The Ring

Newest Rhodes scholar ‘lives her social justice politics’

Tue, 2012-12-04 02:42

Paterson. Photo: UVic Photo Services
Paterson. Photo: UVic Photo Services

The Rhodes, marking its 110th anniversary in 2013, is the world’s oldest international graduate scholarship. In the university’s own 50th anniversary year, UVic is celebrating its newest Rhodes Scholar: Tara Paterson (women’s studies, political science), who will head to the University of Oxford in October as the 2013 Rhodes Scholar for BC.

Paterson received news of the award on the ferry on Nov. 24. The scholarship will cover all travel, living and study expenses while she is attending the British university.

She graduates in June 2013 from UVic’s Faculty of Humanities (honours, women’s studies) and Faculty of Social Sciences (major in political science), and plans to pursue an MPhil in comparative social policy at Oxford, specifically in maternal health and truth and reconciliation commissions. She also intends to continue her unwavering commitment to advocacy and activism.

Paterson briefly visited London in 2008, but otherwise has not spent any time in England. “I have a lot of concerns and nerves,” she acknowledges. “Oxford as an institution has a very hierarchical and imperial history. I’m concerned about my role in that and what my role is going to be. I want to be subversive and challenge some of that history."

“I’m also excited for the opportunity to learn and organize with students from all over the world.”

Women’s Studies Chair Dr. Annalee Lepp, co-supervisor of Paterson’s honours thesis (along with Dr. Sikata Banerjee, associate dean of UVic’s Faculty of Humanities and professor in women’s studies and political science), says, “Besides being a sophisticated and astute thinker, what really stands out about Tara are the countless ways that she really lives her social justice politics and puts theory into practice—from mentoring students in our department and across campus, to contributing her outstanding leadership and coalition-building skills to various organizations and initiatives at UVic and in broader communities.”

"Tara is an intellectually curious, analytically brilliant, compassionate, socially engaged and formidably hard-working young woman," says Dr. Matt James (political science), who also taught Paterson. "She wrote about the political struggles of sexual minorities in Canadian Indigenous communities. These are remarkably tricky issues, both conceptually and ethically, and Tara wrote an analytically rich, subtle, and wise essay that has significantly changed the way I think about the subject."

"What is remarkable about Tara," he adds, "is that she has made such an important research contribution and earned such absolutely stellar grades while making such wonderful contributions to student life at the university and to the community outside."

Her involvement has included the UVic Sustainability Project, the Anti-Violence Project and UVic Pride Collective as well as Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and AIDS Vancouver Island. In addition to other milestones and multiple academic excellence awards, Paterson founded Students for Reproductive Justice in her second year at UVic; was the University of Victoria Students Society chairperson (2011 to 2012); and student representative on the UVic Board of Governors (2011 to 2012).

Lepp says, “In short, Tara is most deserving of this major accomplishment.”

"I am extremely humbled, and grateful for the opportunity," Paterson adds. “And I couldn’t have done this without the women’s studies department and the help of my parents.”  She names in particular Drs. Lepp, Banerjee, Laura Parisi (also political science), Heather Tapley and professor emerita Christine St. Peter.

Paterson grew up in Winnipeg. Her father is an actor and director and her mother is a student advisor at University of Manitoba. She has an older brother.

Up to 11 Rhodes Scholarships are awarded in Canada each year. Scholars cultivated at UVic over the university’s 50 years included a recent “winning streak” of five in four years: Jorga Zabojova and JanaLee Cherneski (2004); Emily Poupart (2003); David Claus (2002); and Kate Ballem (2001).

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