English Students’ Association Meet the Profs

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On Wednesday October 9, 2019 the English Student’s Association (ESA) held a drop-in Meet the Professors event in the Hawks Nest. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet professors outside of the classroom and of course, and to have some free food! There was a great turn out with many faculty members and undergraduate students coming together to meet and break the ice that is often associated with the student-professor relationship. There was an abundance of great conversation and sharing of interests that occurred. It turns out talking to Profs really isn’t that bad!

The executive team of the ESA; Heather, Emily, Emma, Sarah, and Blaze worked hard to put together this heritage event that the ESA has run every year for the last 4 years. The girls mentioned that the goal of the event was to give first year and undergraduate English students the chance to meet with their professors in an informal setting. They also want to ease the stress that many first-year students face when it comes to speaking with their professors and the university experience as a whole.

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Faculty and students got to know each other by doing an paired activity where profs and students had to ask and answer questions about their favorite literary characters, advice for students, etc. It was a lot of fun.

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The ESA prides itself on the student focus they hold. They want English students to know that there are other people who enjoy the things that they do and that you have a group of friends in the ESA that you do not even know of yet! They want to let students know that they are always welcome at Laurier and to come out to their events and share their love of English! The ESA will be holding a Movie Night on Tuesday October 29th at 10pm. They can be found on Instagram @esawlu and are looking for general members of the Association. Please email esalaurier@gmail.com if you are interested in being a general member or would like to be put on the mailing list for future events.

Story and Photos by  Julia-Rose  DiPalo and Adrianna  Woodburn

Additional photos and editing: Eleanor Ty

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25th Anniversary Celebration of MA program

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On September 27, 2019, the Department celebrated the 25th anniversary of the MA in  English.  The event was organized by Eleanor Ty, Grad Program Coordinator, with the help of Tamas Dobozy, Chair, and Laurier’s Alumni Office. Students and faculty attended the celebration where faculty members and graduates from different years spoke of their positive experiences and how the program helped them to get to where they are now. Douglas Deutschman, the Associate Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, kicked the event off, stressing the importance of the humanities and quality writing, even in science disciplines.

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His introduction was followed by Christine Bilodeau, a graduate of the first MA cohort at Laurier and the current Senior Manager of network planning at Bell Canada. Bilodeau read intimate details from her journal written while she was a graduate student, which highlighted the skills she learned from the demands of the MA program. Bilodeau emphasized the importance of time management, imagination, and cooperation, expressing that these skills helped her succeed in the program as well as in her current workplace.

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Three students from the first cohort of MAs: Kathleen McConnell, Chrissy Bilodeau, Michele Kramer

Also from the first cohort was Kathleen McConnell, who is currently an English Professor at St. Thomas University. She reiterated the importance of forming bonds in the MA program. The tight knit group they formed helped McConnell and her peers cope throughout the intense eight months. She also noted that faculty at Laurier are here for their students, repeating Bilodeau’s point that this program cannot be done alone. This sentiment was agreed upon by all speakers, as Sarah Currie, and graduate from last year’s MA, echoed the cooperation needed among peers. She introduced us to their cohort, the “ladies of literature” who engaged in meetings where they would exchange positive notes, and hold potluck dinners where they would talk about life. They have shared experiences that have bonded them past the program itself.

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Professor Tamas Dobozy talked about the success of the MA program, and how the program has continued to develop, including the creation of a Professional Skills course recently. Professor Paul Tiessen, who was the Chair of the Department for over a decade in the 1980s and 1990s, talked about how Department members worked to create the Master’s program back in the mid-1980s, and how Professor Viviana Comensoli came up with the idea of “Gender and Genre” as a specialization. Professor Russ Kilbourn commented that teaching in the MA program has had a direct and positive impact on his research. It has resulted in his book on Cinema, Memory, Modernity as well as his recent book on W.G. Sebald. Professor Andrea Austin gave funny anecdotes about students in her graduate class doing make-overs, dressing up as the Joker and Batman, and how teaching in the graduate program has made her enjoy her job. She noted that some of our MA students have gone on to become video game developers, lawyers, and also worked in war zones.

