Category Archives: Jobs

Want to get into Marketing or Advertising with an English Degree?

The UWaterloo English Department will be hosting A Career Paths Talk on Friday,  February 6th from 2:30-4:30 in Environment 3, room 4412 (that’s the building with the Williams coffee shop on the ring road). Industry guest speakers will be on hand to discuss strategies for both upper-year and lower-year English majors to break into the field of advertising/marketing.

This talk is free and open to the public. There will be ice-cream sundaes. If you have any potential interest in a  career in advertising or marketing, come on out and hear how to make  it happen.

Waterloo English’s PhD Placement Rate


It is a truth universally acknowledged that academic jobs for PhD graduates in the humanities are scarce. The Chronicle of Higher Education overflows with commentary on the same in its forums and advice columns. This isn’t to say that everyone who does a PhD in English wants an academic job. But I suspect many want to feel that at least they have a reasonable choice in the matter.

For those who do want an academic career, it’s useful to look at the data. According to the most recent MLA study, published in 2011, within roughly two years of graduating, about 32% of PhD graduates in English in Canada had secured tenure-track positions, and 24% had non-tenure-track teaching. Running the numbers more broadly, as one Chronicle blogger has, suggests that overall fewer than half of English PhDs secure tenure-track jobs. Cross-referencing that with the MLA study suggests the percentage is lower in Canada.

There are multiple ways to parse, nuance, qualify, and interrogate that data in deeply meaningful ways that speak to the profession, institutional practices, and labour issues. I encourage everyone to seek out those conversations in a variety of forums (including Hook and Eye, to which our own Dr. Aimée Morrison contributes; please feel free to post others in the comments section). My point here is to consider the basic question those PhDs seeking academic jobs want answered: how does Waterloo English compare?

The answer is: not so bad. Department chair, Dr. Fraser Easton, has been compiling data and reports: “Of the 47 graduates of the PhD through 2012, over 60% have full-time academic jobs at universities and colleges across Canada, the United States, and Asia.” Again, this statistic can be parsed in various ways, but I encourage you to check out the list of Waterloo’s PhD English graduates, and decide for yourself.


**This is not to say that we are ignoring the other 40%. Our new English graduate professionalization seminar includes components on alternative careers in and out of academics. But I’m saving that for another post.

Our Awesome Alumni!

Want to know what English alumni do after they graduate? Well, of course, we do. And I’m happy to post profiles and news items about any and all alumni, so please just send me the information!

Today I have for you a story about Russell Wong, who is featured in the KW Record’s  “40 Under 40,” a feature article about young leaders in the  Waterloo Region. Russell graduated from the English Rhetoric and Professional Writing program in 2002 and now works as Undergraduate recruitment co-ordinator for the Faculty of  Engineering here at uW. He is also a prolific volunteer and contributes to many organizations in the region.

To read the feature, please click here and go to page 20.

To read a profile of Russell on our alumni page, please click here.

How awesome!

Great news about a recent PhD graduate

If you remember, one of PhD students wrote a guest blog about her dissertation writing. And guess what? Not only did she finish the PhD but she got a JOB!

We are delighted to announce that our recent PhD graduate Stephanie Bell has accepted a tenure-track appointment to the Writing Department at York University.  Congratulations to Stephanie, and to her co-supervisors, Cathy Schryer (now an adjunct Professor after retiring from uWaterloo and taking up a new position at Ryerson) and Neil Randall.

We are very proud of our grads!

Guest post: “Unexpectedly Dissertated!”

Stephanie Bell is a PhD candidate in the English department. She contributes this blog post about her experience nearing the end of her program. Her dissertation is titled “Under review: Source use and speech representation in the critical review essay” and is supervised by Dr. Catherine Schryer.

I didn’t anticipate feeling like I had made no progress whatsoever until my dissertation was in its final stages. Maybe it’s just who I am as a student (that is, anxious and self-doubting), but I didn’t realize that I was actually making headway until last March when I realized that I had a draft that needed polishing and some re-working but not substantial re-thinking.

The process felt perpetually stagnated because it was so recursive. With the insights I gained when writing new chapters, I had to go back to earlier chapters to rethink and revise my initial discussions there. In a way, the more I wrote the less progress I felt I had made. It was a terrible experience with any sense of accomplishment from making daily writing quotas and draft deadlines being constantly undermined.

Just last winter, feeling like I had made no progress on the dissertation and suspecting that I might be happier with “real” job that might pay well and provide a clearer sense of purpose, I was seriously considering leaving the program. I had big plans for quitting the PhD and finding work upon my return from a month-long vacation to Australia.

