JLH: You followed your career in English with a degree in Social Work. Did that feel like an organic move at the time?
AM: For me it felt like that was what I was supposed to be doing all along. I went into English because I loved it but it wasn’t a vocation. I quickly found it lacking for me and filled that space with social work, namely starting an Amnesty International club at UW, and from there it all fell into place. Well, actually in between I also did a Russian literature minor. I love narrative plain and simple.
JLH: Can you map for our readers how your career has unfolded? Because it appears you’ve come full circle, in some ways, right back to communicating in the classroom!
AM: After completing my English degree I went directly into the MSW program, community development stream, and through my placements began working in the land of the non-profit. I did a placement at ROOF (Reaching our Outdoor Friends) and when the founder (Kate Millar) left I was hired as the new Executive Director. I stayed there for about five and a half years and then moved to Toronto. There I worked at KYTES (Kensington Youth Theatre and Employment Skills) which worked with street involved youth doing theatre of the oppressed with them. I stayed there for about five years as well, having two children in the midst of it. The family moved out of Toronto and back towards Waterloo Region settling in Salem, where I live still with my two children and two dogs. In the early noughts I started working in Orangeville managing a counselling agency for women who have been abused. Besides managing the counselling program I also managed the legal support program and the violence prevention program. From there I went to work at the Region of Waterloo supervising a youth advocacy program but left to become the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Waterloo Region after only one year. I have just left that position after almost eight years. Somewhere around 2006 I started a private practice specializing in working with high conflict couples post divorce doing something called parenting coordination which is a unique blend of coaching, education, mediation and arbitration. I came to doing formal teaching just in 2010 and have taught at various universities and colleges as a sessional or partial load instructor.
JLH: When I interviewed alumnus Alok Mukherjee, he talked about how his degree in English and his understanding of narrative has influenced how he considers the narratives he encounters as chair of the Toronto Police Services Board. I’m curious as to whether your English degree has shaped your work.
AM: My English degree background has been a boon in all the work I have done. Quite simply, I can write and quite well. This is helped me in writing reports, grant applications, funding proposals, research applications, articles etc. etc. Also, in my individual work with clients I have been able to use narrative as a counselling tool as well as metaphors and analogies in ways I wouldn’t have had I not had the English degree background. And, obviously, it has been very helpful in my teaching. I just taught Academic Writing to Masters of Social Work students and had I not had that background, well, yikes….
JLH: Thinking back now–and maybe even from the vantage of the front of the classroom–what stands out for you about your time at UWaterloo?
AM: What stands out in my memory more than anything was my time with the Amnesty International members. They were so dedicated, so compassionate, so energetic and passionate and they truly believed that they could be part of the answer. That time was the foundation that has allowed me to continue on for almost thirty years now doing “useful” work.
JLH: Finally, can you share with us what you are currently reading for fun?
AM: Well, let’s see. I read a lot. I am currently reading some books on parenting coordination for fun. As strange as that may seem. I also really like reading books on how the brain works, and interpersonal neurobiology. But, my guilty pleasure regarding reading, would be mystery books. I have a number of authors that I look for on a constant basis such as Martha Grimes, Louise Penny (a wonderful Canadian author), Peter Robinson (also Canadian) and Peter May (a Scottish author). But other favorite non-mystery writers include Boyden, Saramago, Kundera, Barry, and of course all the Russian greats.