V. Pauahi Souza

Cultural historical trauma: the impact of displacement, racism, and the idea of paradise as a social determinant of health
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I decided to pursue my Doctorate while I was in Seminary working towards my Master of Divinity. At the time, I worked in a psychiatric hospital in the Midwest of the United States where I observed the oppression of marginalized communities, but also the erasure of my community as well as many Indigenous communities. After completing a paper on cultural historical trauma with my supervisor from the Marriage and Family Therapy program, I decided to work towards conducting master's research related to the mental health of Oceanic populations, starting with my community in Hawai`i.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

My interest to study at UBC was and is due to the Social Justice Institute and the faculty within the program. I specifically wanted a degree geared towards Social Justice. In 2018, at the time I was thinking of PhD studies, UBC was the only school in North America with a program that offered a PhD in Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice. My focus was more on the social justice aspect of the degree from a mental health lens at the intersection of politics.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

GRSJ offers diverse conversations that introduce and bring awareness to students for further exploration of areas pertaining to social justice. The frameworks shared by the faculty prove to be interdisciplinary and foundational for work geared towards critical analysis, advocacy, and activism for many marginalized communities. The well-known faculty and their scholarship assists in making sure my research process is ethical and well thought out.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

What I have enjoyed mostly about UBC is being able to learn a wealth of information about the Nations of this land. In the States, we do not have many opportunities to acknowledge or learn about the First Nations communities. Seeing the street names on campus in Musqueam brought a sense of identity for myself as a non-Canadian Indigenous individual. The reverence I have for this place is tremendous!

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I am excited about the way I am thinking about mental health at the intersection of politics from an Oceanic lens. I am working to define several terms but still have a long way to go. However, just thinking about how my idea has come along thus far and continues to evolve has kept me curious and excited for the end result...if there ever is an end result.

What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

My biggest challenge I see facing my career is the fact that I am not only part of the diaspora from my own community but also the fact that Indigenous academics often need various career choices and options to be able to sustain ourselves and care for our loved ones.

How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?

I have been able to work closely and collaboratively with one of my supervisors whom I have TA'd for twice. This faculty member permits me to have an input into course development, teach classes in a collaborative style, and introduces me to new methods and programs for teaching

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

I worked in a psychiatric facility for over sixteen years prior to graduate school. I have worked with some of the most complex disorders in mental health that I carry therapeutic interventions into the classroom as a way to share my compassion and care with students I TA for. This life experience has prepared me to be able to work with some of the most emotionally fragile communities and to be an advocate for better mental healthcare across the board.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I love to hike, read, and most of all I loooooveee to sleep!

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Never let life hold you victim from becoming victorious! Set a goal and when you achieve that goal, set another one. Challenge yourself to make interpersonal relationships with people you may have never thought you would sit with at a table. As cliche as the phrase sounds, be kind, but be bold and stand up for what you believe in.


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