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We were given a different perspective on the academic world in a speech by 2012 graduate Virginia Shay who currently works public relations for the DIVA cup company. Virginia walked us through her experience of leaving her PhD after 5 years and how hard it was to leave school; the attrition of being trapped into something you no longer enjoy. She stressed the importance of keeping both one foot outside of academia and persevering when employers do not recognize how your skills are transferable. Finally, she wrapped up by stating the MA was one of the best years of her life, reaffirming the closeness and support she felt within her cohort.

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Lena Yang was the next MA grad to follow, graduating with the 2018 cohort. As a marketing and curation associate at Audiobooks, Yang spoke about the friendly competitive nature of the program, expressing that her fellow students’ outstanding essays pushed Yang to become a better writer. Her biggest challenge during the year was the TAship, where Yang had to conquer her fear of public speaking– a skill that would prove incredibly useful, even in her current workplace. Just like previous speakers, Yang shared fond memories of her cohort, expressing that they still keep in touch. Lai Tze Fan, a graduate from the 2010 cohort, wrapped up the speech portion of this celebration with her experience as an MA student. As a current Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo, the MA program was a key component to her current success. Fan communicated that the MA curriculum allowed Fan to ask the questions she wanted to ask about english and film, adding fuel to her desire for knowledge and propelling her journey to become a professor.

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After the talks, graduates and faculty reminisced about fond memories and inquired further about life after the MA. Many laughs were shared over food and drinks, and everyone shared a united fondness for Laurier’s MA English program.

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Greetings from Alumni and Ex-Faculty:

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Photos and Story by : Garrett Bernt and Katherine Duffy

Additional slides and editing by: Eleanor Ty

High School Connections and Transitions Day

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We had our first (of hopefully many annual) “High School Connections and Transitions Day” event on April 12,  2019. The Department of English and Film Studies hosted 105 registrants—all of them English teachers—from the public schools in the Waterloo Region District Schoolboard. They showed up to take part in a lively conversation around expectations and strategies involved with students transitioning from high-school to university. The learning was mutual, with university professors given a window onto the realities around the high school learning environment from which our first year students arrive to us. The event was organized by Tom O’Connor, the assistant department head of English at Jacob Hespeler Secondary School and Dr. Tamas Dobozy, Chair, English and Film Studies, and took place during the annual professional development day set aside for teachers of English in high-schools in the spring.

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The event was hosted at Laurier’s “Turret” night-club, in this case serving as a day-club for teachers, students, and professors. The Dean of Arts, Professor Richard Nemesvari, graciously contributed funds so that we could serve refreshments. Following short introductions by Tom O’Connor and Professor Tamas Dobozy at 8:30, the half-day event featured two forums: 1) A faculty panel featuring Professors Maria Di Cenzo, Jing Jing Chang, Katherine Spring, and Jenny Kerber;

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2) An English/Film Studies student panel featuring Tyra Forde, Alexander Jacobi, Lindsay Hepburn, Jacob Farwell-Arand, and Dalton Bingleman.

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Questions were lively and incisive. We talked about issues surrounding mental health and accommodations, differences in student expectations in terms of deadlines for submitting work, disciplinary issues in the classroom (marks deducted for lateness, for instance, which cannot be done in high school), and the way in which education, maturation, and accountability are inseparable in university. There were extended conversations around the “five-paragraph essay,” as a useful but ultimately preparatory tool for the kinds of extended writing expected in English and Film Studies Classes. There were also questions on “teaching the canon,” and the kinds of “texts” students can expect to encounter in first- and second-year courses at Laurier, including graphic novels, digital media, video games, blogs.

It was generally agreed that there was a greater diversity now to the kinds of texts students will encounter than twenty or thirty years ago, with canonical authors less prominent among them, and an increasing literary and competency required (on both students’ and instructors’ parts) vis-a-vis a range of media. Classroom expectations were likewise addressed in terms of the range of assignments students could expect at university—including essays, journaling assignments, online participation in virtual forums, scaffolded writing assignments, research and annotated bibliographies, among others. It was clear that English training and skills-building is still oriented largely toward discourse and expression, but in a variety of formats that speak to competencies beyond the essay. We also discussed syllabi and the “mapping” of curriculum. The student panel was particularly lively, with discussions around those elements of a high-school education that helped ease the transition to university, including the “victory lap year” formerly known as grade 13, which helped many of the panelists focus and hone their interests in preparation for university. We also discussed the important of passionate engagement with an area of interest, and the ways in which this helps to nurture skills, versus the attempt to find an “employable” major at the expense of undertaking an unsuitable area of study. Topics ranged from the necessity of acquiring skills in public speaking, how to overcome the anxieties around speaking up in the classroom, the importance of scheduling work in order to meet expectations and keep up with learning, transitioning from small towns/schools to the larger environs of Laurier’s campus and Kitchener-Waterloo. There was an incredible diversity of experience, particularly on the student side.

