Nikolaus Dean, Ph.D. Kin Student and 2020-21 Killam Graduate TA Award winner

Nikolaus Dean is a Ph.D. Kinesiology student and is the recipient of the prestigious 2020-21 Killam Graduate Teaching Assistant (TA) Award. The prize recognizes graduate students who have played a valuable role as teaching assistants. Nikolaus remarks that “this is one of the most significant awards” he has received yet. Some of the many awards he has received to date include the, SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Doctoral Scholarship, Sport Canada’s Sport Participation Research Initiative, a UBC Four-year Fellowship, and the Mitacs Accelerate Research Grant.

Dr. Moss Norman and Dr. Andrea Bundon, both assistant professors at the UBC School of Kinesiology, nominated Nikolaus for the Killam Graduating TA award due to his outstanding work and mentoring in his eleven TA-ships. Nikolaus believes that by introducing undergraduate students to socio-cultural ideas in kinesiology and facilitating discussions, he has been able to open them up to different ways of thinking about the human body. When asked what his takeaways from his work as a TA are, he reflects “I’ve gained new pedagogical skills and a compelling experience with the Kin undergraduate community, which has deepened my love for teaching.”

Throughout his time as a graduate student, Nikolaus has received great support for his research projects from faculty members and his cohort, leaving a huge, positive impact on his graduate experience. Dr. Bundon has been his supervisor for both his thesis and dissertation. According to Nikolaus, their great working relationship has given him room to explore his interests in-depth while “drawing from her expertise” in sport sociology and disability studies.

His dissertation is a sociological exploration of adaptive skateboarding and skaters with disabilities. This was inspired by a skateboarding program he saw on T.V. a couple of years ago. “The program was part of the X Games in 2019 and it was the first time that adaptive skateboarding was actually included into a mega event.” After finishing his master’s thesis on concussions among surfers, he was keen to continue his concussion-based research in his Ph.D. However, the T.V. program on adaptive skateboarding prompted him to think about the preconceived notions surrounding skateboarders and skateboarding culture. Nikolaus notes that there is a literature gap in adaptive skateboarding and action sports, so his dissertation hopes to address it and encourage a new discourse surrounding adaptive skateboarding: “I hope that more people consider skateboarding as a more diverse sporting subculture and start talking about the different ways in which people with disabilities are engaging with action sports.”

Nikolaus is currently working on his dissertation, as well as a book chapter connected to his past concussion-based research. He hopes to graduate within the next few years and anticipates staying in academia. His long-term goal is to be an instructor and continue conducting research, whether in sport and injury, disability studies, socio-cultural studies, or ocean studies. “At the end of the day,” remarks Nikolaus, “I hope I can continue pursuing my passions to whatever capacity that might be.”