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#UoftGrad17: Rivka Zelikson

Rivka Zelikson not only has a passion for sociopolitical change but for dancing, she says you could most likely find her dancing whenever or wherever she can.

#UofTGrad17: IDS grad uses her educaton to fight injustice

Rivka (Becky) Zelikson has always felt a responsibility to challenge inequalities and create social change. This passion drove her through university and led her to winning a Gordon Cressy award for her outstanding work outside the classroom.

Zelikson is graduating with a specialist in International Development Studies Co-op. While familiarizing herself with the program and university, she realized the opportunities students have at U of T Scarborough and wanted to take advantage of them. “I decided that I would really push myself to make the most out of my university experience beyond the classroom,” Zelikson says thinking back on her first year.

Her long list of activities include positions such as Co-founder of UTSC Jewish Student Life, Academic Programmer and Promoter at the UTSC Housing and Residence Life, member of the Latin American Student Association, member of the Equity and Diversity Office, member-turned-president of the International Development Studies Students’ Association (IDSSA) and the International Development Conference in 2014. Zelikson says in her her role as president of IDSSA, she prioritized meeting the needs of everyone and ensuring everyone’s involvement by designating tasks as an IDSSA community. Her goal was “making many other people feel that they had space and power to be involved,” she says.

She holds her relationships in high regard and in so doing, generates her inspiration, motivation and stimulation. “I think that is why UTSC turned out to be the perfect fit for me; a smaller campus, a smaller program where the professors know me by name,” Zelikson recalls. “I got to work closely with people who are highly motivated, invested in social issues, and extremely talented."

Zelikson continues to strive for strong community-building and equity. She is currently in Miyazaki, Japan teaching English, and plans to work and do research in the field of food equity in small communities. She mentions issues within Indigenous communities and their food scarcity, “I find this matrix of economic injustice to be incredibly frustrating and complex, and being someone who likes a challenge, I remain fascinated with understanding and working to address it.”

Where did you go to high school? 

Vaughan Secondary School

Why did you come to UTSC?

I came to attend the outstanding International Development Studies Co-op program. I was interested in continuing to expand my academic and experiential horizons and IDS allowed me to pursue a multi-disciplinary degree while also gaining practical work experience in my field overseas.

What was your favourite class? 

 My favorite class was Prof. Dahl’s ANTC61: Medical Anthropology: Illness and Healing in Cultural Perspective. It was my absolute favorite because of a combination of Prof. Dahl’s approachable, passionate, knowledgeable and interactive teaching style, and the course material. Although sickness and health can be heavy and sensitive topics to learn in an academic setting, I felt that my ability to relate to the material on a physical, personal level made theorizing about it even more enjoyable and my fellow classmates seemed equally enthused and contributed much to the class discussion. It was an amazing experience to feel like all of us in that small lecture hall, professor, T.A, and students, were all striving to understand and empathize and build on each other’s insights and experiences.

Quick tip for new first years?

See your program’s academic adviser(s) ASAP! You might think you’re on the right track to graduating in four years, or you might think you know what combinations of majors and minors you can and cannot do - but circumstances change, and our academic advisers have incomparable expertise and patience.

What is a “must-do” on campus – what should every student do before graduating?

Take a hike into the valley. If you go past the tennis courts and across the street you can walk all the way to Lake Ontario!

What’s next?

A week after my last exam I moved to Miyazaki, Japan. I will be living here for at least the next two years, teaching full time in an English conversation school for Japanese children, where I will be starting in the fall. In the meantime, I am working on submitting my undergraduate thesis for publication and a couple of other projects with my former professors.

If we call you up in five years, where do you think we will find you?

Almost anywhere at all in the world, but you will likely find me working with a small community-based organization somewhere, dedicated to issues of equity, diversity, and/or local food and economic security.


To read about more of the class of 2017 graduates click here

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