Words in Place has conducted many interviews with undergraduates majoring in English: Chinye Osamusali reflected on being named to the “55 Rock Stars of Waterloo” list; Sonal Patel talked about studying abroad; Quinn Silbermann and Claire Matlock discussed why they transferred to UWaterloo to study English. There are many more. But this is the first interview with an English minor. Read on to hear how reading Paradise Lost informed Andrew’s understanding of economics and political science courses.–JLH
JLH: What made you decide to try English at University of Waterloo?
AC: I actually didn’t decide to attend UW for English! I am majoring in Knowledge Integration. KI is an interdisciplinary degree about building bridges. We’re challenged to make connections across traditional disciplinary boundaries to design solutions for complex problems. I stumbled into the English department in the Fall of my first year, when I took ENGL 101B (Intro to Rhetorical Studies) with Michael Macdonald. There I learned how central language and rhetoric are to knowledge integration. In settings where people have different backgrounds, different opinions and different ways of knowing, language is relied upon to reconcile differences and enable progress. Whether managing a team of volunteers, discussing a paper for class or talking sports with friends, communication is key. My interest in why and how people communicate, and its natural connection to KI, led me to declare an English minor.
JLH: You’ve been balancing your schoolwork with university and off-campus politics. Can you talk about that a bit?
AC: Since first year, I have worked part-time for Feds as the Municipal Affairs Commissioner. I also ran as a candidate for school board trustee in the October 2014 municipal election, after having been a Student Trustee in high school. My involvement with Feds and the school board have been ways in which I can be a part of building a stronger community, something I value greatly.
JLH: Has achieving a balance been at all difficult at times? Do they in any way complement each other?
AC: My school work and community involvement certainly complement each other. I think that my academic interests in public policy and language studies come from my passion for helping people and building community. What I’m learning through the KI and English departments is how to analyze problems from multiple standpoints and how to communicate potential outcomes in ways that everyone can understand. Underpinning these skills is the ability to empathize with others; and healthy community-building is driven by empathy… so it all comes full circle! Balancing all of it is rarely easy, but it’s fun and worthwhile.
JLH: What has been the most rewarding or unexpected part of the degree to date? Have you had a favourite course?
AC: The most exciting and rewarding thing is that all the courses I’ve taken connect to each other! What I learned about disparities in international wealth distribution in PSCI 150 informed my understanding of mitigation strategies for hurricanes in EARTH 270. Disagreements over the cause of intense hurricanes illustrated disagreements over what is considered ‘truth’ in science, which I learned about in INTEG 220. Questions about truth and existence were central to many readings in ENGL 200A; and those that contemplated self-determinism (such as Milton’s Paradise Lost) were source material for economic theorists discussed in ECON 101 and PSCI 300. I could keep going, but you get the idea. Everything is connected! (Of the courses I’ve taken though, ENGL 101B with Prof. Macdonald and PSCI 300 with Antulio Rosales stand out above the rest.)
JLH: What have you been up to since winter exams ended? What do you have planned for the rest of the summer?
AC: I recently got back from a 3-week trip to Europe. I spent 10 days on a KI field trip in Berlin and 12 days visiting other parts of central Europe with friends. That was pretty fantastic!
Now I’m preparing for my 3rd summer as Program Director at Conestoga Bible Camp. With 70 staff and close to 1000 campers making their way through camp over 8 weeks, communication will certainly be key!