Joti Muker, a senior advisor for the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology, recently graduated with a master's degree of applied legal sciences. Her determination, grit and unwavering support from family and managers helped her realize her dream.
Joti always had a keen interest in the legal field. As a first-generation Canadian, she often reviewed and advised family and friends on their legal documents. And, as with many first-generation Canadians, she began giving this advice while still in elementary school. She saw first hand how important it was for people to understand their legal rights.
“Legal services are not always accessible by all, so it was important to me to learn more about the law so I can help others.”
For several years, she had been thinking about pursuing this program in tandem with becoming a BC Notary Public. It seemed like an immense commitment at the time. Fortunately, an SFU dean’s spouse gave her a few words of wisdom: “Time will pass regardless, so you might as well have achieved the credentials and complete the program you want at the end of it.”
The tuition waiver that’s accessible to continuing APSA members was also a deciding factor. “The tuition waiver made it financially viable to pursue this program,” said Joti. “Without the tuition waiver, I probably would've waited longer to start the program or have done it part-time. The tuition waiver is a great benefit! The program doesn't qualify for scholarships or student loans.” Joti applied and got accepted to both programs and began her studies.
The past two years weren’t easy, but Joti is grateful for the support she received from her family and from her work. “Managing my time was the biggest obstacle,” Joti said. “I'm very fortunate as I had an extensive support system at home and work. My mom and husband worked together and were the driving force behind me to finish the program. They ensured I succeeded in the program by allowing me to focus only on work and school. They took care of everything else. They kept me motivated and gave me the strength to continue with the program even when I wanted to give up.”
While she missed many social gatherings as a result of her studies, and some of her family and friends did not understand how limited her time was, she still felt that she received a lot of support. “FCAT’s associate dean, Stuart Poyntz, and my supervisors, Kim Hockey and Brittany Day, also accommodated me. They gave me the flexibility to adjust my hours and make-up work hours so that I could attend in-person classes and study for exams.”
Her studies have helped her understand the legal system in a new way.
“The course content has opened my eyes to several legal issues that I was not aware of before. This program has enlightened me and shifted the way I think, communicate, and approach matters.”
Completing the program has also made her better at helping and advising SFU students and staff. “As a senior advisor for the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology, I often review university policies to advise students and instructors. Having legal training has helped me to be a better advisor. I can interpret and explain policies better.”
Most graduates mark the culmination of such a demanding endeavour with the pomp of convocation as well as personal festivities. “I’m not a big celebration person. I had such huge support from my family throughout the program. It would have been nice to honour them and all the sacrifices they made for me. We were planning to go on holiday in celebration, but COVID-19 changed all that. You just have to roll with it.” She was commissioned as a BC Notary Public through Zoom, the very first virtual swearing-in of BC Notaries.
Her advice for other APSA members considering pursuing such credentials or furthering their knowledge? “I considered doing the applied legal study program for about three to four years before I finally applied. I thought a two-year full-time program was too long of a commitment. I wish I had done the program earlier. My advice is if you’re considering a program, do it!”