 

The feedback received from the teachers suggested the importance of both the event and continuing the dialogue:

Awesome morning! I teach careers as well as English and felt the students’ comment on a “victory lap”, and switch in major were incredibly enlightening. I also really appreciated the honesty of the Laurier staff and see potential for future collaboration between our board and our local post-secondary institutions.

 

It was wonderful! I was so glad to hear from students and professors about the transition from high school into first year. I was especially thankful for the honesty and candor shared by all of the presenters. The Turret was a fantastic location, too! It was classy and professional. Thank you for everything you did to ensure we had such a rich and engaging morning!

 

The guest speakers at Laurier were sensational. It was great to hear professors and instructors share their concerns with us. It was also enlightening for my teaching practice. As a 4U teacher I left the day and immediately got to work on altering my class to be more beneficial to my students. The addition of student voice was great in allowing us to see the realities of transitioning to University.

 

The morning session at Laurier was a great experience. Thanks for the food, coffee, and most importantly, the shared experiences of both staff and students. I think the next step would be to allow grade 12 students to hear this message.

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Tim Plett, a former Laurier student who graduated from our MA program, enjoyed renewing his connections.

Dr. Sabine Sielke: “Bodies In and out of Shape: Obesity (Discourses) in Times of Self-Optimization”

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By: Alejandra Alfaro & Humbert Arroyo

Wilfrid Laurier students and scholars alike had the privilege of listening to Dr. Sabine Sielke’s talk on “Fatness” and “Neoliberalism”. Dr. Sielke is the Chair of North American Literature and Culture at the University of Bonn, Germany. She has published numerous books, such as Reading Rape (Princeton 2002), Fashioning the Female Subject (Ann Arbor 1997), as well as co-edited over twenty books on topics such as nostalgia, urban places, and knowledge landscapes in North America, and others. Dr. Sielke is interested in topics on the fringes of post-humanism and about “what it means to be human and inhabit a body” (Dr. Sielke, 2019). She first came to Waterloo for a conference on “Memory and Remediation,” organized by Dr. Russell Kilbourn and Dr. Eleanor Ty in 2011. She was invited by the Posthumanism Research Network for this presentation.

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In her lecture, she argues that self-optimization and over-eating are linked, and that they are both sides of the same problem. Obesity, she states, is now a key fatal illness which has outnumbered infections worldwide. Even though current advances in bio-sciences and medicine have afforded humans physical enhancements, there is a global-epidemic which she refers to as “Fatness”. Dr. Sielke began this conversation implying that “we humans smoke and drink too much, and move too little.” Obesity and a risky lifestyle have increased not only in the US, but also in other nations worldwide. Dr. Sielke acknowledges differences in food culture and consumption around the globe. But, the practice of dieting in the US has led to an overweight body, marking the dynamic of how a neoliberalist society keeps driving consumption. Humans and animals embody society’s excesses, where the overweight body and capitalism are continuously feeding off each other.

Talking about “How, Where, and When Fitness and Fatness Collide,” Dr. Sielke notes that the significance of body weight has changed over the years. In the 19th century, fat bodies signified wealth and social status. Today, thinness signifies success. We consume things that we believe are beneficial to our well-being, and the fear of Fatness becomes a form of discipline. We cannot change the problem “one meal at a time”, and it shouldn’t be the goal. In a section called “Out of Control? Self-Care and Distributed Agency,” she argues that we should engage with issues of food production and consumption. In our society, the fit person is characterized as empowered over the obese person. America advertises a diet product, such as Special K cereal using a full body. However, there are racial and class implications that are not acknowledged. We hand over our body control to “digital data rather than [our] self-optimization.” An increasing reliance on services, such as nutritionist, psychologists, apps compromise our ability for self-control. The desire for a perfect, sculpted body elevates the body over the mind.

