad for the billion possibilities for the way your life could unfold. You also will be able to get to know your instructors, that is not always possible at other universities.
I can say that, for a fact, having gone to several universities, plus I taught at other universities, Kwantlen is a place you will grow in yourself as an individual. Your sense of self will be affirmed, elevated, and explored in ways that I think are pretty unique in this corner of the world that we occupy here in Kwantlen.
What are you working on right now?
As an instructor, I always struggle to find textbooks and readings for my students that I think are quality. Textbooks are criminally expensive, and we know that socioeconomic statuses are already a barrier to entry into postsecondary education. So it’s always disturbed me that the cost of the books I choose would be exclusionary for certain students to have access to.
Luckily, there’s a broader movement, an open education movement, that sees that information should be a public good and be held in the commons.
I wanted to create something for this class of sociology 2240, a workbook. It has one to two pages of written text and then one to two pages of engaged and embodied learning activity that complements the topics of that week.
Students can get a pen in hand and just connect with their mind, body, paper and the concept. The students fill out the workbook, and then they come together and talk about how they filled it out and how it elevated their learning. The other component is that it’s a living document, and it’s a collaborative document. [For] the students in this class, their final project is to create their own workbook chapter, which has the text and the activities. Any of the ones that really shine and I think will complement the book, they will appear in the book. It is an authorship opportunity for the students.
What is something you would like people to know about you?
I was reading a magazine at the dentist’s office. It was a fashion magazine. It was talking about how curiosity can elevate your artistic practice. There was an excerpt in this magazine that said “curiosity is the knowledge emotion,” and I have never related to something more than that idea.
I am fueled by curiosity. I am not fueled by sociology. I am not fueled by being a professor. Those things are a part of my identity of how I actualize my curiosity, but ultimately what’s conjured inside my spirit is the knowledge emotion, the feeling you get when you are generating knowledge, and that is my favourite thing to do.
I have really, really talented colleagues in my department as well. Every day, as much as I am an instructor at Kwantlen, I’m equally a learner. Not only learning from my students but learning from really amazing colleagues that are really patient with helping me grow.