Wesbrook Scholar Siavash Salamatian reflects on his multifaceted UBC journey

From a high school election volunteer to an undergraduate scholar of Canadian politics, Siavash Salamatian’s time at UBC is a testament to the power of curiosity and perseverance.

Siavash Salamatian (BA'24)

This year, Siavash was granted the prestigious Martha C. Piper Award in Global Citizenship and named a Wesbrook Scholartwo selective designations that are awarded to students with outstanding academic performance and leadership.  

As he prepares to embark on life after graduation with an honours degree in Political Science, Siavash reflected on a path marked by academic excellence, community engagement, and an unwavering “say yes” attitude that has opened the doors to many remarkable opportunities. 

Siavash’s interest in Canadian politics began as a high school student when he volunteered for the South Surrey-White Rock federal by-election in 2017 and later became involved with his local Member of Parliament in North Vancouver.  

That interest carried into his studies at UBC, where he took as many Canadian politics courses as he could. He eventually focused his honours thesis in the subfield and won the Department’s Stewart L. Chambers Memorial Prize for best undergraduate essay on Canadian government and politics for his thesis.

Working on his honours thesis in IKB

Siavash’s thesis examined the rise in the use of the notwithstanding clause, a section in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms that gives provinces the power to override certain sections of the charter for a period when passing legislation.

While writing his thesis, Siavash built a relationship with not only his supervisor, Professor Gerald Baier, but also other scholars working in the field. He was excited by the opportunity to connect directly with academics across the country and gained access to unpublished datasets to use in his research.

The biggest lesson he learned from completing his honours thesis was that research is not as scary or out of reach as it might seem at first.

“I learned that… once you start doing it, you’ll realize that everyone in the field is just human and they’re also figuring it out,” he said. “Any big step is only really one step away.”

While his professional and academic experiences have been centred on research, policy and politics, Siavash spends his free time taking on new skills and enjoying his hobbies, like earning scuba diving and motorcycle licenses or playing sports.

“If there’s anything that I think has benefits or I’m interested in it, I’ll never say no. I’ll say yes.”

This “say yes” attitude led him to apply for a Wesbrook Scholarship earlier this year. He was drawn in by the potential opportunity to meet other like-minded students across UBC that he hadn’t crossed paths with otherwise.

Winning the awards was an exciting achievement that reinforced all the work that he’s put into his time at UBC, particularly when it comes to research.

“It felt reassuring that the scholarly community thought that I was contributing to something worthwhile,” said Siavash.

After graduation, Siavash plans to spend a few months in France for a language program, then start a full-time role in Ottawa as a ministerial advisor with Canada’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources.

He hopes to attend law school next year, though he’s not sure yet whether he’d like to pursue a longstanding interest in international law or a more recent one in constitutional law and judicial politics that was sparked by a class with Professor Baier.

Siavash with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

If there’s one piece of advice that Siavash has for current undergraduate students, it’s to build connections and take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and resources at UBC.

“All the professors in the department are experts in their field and if you want help, or if you want to learn more about something, they’re always willing to help you,” he said.

“If there’s anything that you’re passionate about at UBC, there’s someone that either knows something about it or there are resources to help you make it happen.”