Congratulations to English’s own Catherine Vendryes, valedictorian for arts convocation, spring 2016! In honour of Catherine’s achievement, we are reprinting an interview with Catherine originally conducted by Tianna Gocan, for Hercampus. You won’t believe what Catherine managed to accomplish during her time here.
Blogger extraordinaire: Catherine Vendryes
TG: What exactly is Rhetoric?
CV: Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. Essentially, the study of rhetoric is a study of how texts, especially arguments, are composed in order to be convincing.
TG: What made you want to specialize in Digital Arts Communication?
CV: I chose DAC because I thought the idea of digital media and communications was really cool and given the way the internet was going, it seemed like a practical choice. My entire choice to come to Waterloo was really based on practically. I really wanted to be able to study English but also Business in order to have better prospects when I graduate. I’m a realist. It seemed like UW was the only school that would let me combine the two in a way where I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing my dream of English studies in order to get a degree that would just make me employable. I learned about DAC after I got here and loved how it bridged a gap between my two majors! I could study the thing I loved, pick up the skills I need, and apply both of those fields to tech and communications.
TG: What made you want to start writing your own blog?
CV: I love reading. I started my blog during my second co-op term to track how many books I could read in my 4-month break from class readings (time to read what I want to read not what I have to read!) and to sharpen my writing skills which tend to get rough if I don’t practice. I also commuted to Toronto every day so I had time to get in at least two hours of reading a day. Normally I would keep those kinds of reflections to a private journal but I was inspired by my friend and roommate Jessie Ho (check out her blog at iejessie.com) and Chad Pelley, an author from Newfoundland who wrote a sadly, now-defunct blog called Salty Ink, which featured reviews and interviews focused on Canadian literature.
TG: What subjects does your blog talk about?
CV: My blog mostly focuses on books and topics surrounding books. Mostly it features book reviews but lately I’ve written some pieces looking at my life as a reader. I try to keep the content diverse by taking on various reading challenges like trying to cover all of the Canada Reads nominees or taking on Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. Sadly, I’m not covering this year’s “battle of the books” as CBC likes to call Canada Reads so I can finish off my degree but I’m hoping to go back and read the competitors in the summer.
TG: What exactly is a STEAM machine?
CV: “STEAM machine” is a play on the acronym: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics. It’s about integrating the arts into STEM fields which often ignore the arts to their detriment. Arts provides different perspectives, ways of expression, and new ways to innovate in tech. I like to call myself a STEAM machine because I’m an advocate for the inclusion of the Arts and I’m powered by STEAM. I find science and tech interesting and the times when I’ve partnered with students from the other faculties I’ve found to be really enriching. Transdisciplinary teams are definitely the way to go if you want better ideas! It’s one of the things that motivated me to participate in the WIMIn conference last month plus pursue the opportunity to coordinate a blogging workshop with WiCS. I love interfaculty love!
TG: What have you been involved with during your time at Waterloo?
CV: A lot of things! The big ones include Imprint (where I was a reporter and columnist before becoming assistant news editor), Media coordinator then Boar Tribe Chief for Arts Orientation in 2014 and 2015, Editorial Director for Entrepreneurship Society, and right now I’m working as part of the Promotions team for Feds and helping out the English Student Society when I can. As for side projects, I recently entered the Cities of Tomorrow contest, a competition dedicated to ideas for improving cities in Ontario, with a team of UW students and alumni and we won in the housing category with our proposal for homeshare service that matches students with seniors for affordable housing with a social focus. The senior provides the student with lower rent in exchange for help around the house and the student provides company and security for seniors who want to keep their homes. We’re really hoping to get a pilot started in Waterloo! I also will be the morning Valedictorian for the Arts graduation class of 2016 which I am over the moon about! I never really believed it could happen and I’m so, so grateful for all of the people who have supported me and keep supporting me.
TG: What do you like to do in your spare time?
CV: I tend to pack my schedule full so spare time is really dedicated to attending cool cultural events either on campus or in the city, visiting art galleries, and spending time with my friends and loved ones. Work-life balance has been a challenge for me in the past so I try to make time to take care of myself too. Recently, I’ve taken up the mini-ritual of Self-Care Sunday where I make sure to do at minimum one thing for myself on Sunday to mentally prepare myself for the week. So far that’s been anything from buying a plant to packing a lunch for the next day. They’re little things but they’re important.
TG: What do you plan to do once you graduate?
CV: Currently, the plan is to work for at least a few years before pursuing an MBA or possibly a different Master’s program. I have a few job prospects lined up but I’m still waiting to hear back and I’m looking at more options in the meantime. For a long time I stressed about graduation and what my plan was for what comes next, but recently I’ve been taking a more relaxed position. I’m trying to just take things as they come to me, tell myself they aren’t difficult to deal with, and then go. I have a lot of diverse interests and an equally diverse background so I know that whatever happens there are more options out there to pursue.
TG: What life lessons did you learn during your university career?
CV: One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from a friend who told me that I take life too seriously. It’s true! I learnt at UW that the world is full of smart, driven people who may get better grades than you or do all of the things you want to do somehow without destroying everything else. And that is great for them but it’s not for me! I can’t do all-nighters and if I skip out on eating properly or exercising I tend to go off the rails. I really had to learn to make the decision that is best for myself rather than the one people told me to make. Whether that’s starting assignments earlier than everyone else or skipping out on a networking opportunity to get me-time. Also, to just consider different perspectives. Above all else, English is excellent at teaching you to empathize with others and think of things in a different way than you’re accustom to. It’s definitely shaped how I see the world.
TG: What advice, if any, would you give your first-year self?
CV: Don’t be scared to dive in headfirst! Even if you don’t think you have the skills or qualifications for whatever course, club, or job you’re thinking you might try out in a few years, you should apply now. You have the capability to adapt and learn from your mistakes so think about how great you’ll be at it in a few years if you start today. University is a safe place for making mistakes. You’re supposed to make mistakes, that’s what makes it learning. Don’t dwell on the things you do wrong, especially after you correct them. Just take what you learned and keep on going!
To check out Cathernie’s blog head over to http://hotpepperlatte.blogspot.ca/