Category Archives: Friends of English

Extra! Extra! Fall newsletter is here

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The UWaterloo English department Fall Newsletter is now available, featuring an update from our chair featuring exciting updates about the department, as well as information on faculty awards, publications, and events.


Full STEAM ahead for English students

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.

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.

Bring your high school students!

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Every so often I get asked if I can host a few high school students–or even a whole class–in one of my English classes. It can be a lot of fun–if you can fit everyone in the room! I’ve had the pleasure of hosting a group of students from St. Benedict C.S.S. in Cambridge in the past; this year they visited classes taught by Jay Dolmage and Victoria Lamont. Their teacher, Denise Wittmann, composed a report for the school newspaper, and has graciously allowed us to reprint it.

Enriched English Class goes on their Annual Trip to the University of Waterloo
By Mrs. D. Wittmann

Tuesday, March 7th, the Grade 10 Enriched English Class went on their annual trip to the University of Waterloo. The day began with a Campus Tour, and despite the inclement weather, we sojourned on.

After the tour we joined a second-year Academic Writing Course with Professor Jay Dolmage. Here, the students were put in groups and received revision and editing tips from the students to improve their own essays – which the Grade 10 students had brought with them. After lunch, the class sat in on a “Literature and Pop Culture” lecture with Professor Victoria Lamont. The day’s subject was visual rhetoric. Students saw examples from numerous television programs and how they are constructed.

Networking Event Countdown


We’re counting down to the English + Innovation networking event at the Tannery, in downtown Kitchener, Thursday, June 2, 2016 – 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM. Cost: $20. You can meet alumni, network with alumni and others in industry, chat with UW English professors, and see amazing student projects. And yes, there will be food.

More information–including how to buy tickets–is here.

English Career Networking Event

Thinking of changing jobs? Graduating soon and starting your career? Wondering how to market your English degree? Here’s your chance to network with friendly English alumni with ties to the local high-tech industry in an informal social setting. Representatives from OpenText, Google, Communitech, Microsoft, D2L, and more will be there, not to mention English professors (maybe yours?) and students. Concerned you won’t know how to start a conversation? Don’t worry, there will be amazing student projects on show, guaranteed conversation starters (see image above). Still feeling shy? Bring a friend: it’s only $20, it’s the Tannery, and there will be food. You never know what it might mean for your future.

More information–including how to buy tickets (and please do!)–is here.


Theatre review: Transience

Review by Walter Monheit Jr.

Created by Robert Motum
Advisors: Dr. Andy Houston and Dr. Marcel O’Gorman
A Fourth Year Honours Project, Department of Drama and Speech Communication

“What you are witnessing is a performance created by a senior drama student at the University of Waterloo. We’re extremely sorry if this has negatively impacted your commute—this was not our intention.”


The evening was sultry. It whispered of Chaos and Old Night. What terror awaited you on…The Old Number Eight?

You catch the 8 bus at the Charles St. Terminal. The bus takes a 42 minute loop through Kitchener Downtown, Old Westmount, and the University, before returning to the bus station. You’ve been given a late model HP IPAQ personal digital assistant, a clunky looking device that works like a walkie-talkie with ear buds. You’ll be able to hear the narrator.

This worthy fellow begins with some existential musings on the isolation and forced distancing that we undergo when riding a bus, despite being crammed cheek to jowl with our fellow human beings. The bus is a metaphor, you suppose. You hear his voice in your head, droning on, subtly commandeering your attention, directing you to start noticing things going on around you. After a while, you do.

Somebody across the aisle asks you for the time. Too soon, the same person will ask again. Time requesting becomes a motif: people–actors, you presume– solicting you and other bus riders to provide that information. At one point, someone who has asked you for the time announces in a loud voice to the whole bus, “It’s 9:28!” Another person–a well-dressed young woman–turns in her seat and yells back sarcastically, “Thanks for sharing!”


You begin to notice other mini-dramas, if that is what they rise to, transpiring in the seats around you: a young man crosses the aisle to speak earnestly for a moment to another person, hand to her elbow; a woman stands in the aisle and shakes her hands as if to air-dry them; a burly man bellows about something to do with his favorite seat; a woman with pale skin is trying hard not to cry. At every stop, the principles get up, move to new seats, stand elsewhere in the aisles. But you start to lose track of who’s who. Are the folks who get on part of this thing? Some of them seem to be. They certainly act like they’re acting. But maybe that’s not an act. Is all this for your benefit? Who is the audience, anyway?

The line between actor, audience, and unwitting bus passenger blurs. You’re no longer sure who’s in this play and who isn’t. People get on and off, some in pairs and groups, and you notice they are carrying on their own conversations and interactions. Are they part of the performance? Are they merely performing their own lives, which aren’t part of this drama, yet which take on a reality that, otherwise unnoticed, the performance itself has served to cast in relief? We’re all on the bus together, and now you’re noticing your fellow travellers as discrete and crucial entities, as if in the past they had only been stage dressing for you, the only character who really mattered.

Meawhile, a tall, lanky fellow is sharing some hand lotion with another young man. Not something you see every day. He’s describing with fluid hand gestures…what?… a video game, a movie, an event? You can’t tell. The burly man is still whining about his favorite seat, insisting someone move so he can sit there; the attractively dressed young woman from before is on her feet, looking pensive.

In what seems to be a dramatic climax, a scruffy man takes a young woman into his arms for a swooning kiss. Then a bus stop is reached and he leaps off. “Did you know him,” someone asks? The young woman, looking distressed, waves the question off. She disembarks at the next stop, and appears to walk back toward the previous one.

It’s all become too much. You fiddle with the IPAQ, try to return to your own space, to screen out these impingements on your armor.  You know you have failed some kind of test. You were a voyeur, but you didn’t learn to embrace those whom you viewed. What of it? It was all a play. There was no fourth wall, but thank god you had a fifth. You are ready to get off.

When you do, you return your device to the director, Robert Motum, shake his hand, thank him for the experience, then return, somewhat gratefully, to the solitude of your own car. One the way home, you notice there are a lot of people standing around, waiting at bus stops, lining the sidewalks. Not everyone is standing stalk-still. Some look to be conversing, some are moving in inscrutable ways under the faint city stars. They must all imagine they are at the centre of things, possibly seeing from the corner of their eyes your black car speeding past, a ghost in the night.

Bus Stop