Dr. Sielke’s section, “Breaking or Accommodating Habits? Resisting Overweight as the (Global) New Normal” spoke to alternate food consumption. Sometimes, we know that we could be eating healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, but in some urban areas, these are pricier than processed and packaged foods. She raised questions, such as to why we choose some foods over others? The trouble is that often, when one wants to save money and time, fast-foods are readily available and omnipresent. The rise of fast-food has overtaken the popularity of simpler foods. However, she reminds us, “fast foods do not create obesity by simply being there.” “Why do we let individual consumers off the hook, and why has fat acceptance become the norm for how we inhabit our bodies. ” This acceptance of body positives is not an antidote or nor does it assign agency within neoliberalism. In the wake of this, even clothing brands have shifted to larger sizes to make people feel thin and this new norm comes at an economic and mental expense. This issue of body weight is sidelined and difficult to address, she stated, but she notes that our media and markets commodify both the fit and fat body. Dr. Sielke looks to re-establish research on what remains of agency. Discussions developed into questions from the audience on the effects of over-consumption on the planet; social status as a barrier to affording a way of healthy living; the body perfected to the extreme; and gender differences in body image.

Welcome Graduate Students, 2019

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Welcome New MA and PhD students!

MA students:

Alejandra Alfaro Argumedo
Paolo (Humbert) Arroyo
Garret Bernt
Mira Busscher
Tess Campbell
Julia-Rose DiPalo
Katherine Duffy
Natalia Hunter
Madeline McInnis
Madeleine Prentice
Raveena Singh
Adina Turkonje
Adrianna Woodburn

PhD Students:

Xian (Jenny) Chen
Mazin Saffou
Denise Springett

Welcome Reception at Wilf’s Den on September 4, 2019 where faculty and students shared lively (not boring) fun facts about themselves!

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Spring Convocation 2019

Congratulations to our English and Film Studies graduates…. well done!

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Doctor of Philosophy in English and Film Studies:
Michael McCleary, Supervised by Russ Kilbourn
Claire Meldrum, Supervised by Ken Paradis

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Master of Arts in English:

Mary Cassels
Paige Kappeler
Sarah Mathews
Mary Saleh
Kristen Schiedel
Caroline Weiner

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Bachelor of Arts in English/ Film Studies

Garrett Bernt
Emily Buccioni
Mira Busscher
Tess Campbell
Yelibert Roo
Jenna De Rita
Brianne Carmen
Emily Dychtenberg
Milas Hewson
Natalia Hunter
Brittany Lazar
Christina Lewis
Madeline McInnis
Michael Oliveri
Madeleine Prentice
Amy Robinson
Jennifer Grieve
Adriana Marich
Kailee Mcarthur

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We wish you all the best!

Departmental Award Winners, 2018-2019

Congratulations to all the students in English and Film Studies who have won departmental awards and scholarships this year! The list of award recipients is as follows:

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Meghan Mazzafarro

Campbell/Verduyn Prize for Film: Meghan Mazzafarro

Jane Campbell Graduate Award: Alexis Motuz

Jim Clark Prize for Drama: Paige Kappeler

Chris Heard Memorial Writing Prize: Yelibert Cruz Roo

Erin McHarge
Erin McHarge

Pauline Carole Leavine Scholarships in English: Erin McHarge, Emily Merlihan, Destiny Pitters

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Hugh MacLachlan Scholarship: Denise Springett

Emily Dychtenberg
Emily Dychtenberg

Barbara Parker Memorial Scholarship: Emily Dychtenberg, Yelibert Cruz Roo

 

Samantha Lawson
Samantha Lawson

Princess Cinema Award: Samantha Lawson

Flora Roy Scholarships: Destiny Pitters, Emily Merlihan, Erin McHarge

Madeline McInnes (L. Sarazin)
Madeline McInnes

Paul Tiessen Scholarship in Film: Madeline McInnes

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Lindsay Santoro

Weldon and Misser Prize in Poetry: Lindsay Santoro