By Shannon Boklaschuk
Iryna Kutska says it feels “amazing” to complete her undergraduate degree at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).
“After four years of hard work and dedication, sleepless nights and numerous assignments, this graduation event feels like my work is recognized and appreciated,” she said.
In November, Kutska will receive her four-year Bachelor of Arts degree in political studies during USask’s 2021 Fall Convocation. The virtual graduation celebrations will be livestreamed on Nov. 10.
Kutska was born in Ukraine and lived there for more than 10 years before moving to Canada with her family. She graduated from high school in Leader, Sask., where she maintains strong ties to the community, and began her studies in the College of Arts and Science at USask in the fall of 2017.
“Saskatchewan has been my home of choice, as I was born abroad. Therefore, while I was offered several admissions acceptances to other universities, USask was my top priority,” she said. “The rationale for my decision is a close-knit university community and close proximity to my family and friends. USask is notorious for its friendly and welcoming environment that facilitates life-long friendships. Now that it is my fifth year with USask, I can confirm such and strongly stand by this fact.”
Kutska is currently a student in USask’s College of Law. She said the knowledge she obtained from her classes in the Department of Political Studies in the College of Arts and Science is proving beneficial in her law courses.
“All the background information and political knowledge that I have assists me in answering tough questions, critically addressing information and evaluating the scenarios that are presented in class,” she said. “Without this degree, it would be extremely difficult to assess the law and its political and legal application. The political studies degree prepared me for the amount of reading and writing I have to do in law now. It is precisely the technique utilized for the political readings that taught me how to read and comprehend lawsuits, cases, news, updates and statutes.”
When Kutska first came to USask, she was unsure about what courses to register in and what academic direction she wanted to pursue before applying to law school. Enrolling in POLS 111: Democratic Citizenship in Canada changed everything for her. It quickly became her favourite class because of the “interesting topics, heated debates and critical reviews on political life,” she said.
“In the second semester, I registered for POLS 112 and confirmed that political science was a great subject area to study in my undergrad. I continued to take POLS classes, while getting to know more of my classmates, my professors and further exploring areas which interested me,” she said.
“After declaring my major in second year, I realized that I greatly enjoyed learning about Canadian elections, electoral systems and political marketing. That later became my area of study and research. The POLS 261: Global Politics class with Prof. Martin Gaal was one of my favourite classes in my entire undergraduate career.”
Kutska excelled academically during her time in the College of Arts and Science. She received a USask Guaranteed Entrance Scholarship when she first began her post-secondary studies and, during her second, third and fourth years, she achieved high grades and was included on the Dean’s Honour List.
“This award recognizes the top five per cent of students at the College of Arts and Science, and I was extremely proud to be representing the Department of Political Studies at the award ceremony,” she said.
Kutska was also involved in extra-curricular activities as a political studies student. For example, she served on the executive of the Political Studies Students’ Association and volunteered at the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union (USSU) Women’s Centre. She was also a member of the Marketing Student Society and the Pre-Law Student Society, through which she met many interesting people, attended events and made new friends. As well, she volunteered to be a notetaker through Access and Equity Services and served as a captain for volleyball and dodgeball teams.
“My favourite memory from my time in political studies is the organized meet-your-profs nights,” Kutska said. “Those events were filled with fun and thoughtful conversations between the professors and students. In a more casual setting off campus, the students had a chance to ask professors questions about their careers, publications, areas of research, and network together to form social relations.”
With her political studies degree now complete, Kutska has advice for students who are just beginning their educational journeys at USask: step out of your comfort zone.
“Be uncomfortable! Do not be afraid to try something new, to take that random class, to join a student club where you do not know anyone. Do not be scared to sit beside a stranger in class; before you know it, you will be best friends studying together in the library until 10 pm. Remember that being uncomfortable is OK, because that is exactly how you master it. Try, fail, show up and try again.”