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English Students Win First Place in Essay Competition!

November 10, 2017

The Department of English is proud to announce that two of our students have been recognized for their outstanding scholarly work. Caleb De Jong (MA, Literatures of Modernity) and Sarah Ali (BA, English Literature) were the winners of the Best Essay Contest, Graduate Student Category and Undergraduate Student Category, respectively. The Essay Contest, sponsored by the Provost, was part of Ryerson’s Mind + Action series, “The Many Gods of Canada: Religion, Secularism and Public Policy” (Oct 18-19, 2017). Conference co-organizers Myer Siemiatycki (Professor in Ryerson’s Department of Politics and Public Administration, and Jack Layton Chair) and Haroon Siddiqui (Distinguished Visiting Professor and Toronto Star Editorial Page Editor Emeritus) selected the winning essays, highlighting the thoughtful and compelling arguments as well as beautiful prose of both. During the conference Caleb and Sarah were celebrated on stage by President Mohamed Lachemi and Provost Michael Benarroch.

Describing his work, Caleb explains: “In my entry I attempted to answer the question ‘Can Religious Diversity and Secularism Co-Exist?’ I proceeded by way of an analysis of the operative terms: ‘religion’ and ‘secularism.’ In order to help unpack these terms I drew upon the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the philosophy of Charles Taylor. My conclusion was that a robust understanding of religion requires us to acknowledge it as a private and public phenomenon and that secular government can therefore be considered compatible only insofar as it provides for the public expression of religion.” Caleb adds of his experience, “‘The Many Gods of Canada’ essay contest not only provided me with the opportunity to crystallize my thoughts about religious diversity in Canada but also, by way of the awards ceremony, connected me with like-minded students and professors outside of my field.”

For her creative non-fiction essay, entitled “My Migrant Mind,” Sarah comments: “I drew parallels between the public and the private spheres of religion in a pluralistic society, focusing on the question of hijab both as a matter of personal choice and a public declaration of religious affinity. Drawing from personal experiences as well those of my peers who fall on either side of the hijab spectrum, I argued for the freedom to make your own choices without judgments. My essay puts forth the hope for an inclusive, equitable and diverse Canada where you can own your choices without any fear of discrimination. ‘The Many Gods of Canada’ essay competition provided me with the opportunity to be part of the conversation on matters that shape the value system of our country, and for this, I am incredibly thankful.”

Congratulations Caleb and Sarah on your stellar scholarly achievements!