Super Seo Siblings
By her own admission, high school home economics teacher Martina Seo, BHE’00, BEd’09, MET’17, is not among the world’s foremost athletes. So, when her brother, Phil Seo, BCom’03, invited her to join him in applying for a spot on CTV’s hit show The Amazing Race Canada, her expectations were low. “Whatever, it’s just an audition tape,” she recalls thinking at the time, “we won’t get on.”
It’s true that Phil, a long-time fan of the series, had previously applied several times without success. But the show has a seasonal theme and this year’s – celebrating everyday Canadian heroes who have given back to their communities – seemed like a perfect fit for the Seos. Between them, Phil and Martina have recorded over 10,000 hours of volunteering around the world, including banking manager Phil’s participation in the UBC Sauder School of Business’ Executive Mentorship program.
The show’s producers evidently agreed, selecting the pair from among thousands of applicants. This gave rise to Martina’s first Amazing Race challenge: “I had never watched the show,” she admits, and was more than a little daunted after studying all five previous seasons. “I was so scared. I didn’t want to get eliminated on the first episode!”
While physical training was important race preparation for the “Super Seo Siblings,” as they called their team, it was balanced with a strong emphasis on strategy. The Seos bought a map of Canada and, based on their observations from past seasons, began theorizing the challenges they might encounter across the country. Phil, who has a background in logistics and operations, even enrolled in a course on game theory.
All their planning, however, did not fully prepare them for the rigours of the race. “It was literally a thousand times more intense than I thought it was going to be,” says Phil. Martina’s fear of early elimination almost became reality when, in the first episode, she was faced with climbing an 80-foot loggers pole in Squamish, BC. After 45 exhausting minutes and more than a few tears, the final stretch seemed all but impossible. “It took me a very long time to do it, and I almost quit,” she says. But with Phil’s encouragement – and a bit of motivation from a competitor’s aggressive ascent of the neighbouring pole – Martina reached the top and helped the Super Seo Siblings finish second-to-last, avoiding elimination by a whisker.
That moment, Martina says, was a turning point. “After I was able to do that, I realized that I could really accomplish anything.” The Seos’ never-give-up attitude helped them become a fan favourite, and the pair steadily climbed the rankings as the race progressed. In the span of only a few weeks, their travels took them from BC to the Yukon and back, Indonesia, Ontario, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Mexico, and New Brunswick. It was in Fredericton, NB – the penultimate leg of the race – that the Seos finally met their match, ending their run in fourth place.
Despite the disappointment of not making it to the finale, the Seos look back fondly on their experience and would jump at the opportunity to do it again. “It was the best time of my life,” says Martina, “I loved it!” The competitors, she says, have all become friends, sharing an online messaging group to keep in touch. One contestant – Olympian skeleton racer Melissa Hollingsworth – will even be joining Martina as a guest chef in her home economics class.
The civic-minded Seos have already been able to translate their newfound fame into ways to give back, attending meet-and-greets, giving presentations, and holding Amazing Race Canada viewing parties in support of local Vancouver charities. When asked if she encountered any teachable moments in her race, Martina offered some of the optimism for which she’s become well-known. “I want my students to know that if I can get to fourth place on The Amazing Race Canada, then they can even go farther than me. I want to inspire them to know that you don’t have to be an Olympian, or a CFL player, or an Argos cheerleader, or in the RCMP – you just need to have a lot of heart and you can go far.”
In her new book, Collecting Art in the Italian Renaissance Court: Objects and Exchanges, Leah R. Clark, BA’04, examines collecting practices across the Italian Renaissance courts, exploring the circulation, exchange, collection, and display of objects. Rather than focusing on patronage strategies or the political power of individual collectors, she uses the objects themselves to elucidate the dynamic relationships formed through their exchange. Her study brings forward the mechanisms that structured relations within the court, and most importantly, also with individuals, representations, and spaces outside the court. The book examines the courts of Italy through the wide variety of objects – statues, paintings, jewellery, furniture, and heraldry – that were valued for their subject matter, material forms, histories, and social functions. As Clark shows, the late fifteenth-century Italian court can be located not only in the body of the prince but also in the objects that constituted symbolic practices, initiated political dialogues, caused rifts, created memories, and formed associations.
Who knew how important a degree in English could be? For Jennifer Ward, BA’04, it gave her the writing and critical thinking skills necessary for work she is honoured to do. After graduation from UBC, she spent ten years as an English Instructor at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology before working in the K-12 system Indigenizing curriculum. She also received a Master’s degree from Athabasca University with her project Grounding Curriculum & Pedagogies in Indigenous Knowledge & Indigenous Knowledge Systems. Now, as Educational Developer at the University of Alberta, she has been a keynote speaker at a national conference and a guest speaker at other educational institutions in Alberta. This year, she embarks on her PhD journey.
Magda Konieczna, MJ’05, has recently released Journalism Without Profit: Making News When the Market Fails, her new book on Oxford University Press. As mainstream journalism struggles, news nonprofits attempt to fill the gap by providing quality information that is essential to our democracy. But can these nonprofits deliver better results than legacy news organizations? In this book, Konieczna investigates the present and future of nonprofit news organizations. She argues that sharing and collaboration define these organizations in unexpected ways that both enable and limit their ability to produce good journalism.
Ak’ingabe Guyon, PGY’06, was recently awarded the Public Health Physicians of Canada President’s Award for outstanding contribution to public health and preventive medicine. This is partly a reflection of efforts carried out by Guyon and her colleagues to analyze and denounce the current weakening of public health in Canada, including articles in the Canadian Journal of Public Health and for CBC.
Jane Whittingham, BA’06 MLIS’14, is the author of two picture books, both published by Canadian publishing house Pajama Press. Wild One (2017) follows an imaginative and enthusiastic little girl through her busy day, while A Good Day for Ducks (2018) was inspired by Vancouver’s many rainy days! You can connect with Jane on her website, raincitylibrarian.ca
On May 2, 2018, the Burnaby RCMP held its annual Officer in Charge awards ceremony, which recognizes the valuable contributions of its employees, police officers, community partners, and residents for their outstanding service and dedication to public safety. Manoj Dabir, MBA’09, was honoured to be among this year’s awardees, recognized for his volunteer contributions to the local community. Burnaby RCMP Officer in Charge Chief Superintendent Deanne Burleigh presented the awards in presence of the Mayor and city council. Dabir has been volunteering with the RCMP community services since 2009, and cherishes the opportunity to give back to the community where he has lived for the last 15 years.
For the first time, the most innovative food policy solutions in the Nordic Region have been collated in a single document. Solutions Menu: A Nordic Guide to Sustainable Food Systems, edited by Afton Halloran, BSc’09, covers nutrition, food culture and identity, public food and meals, food waste and sustainable diets. It includes 24 policy examples – from local, national and regional levels – designed to trigger new conversations and inspire new policies in other parts of the world. Each solution represents a tangible step to address a specific issue; together, they represent a new and holistic approach to food policy. They are also testament to the fact that soft policies can deliver solutions and play a significant role in pursuing ambitious national and international goals. Read more at norden.org/solutionsmenu