Alumni Spotlight, People
Sociology studies ignited lawyer Shawn Speirs’ passion for social justice
February 9, 2016
Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
JD, Thompson Rivers University (2014)
BA, Sociology, UBC Okanagan (2011)
“UBC Okanagan’s Sociology program made my undergraduate experience character-building and career-solidifying.”
SHAWN SPEIRS IS BACK IN KELOWNA where he works as a lawyer at FH&P Lawyers LLP, and represents a number of clients in the Okanagan.
Prior to law school, Speirs discovered in Sociology studies at UBC Okanagan an interest in the social mechanics behind peoples’ decision making. It paved the way for him to succeed in the practice of law.
Speirs says Sociology helped him to develop the ability to critically analyze information. It taught him to question the world around him—an inquisitiveness, he admits, that can sometimes drive his friends and family a little crazy.
“I have seen a lot of people go to, and through university, unsure of what their passion is. I was one of those students, but UBCO and the Department of Sociology ignited my passion for social justice, making my undergraduate experience both character-building and career-solidifying.”
FROM CLASSROOM TO COURTROOM
Moving from Montreal, Quebec to Kelowna, BC at a young age, Shawn Speirs recognized the advantages of attending a close-knit university in his adoptive hometown.
In addition to smaller class sizes, access to professors was a driving force behind Speirs’ decision about university: “When I think back to my time at UBCO, the Sociology faculty stands out. Professors were there to guide your learning experience. They took a real interest in their students.”
One of the faculty members who made a real impact on Speirs was Associate Professor Peter Urmetzer.
“Professor Urmetzer had such a practical way of teaching,” says Speirs. “He effectively communicated subjects in class and he took the time to make sure everyone understood the content.
“What set Professor Urmetzer apart was his commitment to ensuring that his students were employable when they left UBCO. He would give frequent advice with respect to what employers were looking for and how to set ourselves above the pack.”
Speirs says Urmetzer talked to his students about unconventional uses of a Sociology degree “that never would have crossed our minds” and helped them to organize ‘What to do with your Sociology degree forums’ in order to expose students to a wider variety of options.
“His genuine care and concern for his students’ future was refreshing. Not only did Professor Urmetzer ensure his students had the tools to succeed, he also made himself available for additional support and guidance.”
—by May Li