Category Archives: Alumni

Alumna Marsilda Kapurani: Rhetoric, Art, and the Real Housewives

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I never thought I would be discussing an alumna’s contribution to the Real Housewives of Toronto. But that’s only a small portion of this interview with MA grad Marsilda Kapurani, who talks about the direct link between her time studying rhetoric and digital media at UWaterloo, and her subsequent career. Thanks to Marsilda for participating!

JLH: Can you tell us why a Masters in English was a good fit for you?
MK: Aside from the great reputation the university has, choosing UWaterloo was obvious for me because, the previous year, my husband had started his PhD program in Engineering at the same university.

In choosing the program, I considered my work experience and the career path I wanted to follow after my MA. In the four years after my BA, I had worked as a teacher, translator, and marketing manager. In the future, I wasn’t sure whether I would pursue art, marketing, or teaching. For these reasons, the Rhetoric and Communication Design program suited my interests better, since its applicability in art, academia, and business would provide me with more flexibility in my future professional choices. In retrospect, I couldn’t have chosen a more interesting program to study.

JLH: What did you enjoy the most about your time at UWaterloo?
MK: The whole experience was interesting and enjoyable. I loved the courses, especially the ones concerned with the Theory of Rhetoric and Digital Media. The digital media courses gave me a deeper insight in a rising medium that continues to shape our private and professional reality in a way that was incomprehensible 20 years ago.  If I had to mention my favorite courses, they would be the ones taught by Dr. Neil Randall, Dr. Aimée Morrison, and Dr. Michael MacDonald. Also, I really enjoyed working as a TA for a Business Communication course.

Additionally, some of the people I met during that time became close friends and we have managed to stay in touch since.

JLH: How have you used your degree since graduating? Has it been as you expected?
MK: English is my fourth language. As such, the MA programme provided me with useful tools for using the language beyond direct communication by exploring a deeper dimension of it – rhetoric. As an artist, interior designer, and marketing coordinator, I am always working with different people that have different interests, and communication is always a two-way street. When I am creating a painting or designing a room, the only means I have to understand my client’s visions are words which I have to translate into a visible and tangible product. I can confidently say that rhetoric has been extremely useful and necessary for me in performing well in all of these areas as it can influence people’s perspective of reality and convey a clearer message. Whether the medium is paint on canvas, a 3D design of a room, or a written digital ad, I feel rhetoric provides such practical knowledge that can only improve a professional’s performance.

JLH: Someone mentioned you in connection with the Real Housewives franchise–can you explain a bit about that? 
MK: Well, my involvement with Real Housewives of Toronto was very accidental. Before the show started, one of the “housewives” happened to visit the design office where I work and she saw my artwork there and really liked it. She commissioned a few pieces before the show and then another one for her wedding anniversary as a surprise present for her husband, which occurred while the show was being recorded. The painting was featured on the show when she surprised her husband with it, and she was very nice to name me as a local artist.

JLH: Finally, because I like to ask: what are you reading for fun?
MK: Currently, I am reading Cultural Intelligence by David Livermore. It’s a non-fiction book based on research drawn from over 25 countries. Through this book Livermore tries to provide insight on the diverse and global workforce we are living in, and especially how leadership has become a multicultural challenge. He provides a four-step CQ to help decision makers navigate international relations and the multicultural workforce effectively, respectfully and confidently.

In addition, I love architecture and interior design books. I just finished Candice Olson’s Favorite Design Challenges and can’t wait to read the Printed Textile Designs by Amanda Briggs-Goode.

You can follow Marsilda on Instagram and Facebook.

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Dr. Neil C. Hultin passes

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Unfortunately, we are announcing the passing of Dr. Neil C. Hultin, who spent many productive years in the English Department at UWaterloo.

