Congratulations to Georgia Sitara, a Continuing Sessional Lecturer in the Departments of Gender Studies and History, for winning the 2017 Humanities Award for Teaching Excellence. Georgia is the first sessional to win this! Please read her kind letter to 4163 below:
January 19 2018
An open letter of thanks to my union
Dear CUPE 4163 leadership and support team:
I am happy to report that I won the 2017 Humanities Award for Teaching Excellence. I am the first sessional lecturer to win this prestigious award since its inception.
I started teaching at UVIC as a PhD candidate in January of 2001 for the Department of History, and in February of that term, I stepped in to complete two Gender Studies courses (then Women’s Studies) for a faculty member who required emergency medical care. I taught for both Departments for the next few years, and was lucky enough to be “grandfathered in” to continuing status in those early days. Unfortunately, raising an infant single-handedly while teaching to support us meant that I was not making fast enough progress on my degree; so I gave up teaching, and my continuing status, to finish my dissertation and in 2007, I earned my PhD.
Although I had been hearing about the cuts to sessional lecturers from almost the beginning of my teaching career, I let the History Department know that I was around if they needed me to teach, and before I knew it, I was back in front of the classroom. Then teaching for Gender Studies also opened up, and with the Social Justice Studies program, I often had so many teaching opportunities, I sometimes had to turn down teaching because there was more than I could do.
I am grateful that I have since re-earned my continuing status and the security and benefits that come with it; and I am so grateful to CUPE 4163 for all you do support my work and the work of other sessional lecturers. I am sure that the union’s work on my behalf made it possible for me to excel in my profession.
When I read the news about the experiences of sessional lecturers at other universities in North America, I count my blessings that I have CUPE 4163 behind me. I recognize that the union is working under less than ideal conditions, like the sessional lecturers they support. I understand that the conditions are not as we would want them to be, and yet under these intense conditions, working with a less than hospitable administration (and some years back, the administration was actively hostile), I know that the union has made a huge difference to my capacity to do excellent work. CUPE 4163 has provided some security in an insecure environment. I know that CUPE 4163 has bargained hard for every little gain we have and for everything we have managed to hold onto. Thank you so much CUPE 4163 for everything you do for us.
When I took my place on stage to have my award publicly acknowledged, I stood on the shoulders on my union. I could not have made it there without all your hard work on my behalf. CUPE 4163 leadership and support team, thank you for helping me achieve an impossible dream. Clearly, it’s not every day a sessional lecturer gets the top faculty award and when it happens, it is the work of a lot of people behind the scenes that make it possible.
With so much gratitude and respect, sincerely,
Georgia Sitara, PhD
Continuing Sessional Lecturer, Departments of Gender Studies and History