I think a combination of the mid-winter sunshine on Australia’s Gold Coast and the relief I felt at having decided to quit the program allowed me to gain the kind of critical distance I needed. When I returned from Australia and reviewed my dissertation work in an effort to tell my supervisor about my plans to quit, I saw a substantial body of work that I wasn’t able to recognize before. Moreover, I had new and exciting ideas for how to make sense of it all.

Instead of bringing my supervisor a defence of why my dissertation was worth abandoning, I ended up presenting her with a plan for finishing. It was the first time I’d felt confident since the proposal and it was the moment I took ownership over the project. I guess you can say that I didn’t really decide to do this PhD until my dissertation was nearly finished.

I’m interested in hearing what everyone else’s writing experiences are/were like. Are there any faculty who had a negative dissertation-writing process but then went on to really enjoy an academic position?

Junkets that were both work and fun

The graduate programs in English at uWaterloo have been expanding in recent years, but we are always interested in enrolling more students. Recently some members of faculty and staff went on trips to recruit more graduate applicants. For those who went on the recruitment trips it was an opportunity to see different parts of the country and to talk to colleagues and students from other universities.

Professor Ken Hirschkop and Graduate Co-ordinator Fiona McAlister went East. They visited the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, St. Mary’s University, Acadia University, and Mount St. Vincent University. There was positive reception from students and faculty alike. And they had fun! Fiona writes: “Special thanks must go to two very enthusiastic faculty members who were a lot of help: Theresa Heffernan at St. Mary’s and Karen MacFarlane at Mount St. Vincent. We had great weather. We spent a lot of time in used bookstores, wandering around and eating seafood. Lobster rolls are overrated but clams and chips are a national treasure. Halifax is a great city for wandering around, as it is very compact. There is a chain of fair trade coffee shops, which serves great hot chocolate and, according to Ken, great coffee. I learned that Mount St. Vincent, a small Catholic university in a working class area of Halifax, houses a large collection of lesbian pulp fiction. St. Mary’s is football mad (Go Huskies!).”

Some photos: 

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Professor Kathy Acheson and Professor Shelley Hulan went West.

Arriving at Calgary airport

Writes Shelley:

Love and Salt Water

I snapped this photo on a rainy but warm morning in early November on English Bay. If you’ve read Ethel Wilson’s novella Love and Salt Water, you’ll recognize these cargo ships twinkling in the Vancouver harbour, a favourite literary opening of mine. One of the greatest things about researching Canadian literature is that you begin to see the national geography, already stunning, through the imaginations of Canadian writers. And that means that you never see just one vista in front of you. You see your experience layered with those of the narrators through whose eyes you are privileged to look.

Vancouver harbour

Vancouver Harbour

My colleague Kathy Acheson and I were on the West Coast to spread the good word about the English Department’s Master’s programs at universities in Vancouver, Victoria, and Calgary. Some of you pursued your MAs at uWaterloo and know that we’ve long had two MA streams, one in Rhetoric and Communication Design (formerly Rhetoric and Professional Writing) and one in Literary Studies. Since students in the two streams take a combination of Lit. and RCD courses, there’s a fair degree of cross-pollination between them, which grads consistently tell us was one of the illuminating aspects of their degree experience here.

Last year we added a third MA in experimental digital media (XDM) that gives students the opportunity to “use…digital media as a critical tool combining theory and practice in the production of objects-to-think-with” (go to for more information). Like all our MA programs, XDM is available as a co-op degree; uWaterloo is, after all, a leading North American co-op university. English students earn money and gain valuable work experience at such companies as RIM, Microsoft, Design2Learn, and Google to name a few.

So Kathy and I talked, and then we listened to some great questions from the floor. We so enjoyed meeting all of you who came out to hear us. Special thanks to our terrific hosts Lee Easton (Mount Royal University), Adam Tindale (Alberta College of Art and Design), Bart Beaty (University of Calgary), and Amy Machin and Joy Poliquin (University of Victoria).

Most memorable? I’ve been to Calgary and Vancouver before, so I knew enough to look forward to being in beautiful places. But I didn’t expect the cappuccino in Calgary to be so great—that was a welcome surprise!

Your admin’s comments: Common themes? Fabulous hosts, keen students, harbour scenes, and coffee.

Working across disciplines

Kitchener-Waterloo is a hub of creativity and innovation. We know that. We’re proud of that. We benefit from that. And uW English students are an essential part of that groove.

Read about students from across disciplines, including English, working at the FELT Lab in St. Jacobs. 


So cool.