HULTIN, Neil C. 1934 – 2017 Neil Hultin, a longtime professor in the Department of English at the University of Waterloo, passed away on November 21, 2017 after a brief illness. For the last two years he resided at the Columbia Forest Long Term Care Home in Waterloo. He is survived by his wife Beryl, their children Philip, Geoffrey and Karen, and grandchildren Aidan, Cameron, Ethan, Michael, David, Sarah and Benjamin. Neil was born in Kenmare, North Dakota, the youngest child of Clarence Philip Hultin and Edith Eleanor Johnson Hultin. Neil’s brother Carmen Philip (“Buddy”) and sister Eileen were already teenagers when he was born. Neil’s father died quite young in 1937, as a consequence of being gassed during WW1, leaving Edith to raise the family single-handedly through the last years of the Depression. Neil’s brother left home to serve in the US Army Air Force during WW2, and his sister married. Edith and Neil lived in a tiny apartment above a shoe store in Minot, N.D. through the 1940s, although Neil spent summers in Donnybrook, N.D. on a relative’s farm. He never forgot his North Dakota roots even though his life took him far from where he started. Neil discovered strong intellectual interests in school, which led him to pursue post-secondary education, the first of his family to do so. He obtained a B.A. from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota in 1955, and the following year he married Beryl Helen Juhala. Together, they moved to Chicago where Neil earned an M.A., and then to Baltimore where he studied at Johns Hopkins University to obtain the PhD. His decision to pursue an academic career led to a brief teaching appointment at the University of Arizona, but the offer of a tenure-stream assistant professorship at the University of Western Ontario induced him to move the family to Canada in 1963. In 1969 he relocated to the University of Waterloo, where he remained in the English Department until his retirement. His scholarly focus expanded and changed over the years from his initial interest in Medieval English literature, to include linguistics, folktales and fairytales, folk medicine, and the activities of various 18th and 19th Century British intellectuals. Neil also maintained a deep interest in theology and religions. Books on these topics featured prominently in his library. He published several scholarly books, as well as articles in international academic journals. He was a popular teacher and mentor to both undergraduate and graduate students. At home, he welcomed and encouraged family discussions of history, current affairs, or philosophy around the breakfast table or late at night in front of the fireplace. Neil was a devoted husband and father. He valued home and family above all, and was happiest sitting in his house or garden with his family around him. He gave generously whenever friends, neighbours or family asked for his help, but rarely asked for anything himself. He was proud of everything his children and grandchildren did but humble about his own accomplishments. The family extends deepest gratitude to the staff at Columbia Forest for the love and support they gave to our father. We also are most grateful for the friendship and assistance given by Joe Brito of Aurora Home Care over the past two years. A Celebration of Life will be held in the Fireside Room of the Erb & Good Family Funeral Home , 171 King St. S., Waterloo on Saturday, November 25, 2017 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to Parkinson Society Canada may be arranged by contacting the funeral home at www.erbgood.com or 519-745-8445.

An Alumnus’s book on the Stratford Festival

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You may UWaterloo English alumnus Shawn DeSouza-Coelho (MA 2015) from a previous Words in Place post, part of our “Week in the Life of a Graduate Student” series. Now he has a book coming out, Whenever You’re Ready, available for pre-order from ECW Press. As the press writes:

Whenever You’re Ready is an intimate account of the career of Nora Polley, who — in her 52 years at the Stratford Festival — has learned from, worked with, and cared for some of the greatest directors, actors, stage managers, and productions in Canadian theatrical history. In so doing, Nora became one of the greatest stage managers this country has ever seen. Here is an account of the Stratford Festival’s history like no other. From her childhood forays into a theater her father, Victor, worked tirelessly to help maintain, to her unexpected apprenticeship and the equally unexpected 40 years of stage management it ushered in, this is the Stratford Festival seen exclusively through Nora’s eyes. Here is an immersive account of a life spent in service of the theater, told from the ground floor: where actors struggle with lines and anxieties, where directors lose themselves in the work, where the next season is always uncertain, and where Nora — a stage manager, a custodian, a confidante, a pillar, a rock — finds her rhythm, her patience, her perseverance, her love, her consistency, and her invisibility. These are the qualities that make a stage manager great and, whenever you’re ready, this book will show you why.

New book of poetry from alumna

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Congratulations to UWaterloo English alumna Rupi Kaur, whose second book of poetry was released today. the sun and her flowers is published by Simon & Schuster. For those who missed it, Rupi’s debut collection, milk and honey, was a New York Times bestseller.

