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The Sikh studies program’s path to permanency and inclusivity

By Vama Saini, July 13 2023—

Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal, the current teaching professor in Sikh Studies at the University of Calgary, sheds light on the program’s establishment, evolution and aspirations for the future. Initially driven by students’ desire for representation and comprehensive courses, the program has grown significantly over the years through collaborative efforts with the Sikh community.

The Sikh Studies program has attracted students from diverse backgrounds, extending beyond the Sikh community itself. The rarity of these courses in Canada has piqued the interest of many students who recognize their value. The overwhelming support from alumni, students, staff, faculty and supporters nationwide has laid the foundation for program expansion and long-term sustainability.

“A lot of students, given the growth of the Sikh community within Canada, are familiar with the Sikh community with their own personal experiences. They are curious to learn more about the Sikh tradition,” said Grewal.

The Sikh Studies program at the U of C is currently offering foundational courses, including Introduction to Sikhism and Sikh Diaspora. These courses are unique to the U of C as they are not widely available elsewhere in Canada. Looking ahead, the program aims to introduce a certificate in Sikh studies, allowing students to incorporate it into their degree.

“We want this to be an inter-disciplinary form of knowledge production, and we want students to be able to participate in this across different career paths,” said Grewal.

The crowdfunding campaign for the Sikh Studies program surpassed its initial goal, showcasing the immense support and interest from various stakeholders. This strong backing has paved the way for the program’s expansion and long-term sustainability. 

“We are looking to expand to have a full program in Sikh Studies,” said Grewal. “That includes expanding courses, research and other forms of community engagement.”

Grewal emphasizes the importance of creating a full-fledged program for Sikh Studies, fostering representation for marginalized communities and promoting equitable access to knowledge. The program’s initiatives, such as the Sikh Studies reading group, foster community engagement and eliminate elitism within the university space.

“It’s about how Sikhs participate in the world and research, and knowledge production is a part of that participation. This is going to acknowledge that and allow us to be equitable participants in how that’s created,” said Grewal.

The Sikh Studies program at the U of C is working towards creating permanent positions to contribute to the university’s goal of an equitable, diverse and inclusive campus. 

“We aren’t necessarily working towards a Sikh chair, more of a permanent endowed program,” said Grewal. “That allows us to be bigger than what a chair does. This is not about the individual or a series of faculty members that come forward. The programming part is essential. That is a unique thing that the UCalgary has stepped up to do.”

With a vision for the long-term sustainability of Sikh Studies, Grewal emphasizes the necessity of establishing an enduring presence that will leave a lasting impact not only within the university but also in the broader community.

“All of this is exciting, but it requires permanency. The preparation extends the past four-year limited term. As we increase familiarity and spread the word, I’m confident this is going to come through,” Grewal.

To learn more about the Sikh Studies Program, check out their Instagram page or visit their website.

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