Category Archives: Alumni

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.

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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!

End of summer round-up

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Sometimes so many interesting things are happening at UWaterloo, it is hard to keep up. Here are a few of the news items about our faculty, alumni, and students you might have missed this summer.–JLH

UWaterloo Arts News published an article on the Games Institute, the brainchild of English’s Dr. Neil Randall. The accompanying photos–however unintentionally–provide an excellent tour of their new space.

UWaterloo English’s Dr. Win Siemerling and alumnus Dr. Kris Singh both contributed essays to a special issue of The Puritan celebrating Canadian author Austin Clarke. See “Myth Grounded in Truth”: Sound, Light, and the Vertical Imagination in Austin Clarke’s ’Membering and “Bread like peas!”: The Gastronomical Dialogue of Austin Clarke and Sam Selvon.

Dr. Norm Klassen received an Association of Catholic Publishers 2017 Excellence in Publishing Award — Theology, 3rd Place for The Fellowship of the Beatific Vision: Chaucer on Overcoming Tyranny and Becoming Ourselves.

UWaterloo PhD English graduate Robert Clapperton has been hired in a tenure-track position at Ryerson University.

English doctoral candidate Jessica Van de Kemp has published her second poetry chapbook, Daughters in the Dead Land (Kelsay Books, 2017).

Congratulations to all!

MA Grad Alexandra Fournier: Literary Editor

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I’m sitting in an old farm kitchen in New Brunswick right now, reading The Maritime Edit, an absolutely stunning quarterly magazine “devoted to highlighting the heritage and lifestyle of the East Coast.” And on the contributors’ page, under the title “Literary Editor,” is a name I know very well: Alexandra Fournier. A UWaterloo MA English graduate, Fournier convocated in 2016 with a Masters in Literature, after completing a thesis on the adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813) as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-2013). Keen-eyed Waterloo folks might catch that her  “Essential Reads” column in the current issue of The Maritime Edit includes a mention of another one of our English alumna.