One of the great things about running the UWaterloo English department blog is that I have an opportunity to interact with students who I didn’t encounter in the classroom. Chinye Osamusali is one of those students–I’m incredibly jealous of those who got to teach her! Read on to find out why she was recently named one of the “55 Rock Stars of Waterloo” –JLH
JLH: I know you’re on the cusp of graduating–and congratulations about that, by the way–but if you cast your mind back, can you remember why you first decided on UWaterloo over other universities?
CAO: I was always a very forward-looking person, so when I was in middle school I was looking at high schools, and right when I got to high school I was looking into universities. Over the four years of high school where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do was always changing. It wasn’t until I was sixteen, and wrote a book as a personal project, that I thought I wanted to be a publisher. I decided to look into English programs. UWaterloo English is unique in that it’s much more than just literature studies, you can also balance that out with rhetoric, writing, business, and co-op as you choose. So I was drawn to this school because of the options.
JLH: You’ve been very active on campus: how do you think that has shaped your university experience? Has it led to additional opportunities?
CAO: I love being involved because I love meeting new people! So I’ve always tried dipping my feet into everything. I finally settled when I found UWaterloo’s world of innovation and entrepreneurship. While I have yet to develop something myself, I find great joy in supporting the amazing ideas other people are coming up with. I spent the last year as one of the presidents of Entrepreneurship Society at UWaterloo (EntSoc). This has definitely opened up other opportunities: I’ve travelled to cool places, been involved with awesome events, and met some of Waterloo’s brightest.
JLH: You made Cybernorth Ventures’ “55 Rock Stars of Waterloo” list recently. Can you talk a bit about what that means?
CAO: Cybernorth Ventures is a private venture capital fund that helps fund early-stage startups. They put together a list of the “55 Rock Stars of Waterloo,” modelling it after Marc Andreessen’s “55 Unknown Rock Stars in Tech.” It’s a list of movers and shakers in the Waterloo community. I remember when my co-president and I were asked to be on the list. We didn’t fully understand what the list was about, but we sent in our information. Next thing we knew, the list came out, and we’re getting messages from all over Waterloo congratulating us on such an achievement.
Looking back, I realize that this is really an acknowledgment of how EntSoc has become an influential part of the Waterloo innovation community, which is the goal we set when we re-branded at the beginning of Summer 2014. I am incredibly proud of this achievement and I can already see it opening up some pretty cool doors in the future!
JLH: Reflecting on your experience at UWaterloo, what classes or classroom experiences have had the biggest impact on you?
CAO: Off the top of my head, I can think of three. The most recent and probably most influential was Marcel O’Gorman‘s Maker Culture or Digital Design class. The class made me rethink what innovation means and it helped me realize the value of being able to work with technology and code. As a result, I can better emphasize with the people I work with in entrepreneurship. It was a very hands-on way of learning the difference between doing something because you’re passionate about it and doing something to make money.
The other two classes I found helpful were ENGL 251B with Diana Lobb and ENGL 347 with Chad Wriglesworth. Both of these professors are not afraid to let you write an essay about whatever speaks to you – in fact, they encourage it. With that kind of creative freedom, you really get a sense of who you are as a writer and can explore the kinds of issues you’re passionate about. I believe an English degree should let you feel like you have a voice by the end of it. I’ve become passionate about feminism/sexuality, race/diversity, and poetry.
JLH: Finally, after you graduate, how will you celebrate?
CAO: I think I did most of my celebrating when I went to San Francisco during reading week, but I’m definitely going to spend the summer with my friends and family. I’m moving to Chicago, IL for my M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern in the fall, so I’m going to make the most of the time I have here in Canada!