I’m sure I’m not the only one who is thrilled Sophia Pelka decided UWaterloo’s English Literature and Rhetoric was the best place for her. You can read more below about her choice, as well as her experience in co-op both as an undergrad and now as a MA student. Thanks to Sophia for participating in Words in Place. –JLH
JLH: How did you structure your undergraduate degree? Would you do it the same way again?
SP: I started in the Arts and Business co-op program, quickly finding out that business was not the field for me. I changed my major to English Literature and Rhetoric co-op, with a minor in Fine Arts. The more I was exposed to rhetorical theory, however, the more I knew that I needed to more actively pursue it.
I graduated with a degree in English Rhetoric and Professional Writing, with a Digital Media specialization, and a Fine Arts minor. During my last year, I was able to combine my interests in critical theory and popular culture in a selected studies course with Dr. Acheson on visual rhetoric, as well as an honours thesis under Dr. Randall on auditory rhetoric in recorded music.
Throughout my academic career, whether undergraduate or graduate, the most important thing for me has been following my interests. Like my undergrad exemplifies, this hasn’t kept me within the limits of any one program or field. I stray. But figuring things out for myself as I grow has given me self-assurance and fulfillment.
JLH: You chose to do both an undergraduate and now a masters degree at UWaterloo: can you talk about that initial decision, and why you decided to come back?
SP: The Arts department at the University of Waterloo is massive and dynamic. Once you become involved in the community, though, it takes on an underground type of inclusivity. The open-minded nature of the UW Arts departments fosters innovative and creative thinking. With my interests being interdisciplinary, I thrived and decided to stay.
I enrolled in the Experimental Digital Media (XDM) Masters program. Working out of the Critical Media Lab, I am able to combine my studio efforts with critical theory and rhetoric.
JLH: A lot of people can’t conceive of doing a humanities masters by co-op. Can you talk about how it works, and what you see as the advantages–or disadvantages?
SP: Finding a co-op position that aligns with your field of research isn’t an easy task– it takes a ton of work and networking savvy. Because most positions on JobMine are cross-listed for undergraduate and graduate students, it’s wise to seek your own employment.
As a humanities graduate student, researching is my greatest and most valuable skill. With determination and perseverance, the internet will guide me to the job position of my academic dreams, and next to the grant applications needed to get me there.
Seeking employment is a full-time job. It may be a cliché, but it isn’t untrue. You have to work to find work.
JLH: What about your current work most excites you?
SP: With XDM and the Critical Media Lab, I have the opportunity to experiment with research methodology and interdisciplinary theory. I get to amalgamate my academics and my personal thoughts into critical artwork. I’ve been combining visual and auditory rhetoric with social ecology to create installation pieces geared towards pedagogy.
JLH: Finally, what are you reading for fun right now?
SP: I’ve gotten back into Tom Wolfe lately. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a staple for anyone into the San Francisco Renaissance (or who has a crush on Ken Kesey). I’ve also finally gotten around to reading Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. I’ve always had a thing for Legs McNeil, and so far it’s reading like one of my mum’s punk stories would.
*Note: Arts and Business is a direct-entry undergraduate program in the Faculty of Arts. Like other students in the Faculty of Arts, Arts and Business students choose their major from the full range of choices in Arts, including English, at the end of their first year.