Dr. Condon on Campus Mental Health

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I am thrilled to share the text of Dr. Frankie Condon‘s speech at the March 30th Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance’s (OUSA) Partners in Higher Education Dinner. Dr. Condon was there to receive the UWaterloo Federation of Students Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award for 2017. Each year, the Feds awards one instructor at the University of Waterloo who has exemplified innovative teaching and has shown dedication towards ensuring academic success for undergraduate students.Dr. Condon used the opportunity to discuss mental health. The text of her speech follows:

“Thank you so much. I am more touched, more honoured than I have words to express. For me—and I know for my colleagues as well—there is no greater reward than to have earned the respect of our students. The students I have met at the University of Waterloo have taught me, have delighted me, and have challenged me. I have been moved to do the best I can as both a scholar and a teacher by the depth and breadth of their intellectual curiosity and engagement, by their delight in learning, and most of all by the integrity of their commitment not only to their own success, but also to that of their peers—by their courage, their humility, their compassion, and their kindness. To be recognized by them is the greatest honour I can imagine.

But I would be remiss, I think, irresponsible even if I did not say this—to all of you, especially to you. Imprint, the University of Waterloo’s campus newspaper reported this week that during the last 365 days, an estimated 596 of our students have attempted suicide. I am sure many of you know that the University of Waterloo has lost two students to suicide this term. Their tragic deaths have devastated students, faculty, and staff, as well as their families and friends. I did not know the two students who took their own lives at my university, but many years ago, during my second year as an undergraduate student at York University, I lost my father, who was also a professor, to suicide. And so this loss hits particularly close to home for me. In such a moment, when sorrow seems to overwhelm joy and despair threatens to isolate us even as we need each other most, this much seems clear to me: intellectual growth and development can never be separated from emotional and spiritual well-being. We cannot teach well if we do not attend to the fullness of the humanity of our students. There are many matters about which I am uncertain, but this much I believe: we will serve our students, our institutions, our communities, our nation, and the world far better by putting humanity at the centre of our curricula and humaneness at the heart of our pedagogy. There is, in reality, no intellectual cost, no abandonment of “rigour” required to do so. The truth is that kindness, respect, generosity—love—is the enabling condition for all learning. More than our disciplines, more than the subjects we teach, more than the assignments we design, more than the grades we give, the humanity of our students and the quality of humaneness with which we treat our students is at the heart of teaching and learning. I don’t know why our two students chose to end their lives, but I do feel certain that we must change—our institutions, our teaching, ourselves. This is the least we owe to the students who have died, to their families, and to the students now before us in our classrooms. It is to my students and to the labour of humanizing my classrooms and my institution that I dedicate myself; I hope you all will join me, because I really do believe that when we put our hearts and minds, our will and our hard work together we can make a world worth staying for.”

A-Congressing we go, 2017 edition

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Once again it’s that time of year where many of us pack our laptops and head to Congress, the largest academic gathering in Canada. The 2017 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences will be held at Ryerson University from May 27 to June 2. As usual, UWaterloo English faculty and graduate students are well-represented. From King Lear to Grindr, from Jane Austen to vaccines, from Madeline Thien to Neurocognitive Ontology, our people have it covered. To see a full list, visit our Current Congress Presentations page; to see lists of Congress presentations from previous years, see our Past Congress Presentations page.

Image: Cord organizer from Canadian company Fieldwork

Dr. Warley’s book shortlisted

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Last year, UWaterloo English’s Dr. Winfried Siemerling received the Gabrielle Roy Prize for studies in Canadian and Quebec literatures for his book The Black Atlantic Reconsidered: Black Canadian Writing, Cultural History, and the Presence of the Past. This year English’s Dr. Linda Warley‘s co-edited collection Canadian Graphic: Picturing Life Narratives has been shortlisted for the same prize! Better yet, it includes chapters by not one but three UWaterloo English alumni. The jury writes:

The individual essays work to articulate the significance of the visual medium for the representation of the vulnerable self in Canadian graphic autobiographies, and range in subject from Seth and Chester Brown, to Sara Leavitt’s heartbreaking narrative about her mother’s death, to Julie Doucet’s early feminist autobiography, My New York Diary. The collection as a whole tells the story of how this important and comparatively new genre evolved in Canada, introducing historically important publications and publishing houses as well as individual cartoonists. The book design is attractive and spacious, and the accompanying illustrations beautifully produced. Canadian Graphic is both a stimulating read and an important scholarly achievement.
Congratulations to Dr. Warley and her co-editor, Candida Rifkind!

Congratulations to the New Quarterly

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The New Quarterly
, a literary journal housed at St. Jerome’s at The University of Waterloo, has garnered four nominations at this year’s National Magazine Awards, two nominations in the Fiction category as well as one each for Poetry and Essay. The nominees are:

* Sharon Bala, for Miloslav [Fiction] — a three-time recipient of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Arts and Letters award, her debut novel, The Boat People, is to be published in early 2018.

* Richard Kelly Kemick, for The Unitarian Church’s Annual Young Writers’ Short Story Competition [Fiction] — an award-winning Calgary writer who has published poetry in TNQ, he has two other nominations in this year’s National Magazine Awards.

* Selina Boan, for “(Good) ‘Girls Don’t Hitchhike’ / Half/Brother / Meet Cree: A Practical Guide to the Cree Language” [Poetry] — was a finalist in last year’s CBC Poetry Prize; she is working on a collection of poems exploring her Cree and European heritage.

