Here’s a guest post from Professor Heather Smyth, our specialist in Postcolonial Literatures and Associate Chair, Undergraduate Studies. She and several of our colleagues recently met in Toronto with members of the Department of English Advisory Council. Good times. Good ideas. Good feedback. And, apparently, a very nice lunch.
I had the pleasure of spending the day with the uWaterloo English Advisory Council on December 2nd at Massey College in my role as Associate Chair for undergraduate studies in English.
The Advisory Council is the serendipitous and brilliant creation of Eric Friesen, a uWaterloo English alumnus and longstanding music broadcaster, producer, and interviewer. After being awarded an Arts Alumni Achievement award two years ago, Eric envisioned the idea of the Council as a body of professionals—some English alumni, some well-wishers—who could advise and advance the English department by providing leadership, professional knowledge, and networking resources. We meet twice a year to discuss such things as fundraising, careers for English grads, and promoting and publicizing the activities of the department.
The snowy weather and snarled traffic delayed many members and guests, but we eventually all made it. One of the great things about Advisory Council meetings is getting to know the members and learning about all the interesting careers they have. I met and talked to all of these fabulous people, who are also interested in us!
• Louise Dennys, Executive Publisher at the Knopf Random Vintage Canada Publishing Group and member of the order of Canada.
• Russell Smith, a renowned novelist (most recently of Girl Crazy) and columnist with the Globe and Mail, and, as it turns out, his father Rowland Smith was President of the academic society I belong to, the Canadian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies.
• I found out that Giuseppina D’Agostino, who is Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School and Founder & Director, IP Osgoode, went to school with Aimée Morrison, one of my colleagues.
• I also met Sandra Iacobelli, Corporate/Commercial lawyer with CIBC
• Mandy Lam, product marketing specialist at Open Text in Kitchener (and a uW BA and MA English grad): Mandy had some great ideas for our blog and for a student career event.
• Lynne Magnusson was there: she’s a former uW English professor (we miss you Lynne!) and is now Professor of English at U of Toronto and Director of the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies.
• Avvey Peters, VP External Relations at Communitech (and uW BA English) also talked about the English blog and about ways to design a student career event.
• Guests included Susan Storey, interim Director of Advancement for the Faculty of Arts at uWaterloo and Vice President of Ketchum Canada Inc. She spoke about the current environment for funding and donations, and had some great ideas for identifying the many projects in our Department that deserve support.
• We were also joined by four other English faculty members: Kathy Acheson, Aimée Morrison, Marcel O’Gorman, and Neil Randall.
• Chair of English Fraser Easton, Graduate Director Randy Harris, and I were there in our administrative capacities.
Another fun part of Advisory Council meetings is hearing about the research and teaching activities of one’s colleagues. We were treated to a roundtable discussion on digital media studies in English and learned about Neil’s work with the Games Institute, Aimee’s work on social media and life writing, and Marcel’s projects at the Critical Media Lab. As Kathy pointed out, the Lab is a kind of sandbox, a playful digital environment where students and faculty can experiment with building ‘objects to think with.’ We also heard Kathy’s presentation on “The Beaver in Text and Image,” an analysis of scientific and literary illustrations of beavers and their meanings in British and Canadian culture over several centuries.
The other perk of Advisory Council meetings is the venue: at this meeting we enjoyed the charms of the Upper Library at University of Toronto’s Massey College, complete with stained glass windows and wall-to-wall bookshelves. Later we reposed at High Table over lunch in Ondaatje Hall. Yum!
Your blog writer speaking now: dear Advisory Council members, please send me your ideas for the blog. It would be great to hear your views about the blog and how it can function. Or things that we/I might blog about. Truly. It’s very much a work in progress and also a collaborative text.
And now a couple of snaps from the day.