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Part of a special feature celebrating the success of Memorial's graduates. This feature coincides with spring convocation 2017.

By Janet Harron

Denise Hooper has seen more than her fair share of remarkable students as the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences’ senior academic advisor, but, for her, Timo Sargent shines bright.

“Timo is a rare gem,” she said. “His life choices, his way of looking at the world and his exemplary work ethic have made me re-evaluate how I view student leadership.”

BA graduate

A former varsity athlete for the Memorial Sea-Hawks, the Memorial spring graduate is a soft-spoken dynamo and multi-faceted artist who has already built a considerable following of the videos he produces.

Recent projects include Winter Isn’t Easy for the Memorial Sea-Hawks (more than 60,000 views to date on Facebook); Cool Budget Bro, created in response to the 2016 provincial budget; and Some Other Time, a tribute to Mr. Sargent’s friend Ryan Pinneo who died last year from a fentanyl overdose. In the summer of 2015, he filmed Stephen Harper Your Lease is Up outside 24 Sussex Dr., in Ottawa, Ont. He has also created videos protesting police brutality, acknowledging the importance of teachers and encouraging young people to fulfil their dreams.

“In a remarkably short period of time, like a minute or three which is kind of crazy when you think about it, you can have your mind expanded or your eyes opened up to really important world issues,” said Mr. Sargent, who uses Facebook to launch new material. “Videos have this effect on me all the time. When a video perfectly captures what people are feeling and does it in a manner that can be transmitted to a wider community, it can embolden people to take action, or feel conviction in their beliefs.”

“I decided to study humanities and social sciences because I knew I wasn’t going to be truly happy until I focused my life around things I loved.” — Timo Sargent

Academic journey

Originally born in St. John’s, Mr. Sargent grew up in Kamloops, B.C. His parents Nick Sargent and Wendy Kipnis met while they were enrolled in graduate school at Memorial. The younger Sargent originally came to St. John’s to play basketball for the Sea-Hawks and to study business; he switched to political science (and minored in Spanish) after spending the summer of 2011 in Israel.

“That experience really gave me perspective on my life and made me realize how I want the rest of my journey to go,” he said. “I decided to study humanities and social sciences because I knew I wasn’t going to be truly happy until I focused my life around things I loved. I’ve always been interested in politics and I chose Spanish because my mom was born in Mexico and grew up there.”

Expression above all

As a student tutor in the Writing Centre, Mr. Sargent has helped dozens of students find their own voice. He has been a conversation partner for the English as a Second Language program and a volunteer with Enactus Memorial. Other activities include volunteering with the St. Bonaventure’s College basketball team and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada.

Writing stories gave Mr. Sargent his first taste of conveying his ideas and imagination to others. He believes that skills developed through the written word are directly transferable to other forms of communication, including rapping and video.

Power of words

Self-described as “obsessed” with words, phrases and sentences, Mr. Sargent believes in a collective community approach to inequality issues.

When it comes to the issue of inequality in Newfoundland and Labrador, he doesn’t hold back.

“The provincial budget seems incredibly regressive and a blatant example of how political action is dictated by wealthy people attempting to protect the interests of other wealthy people. Given our increasing ability to communicate through social media and thus empower ourselves, political decisions that fail to reflect the desire of the people seem more and more egregious every time they occur.”

Mr. Sargent suggests government harness the power of social media with online polls and live video Q&As to stay more in touch with their constituents and to be more accountable.

HSS video campaign

Just prior to completing the requirements for his bachelor of arts degree, Mr. Sargent completed a major project as a MUCEP student for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences—an entertaining series of 21 teaser videos highlighting each of the faculty’s BA programs titled Who We Are. What We Do. The videos will be available for viewing in the Gazette, launching with anthropology on May 30 and concluding just in time for fall orientation on Sept. 5.

Mr. Sargent filmed the videos at a breakneck pace over three days during the spring mid-term break in order not to miss class time. Each video required two unscripted shoots: one with a faculty member, the other with a student with each answering a wide variety of questions. The footage has been deftly edited to appear as a conversation between the two.

“So much of good film making comes down to planning before and editing afterward,” said Dr. Lucian Ashworth, head, Department of Political Science, and an enthusiastic video shoot participant. “Mr. Sargent has the necessary skills for both: the attention to detail, an eye for a good narrative and ability to spot an interesting and unusual angle. Of course, I am not surprised that he is a political scientist!”

There’s more

And, as if 22 videos for the faculty isn’t enough, Mr. Sargent also put his considerable talents as a rapper to work. In a video filmed in the Maritime History Archive, he is depicted navigating a maze of book stacks, and, to a thumping base beat, delivers a high energy message on the benefits of studying the humanities and social sciences.

His lyrics in the video include references to language, Machiavelli, ancient wonders, the Brontë family, understanding cultures, Donald Trump, challenging binaries, injustice, Julius Caesar, the Talmud and demands to learn.

What’s next?

So, what is Memorial’s own auteur planning for after graduation?

“I’ve been getting more and more interest from businesses and organizations that want promotional videos or advertisements so I’ll keep pursuing that while also working on my own projects.”

This is one ‘Sargent’ who has earned his stripes.

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