* Liz Windhorst Harmer, for “My Flannery” [Essay] — won a National Magazine Award in 2014 and was nominated for another; her debut novel, The Amateurs, will arrive next year.

Close to 200 Canadian print and digital magazines submitted their best, in both official languages, with TNQ receiving the most literary nominations. “We are absolutely thrilled with the number of award nominations this year,” says TNQ editor Pamela Mulloy. TNQ, a charitable not-for-profit organization, has won 10 gold, 7 silver and had 35 honourable mentions in the 18 years that it has participated in the National Magazine Awards. The National Magazine Awards winners will be announced on Friday, May 26 at a gala in Toronto.

Photo caption: Michael Helm, Madeleine Thien and Alissa York (from left) holding each other’s books at last year’s Wild Writers Literary Festival, organized by TNQ, in Kitchener-Waterloo. Thien’s novel, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

A PhD dissertation that is also a game?

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UWaterloo English PhD grad Steve Wilcox didn’t write a conventional dissertation by any stretch. Rather, his thesis combined allergies, education, and games studies. Specifically, Steve argued that “games can be used to translate knowledges between communities and cultures. This is accomplished by training the player’s imagination to discover knowledge that is situated in unfamiliar social and cultural situations.” As part of this, Steve created a game titled Allergory. It features a young girl named Mia who has a peanut allergy. Through the game, “Players work with Mia as she migrates to a new school where she is the first food-allergic student. The game is intended to help non-food-allergic persons understand the social, cultural, and practical reality of having a food allergy.” Now you can play the game online. Dr. Wilcox is a full-time faculty member in the Game Design & Development program at Laurier-Brantford.

Steve Wilcox’s dissertation committee members were: Drs. Aimée Morrison, Beth Coleman, and Marcel O’Gorman.

From Science to English: Alumnus Hoi Cheu

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Alumnus Hoi Cheu came to the University of Waterloo to study science–but one course later, he had started on the path that led him to become a professor of English at Laurentian University. Read on to find out which UWaterloo professor taught that course, and what Dr. Cheu is doing now!–JLH

JLH: Can you share how you came to study English at UWaterloo? Was it an obvious choice or route?
HC: Attending Waterloo’s English program was not an obvious choice. When I applied, I was a science student from Hong Kong. I got into Waterloo because I had an A+ average in mathematics and sciences. At Waterloo, I failed the English proficiency test and attended what was then called “the Writing Clinic.” I took English 109 with Dr. Murray McArthur, loved the class, and ended up in English Literature.

JLH: What stands out from your time here?
HC: Waterloo’s program is relatively small in a hugely successful university; it enjoys having world class innovations without the rigid constraints common to larger institutions. Its flexibility can also become adaptive care for students. For example, as an international student, I needed extra time to read difficult texts and complicated theories. My professors devoted many invaluable office hours to work with me. In my third year, I started to get ahold of the methods used in literary studies, and I received my first A+. Because of that little success, my professor invited me to attend his graduate course, and the program was flexible enough to allow the paper for that class to fulfill my undergraduate thesis requirement. In the program, I learned about poststructuralism, the new rhetoric, bibliotherapy…. All of them were cutting-edge ideas 30 years ago in 1987. Now, some of them have become the standard, and others are just beginning to flourish.

JLH: You also did a Masters in English at UWaterloo: how did that shape your understanding of graduate school and the possibilities?
HC: The MA program at Waterloo started my academic “split personality”: on the one hand, I continued the hard work of my undergraduate years on poststructuralism and James Joyce, which would become my doctoral thesis; on the other hand, I learned about bibliotheraphy from Dr. Joseph Gold, which would become my current practice in applied literature and arts-based health research. I presented my very first paper at Congress and developed my doctoral thesis topic before I graduated from Waterloo’s MA program.

JLH: Can you tell us a bit about your current research?
HC: My current research focuses primarily on the application of arts and literature in health and medicine. I have three major projects, funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and the Ontario Ministry of Health respectively. They are all interdisciplinary, interprofessional teamworks: the first conducts a meta-study of arts-based health research in Canada; the second develops a social work program to engage arts and literature for helping youth at risk; the third tracks the stories of rural physicians who are graduates of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. All these longitudinal studies began around the time I completed my book in 2005, and they are bearing fruits at the publication stage.

JLH: Finally, once the semester is over what books do you look forward to reading?
HC: This year I invented a new course called “Science Writing.” All texts in this course are written by significant scientists who have successfully communicated mind blowing (if not life changing) ideas to the public. Although my research projects will take up most of my time in the summer, I look forward to the in-depth study of books like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Published in 1962, this book almost single-handedly changed the public opinion on pesticide and led to the ban on the use of DDT for agriculture.

Non-Academic Career Conference

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Register now
for a full day conference designed to better prepare PhD students and postdocs for careers outside of academia. Hosted by GRADventure in partnership with the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Career Action, this conference will feature interactive workshops, a panel of PhDs/PhD candidates who have followed non-linear career paths, as well as a keynote speaker, Adam Ruben: writer, comedian and molecular biologist. Please note: This is an all-day event. Registrants must plan to attend every session. Lunch is provided. More information, as well as a list of workshops and speakers, is available online.

Keynote by Adam Ruben requires a separate RSVP.

Image credit: Toronto’s CountryCraft53