Full STEAM ahead for English students

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Maybe you have encountered the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) but haven’t yet run up against STEAM. Arts is the A, and in this guest post from undergraduate English student Tyler Black we learn all about a special STEAM initiative developed by English alumni, faculty, and students. Thank you to Tyler and all who participated!

“60 Minutes to Save the World” as the STEAM rises
By: Tyler Black – 4th Year English, RMPC

It all began as the brainchild of the English Department’s Advisory Council Chair, Mandy Lam (OpenText). The English Advisory Council is a group of alumni and friends of English who hold positions in several sectors and consult with the department to provide guidance about the future of literary and rhetorical studies in the department. Lam worked with the council’s Vice Chair Ricardo Olenewa (Google) and faculty liaison, Prof. Ashley Mehlenbacher, to plan a workshop for the 2017 Canadian Student Leadership Conference.

Prof. Mehlenbacher recently won an Early Researcher Award from the Ministry of Research, Innovation, and Science, and this opportunity to develop a workshop for CSLC dovetailed nicely with her research on multidisciplinary teams and education. Students from Prof. Mehlenbacher’s Qualitative Methods in Prof. Comm. & UX Research graduate seminar soon joined the team (Justine Fifield, Julie Funk, Stephanie Honour, Salman Jivani, Lindsay Meaning, Aliaa Sidawi, Kari Stewart), along with several research assistants (Tyler Black, Sara Majid, Shawn Corsetti, Zainab Salman, Devon Moriarty, Shania Trepanier), and set off to design a youth outreach workshop.

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The Qualitative Methods in Professional Communication and User Experience Research class at Google KW for the design sprint.

Ricardo’s words about the half day ‘design sprint,’ hosted at the Google Kitchener-Waterloo Office (pictured above), echoed into the very heart of the workshop the team was to create: “[A]ctivities like this session normalize the idea that both the University and industry are stronger when we collaborate. The EAC is critical because they create opportunities for that collaboration.” With this belief in mind, the team set forth to create a workshop that balanced education, innovation, and multidisciplinary thinking. The result: “60 Minutes to Save the World.”

Fast-forward four months and all the gears are in place and the STEAM machine is ready to be turned on. The workshop title: “60 Minutes to Save the World,” represents what the workshop was designed to do. The team put together a three station workshop to draw on the innovative minds of the attending high school students to utilize both Arts and STEM knowledge, as well as technology relevant to various industries, to solve environmental and social crises.

The event took place at the Games Institute and consisted of three stations. One of which, the team designed for students to create their own augmented reality experience. This creation as well as those from the other stations contributed to an Impact Wall representing the breadth of knowledge and the broad ranging ideas the students used to solve the posed problems.

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One station utilizing LED lights and batteries to encourage a creative take on scientific practice.

For more coverage of the event, check out the Daily Bulletin article as well as the Faculty of Arts and the Games Institute, who will be providing coverage via their faculty pages and social media.

Addendum from Dr. Ashley Mehlenbacher: Tyler, who wrote this post, also deserves special credit for pulling all of this together and ensuring we ran a flawless event at the CSLC. Tyler’s outstanding work included planning and running practice workshops to ensure timing was spot on, and also troubleshooting the day of the event. All of this complemented the impressive work the rest of the team put in throughout the design process.

Photo Credits: Megan Hood, Devon Moriarty

UWaterloo Writing Contest

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The contest is open to all Waterloo students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

As part of the commitment to the UN Women’s HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 initiative, the University of Waterloo presents the Second Annual HeForShe Writing Contest, launching September 2017.

Gender equity calls for all of our voices and all of our stories. To achieve lasting change, we must connect experiences of gender to a diverse understanding of equity in the Waterloo community and in our world. Everyone in the University of Waterloo community — students, staff, faculty, and alumni — are invited to share their stories, real and imagined, about building a better and more equitable world.

