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Allen Sun is learning to lead with an equity mindset

March 04, 2024

A portrait of graduate student Allen Sun, pictured outside the MacLaurin Building on a sunny day.

Allen Sun (UVic BCom ‘12) is an international student from China who first moved to Canada in 2007 to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce degree at UVic. He now works as the manager of the international exchange program at Gustavson School of Business while raising a young family and completing a Master of Education degree in Leadership Studies. He’s set to complete the two-year program this spring with a final project focused on creating a curriculum for post-secondary students to unlearn privileges and assumptions and to develop cultural competency skills during international exchange.

We caught up with Allen to learn about his experience as a graduate student in the Faculty of Education and one of his favourite courses.

What drew you to the Master of Education in Leadership Studies program?

I come from a business background and I wanted to learn more about leadership. I always thought that leadership meant directors and managers, people who are managing other people. But I’m learning that leadership can mean many different things.

For me, it’s about trying to understand the people around me, and then provide ethical influence, rather than just trying to manage or control others.

What was a standout course that you took?

I took ED-D 540: Gender and Leadership with Dr. Claudia Diaz Diaz. The topic looked interesting to me because I already want to learn how to achieve gender equity through different leadership methods. But, the course isn’t just relevant to people who are interested in the topic of gender. It’s more about how to achieve an inclusive mindset in general, which is relevant when you work with people of different identities in your daily work. A big part of this is becoming aware of the assumptions we make based on positionality.

Can you explain more about your understanding of positionality?

From my understanding, it’s about the values, assumptions and prejudices that we bring from our lived experiences and that form the foundation of our worldview. I’ve learned that having an awareness of positionality helps me understand when and why I make certain assumptions.

For example, I have the perspective and position of a cis-gendered male and an international student, which informs and shapes my thinking. That was a cool ‘a-ha!’ moment for me.

What was something that surprised you about the subject matter?

I’ve honestly been shocked to hear about the experiences of other students regarding microaggressions. Some students from different gender identities shared their experiences with this in Victoria and even on campus. I didn’t think of this perspective because I haven’t personally experienced it, but now I’m more aware. Learning from the experiences of other students has been so valuable.

Any advice for someone who is thinking about taking courses in Leadership Studies?

You have to keep an open mind, be truthful, and honest with your perspective. We’re all coming from a certain place based on how we grew up, but that doesn’t define us.

It’s important to keep that mindset and be open to sharing your own lived experiences with the class, and try to engage in a dialogue. This is important because one of the strongest learning outcomes I've experienced was by discussing different ideas about pedagogy in class.

Learn more

Are you curious about taking courses in Leadership Studies? The Faculty of Education offers a Masters program in Leadership Studies, a minor in Applications of Psychology & Leadership and electives on a variety of Leadership Studies topics. Learn more on the Educational Psychology & Leadership Studies department website