The 2017-18 contest theme is INTERSECTIONS. Participants are asked to consider how gender equity fits into the larger equity story. Where are the overlaps and connections between gender and race, ethnicity, age, ability, class, faith, and/or sexuality? How do the perspectives of gender equity connect to the goal of equality for all people? Can working towards gender equity help to advance equity conversations more broadly?

Through poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction, we welcome your reflections on the past and your hopes, dreams, and directions for the future. When gender equity is connected to the dream of equality for everyone, how is our world made better? Your stories are a part of the Waterloo landscape — today and tomorrow. In what ways are you #HeForShe?

A $500 prize will be awarded for the top submission in each category (poetry, creative non-fiction, and fiction). Selected submissions will also be included in a special University of Waterloo anthology on gender equity that will be published on March 8, 2018 — International Women’s Day. Submissions must not have been previously published. Pieces submitted as part of Waterloo course work will be accepted.

Submissions are due October 27, 2017. For more information see the website.

Image source: BC’s 5to9Woodwork.

Rating co-op and more: Alumna Sarah MacKeil

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Every so often I mention who is up next on the department blog, instigating mass enthusiasm about the individual. Sarah MacKeil is one of those students–her former instructors are uniformly positive. Now you can find out why!–JLH

JLH: How did you decide on UWaterloo and your program of study?
SM: Back in grade twelve, I felt pulled in so many different directions. I especially loved writing and international development; UWaterloo let me study both. While I didn’t end up pursuing the INDEV minor, I loved the freedom to choose courses from different programs or faculties. I also ended up with an Applied Language Studies minor and a term abroad. For me, flexibility was a more exciting fit than a strictly specialized degree.

Gaining co-op experience as an English major was also appealing.

JLH: What are your most memorable moments from English?
SM: I really enjoyed the rhetoric courses. One of my favourite courses was Language and Politics (ENGL 407). It was a fourth-year seminar that was surprisingly interactive. We studied texts and discussed case studies on a variety of topics, including digital ethics, creative cities and climate literature. There was a lot of camaraderie, and I think the active discussion helped with learning.

I also have fond memories of Criticism II (ENGL 251B). For whatever reason, its giant textbook put me in touch with my inner English geek. Sometimes people don’t connect with theory-based courses, but it felt like each lecture we got to explore a different way of looking at the world.

JLH: You did the co-op stream: do you feel it was a good fit for you? Did you ever find it overwhelming? In the end how would you rate the experience?
SM: Co-op was one of my favourite parts of my degree, and I would rate it highly: let’s say 9/10. I like how it provides the opportunity to try diverse experiences. I worked with small and large tech companies, the federal government, a law firm, and a small NGO in Germany.

It works well both ways: if you love your job, you can pursue similar roles in the future. If you realize you’re not well-suited to certain environments or types of work, it’s frustrating, yet you still develop skills and are only committed for four months. Moving so frequently is not for everyone, but I find most students get in the groove and appreciate the alternation between school and work.

I’m not a fan of unfair stereotypes about English majors being less employable, and it feels good to graduate with 20 months of relevant full-time experience.

JLH: You were part of a team that received a MESBURG Marketing Planning Award. Can you tell us a bit about that, and what it was like to work across disciplines?
SM: That was a great team experience. It was a term-long project where we had to innovate on an existing company’s offerings (our company was Indigo) and present a marketing plan.

It’s always encouraging to work with passionate people, and as cliché as it sounds, it is beneficial to pool diverse strengths. For instance, one of my teammates contributed some great statistical analysis. We all worked hard, and collaboration enabled us to have a broader perspective.

Marketing (ECON 344) was also my favourite business course, partly because its relevance to my field. Some courses felt less applicable, but they were part of the overall package.

JLH: Now that you’re done your degree, what are you doing next year?
SM: This fall, I’m moving to France to work as an English teaching assistant with the TAPIF program. I find language acquisition fascinating and had a positive experience in Germany last year, so I’m looking forward to teaching in a new cultural context. I’m also going to make a valiant effort at starting a blog. (Optimist in Motion)

Beyond that, I’m thinking of exploring applied linguistics or getting more experience in communications. We’ll see!