Farewell to Alisha Walters

Alisha 001

Congratulations to Alisha Walters who is taking up a tenure-track position at Penn State University, Abington, starting in August 2016.  Alisha Walters’s research focuses on race in Victorian texts.  She has taught a number of courses at the graduate and undergraduate level at Laurier in the last two years, including Victorian literature, Romantic literature, Academic Writing, Reading Fiction, and the 19th Century novel.  We wish Alisha Walters all the best, and will miss a wonderful teacher and colleague.

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Alumni Update: Priscilla Galvez

Priscilla Galvez

Honours Communications and Film Studies ’13
“I was intimidated by the uncertainty of pursuing a career in a competitive industry such as film and television so I initially enrolled in the Film Studies program as a solid second choice to film school—a safe bet. But my program ended up being the perfect foundation for my career in film. The program broadened my knowledge of film history and genre, exposed me to the formal language of cinema, its use as a social and political medium, and its hands-on editing course cemented my passion in filmmaking and motivated me to pursue film production after graduation. In the end, my experience was integral in supplying me with the foundational tools that has helped me become a well-rounded filmmaker and producer working in the industry today.” Priscilla is an Associate Producer at Blue Ice Pictures in Toronto and, currently, is producing and directing a dark comedy web-series, “How to Buy A Baby,” about an infertile couple going through fertility treatments. Check out the series teaser .

Read about Priscilla’s web series about infertility in The Cord.

Underwear for Rwandan Prisoners

During fall semester 2015, students have been sneaking around with plastic bags and surreptitiously slipping them to Dr. Hron or furtively smuggling them into her classes. What are these suspicious-looking packages?

It all started when Dr. Madelaine Hron shared some of her experiences working in Rwandan prisons with her EN 313: West African Literature & Culture class. For a number of years now, Dr. Hron has been working with the small Canadian-based NGO, JustEquipping/Juste.Equipage , which runs various kinds of restorative justice projects in the Great Lakes Regions of Africa, especially projects related to prisons in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. Most notably, JustEquipping has encouraged more than 700 convicted killers of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda to write letters asking forgiveness of their victims. Local chaplains would then locate these victims and bring them these letters. Then, if the victims wished, the chaplains read them these letters, counseling the victims in their pain and grief. If the victims wanted, the chaplains would facilitate a face-to-face meeting with the killer in prison.

Dr. Hron has seen and done some pretty amazing things with this group – for instance, she has played soccer with teens in prison, coddled the babies of female prisoners (women can have their children in prison until they are six years old), or celebrated mass beside dozens of convicted priests and bishops.
Rilima youth

Rilima youth playing soccer in prison

Dr. Hron has witnessed a poignant victim meet with an offender for the first time, an offender who killed many members of the victim’s family. She has also visited a village where offenders and victims live together in peace. In one case, they live right across the street from each other, with the victims’ houses having been built by those who massacred their families.

Dr. Hron also shared with her class the terrible conditions she witnessed in some of these prisons. For instance, in the central prison in Goma, Congo, there are 1800 male adults in a facility built for 150; there are no barracks, everyone sleeps in an open courtyard, be it rain or shine. Dr. Hron was particularly troubled by the situation of women in Rwandan prisons, since she spent quite a bit of time with them. In Rwanda, until 2012, prison facilities were co-ed; luckily now, there is one main prison for female prisoners in Ruhengeri-Musanze. Many of these women do not really deserve to be in prison, but, being poor and disenfranchised, cannot afford a decent lawyer. As Dr. Hron noted in class, “In Rwanda, having an abortion, or aiding in an abortion is a capital offence – meaning a life sentence. It is very easy to accuse a woman who has miscarried of aborting her fetus, or to indict a neighbour who brought her some tea. I know of women who gave birth to the infant they supposedly aborted while in prison. Yet they are still there, wasting away, awaiting trial, because they don’t have the money for a defence attorney, like many other poor women languishing in Rwandan prisons.”
female prisoners
Women in Rwandan prisons suffer daily degradation – for instance, prisons do not even provide them with underwear or sanitary napkins. Ostracized and ashamed, most women dare not ask family or friends for such basic necessities. Dr. Hron explained that last time she traveled to Rwanda she collected underwear and sanitary napkins for these female prisoners. She wished she could undertake such a project again, since a local member of JustEquipping was leaving for Rwanda in January.

Upon hearing that they could do something tangible to help these women, Dr. Hron’s EN313 class sprang into action. They wanted to provide each and every woman with a new pair of underwear for 2016. Dr. Hron was skeptical about this goal– there are more than 250 women in the Ruhengeri-Musanze prison… and there were only 26 students in her EN 313 class! However, nothing would deter these students – they spread the news and started bringing in underwear. Impressed, Dr. Hron then also recruited the help of her own friends, her EN/FS colleagues, as well as that of her large 160 person class, EN209 Fairy Tales. Soon, underwear starting piling up in Dr. Hron’s office, her car, her house… And by Christmas break, Dr. Hron counted that she had amassed more than 300 pairs of women’s undergarments! Amazing! Over the Christmas break, Dr. Hron carefully rolled them up, so that they would fit into a large suitcase (this rolling took more than 6 hours).
Underwear collected
The women in Ruhengeri-Musanze prison will most appreciate all your gestures of kindness. The suitcase is in Rwanda right now (Feb. 2016), and the underwear will be distributed during the week of Feb 22-26. Thank you everyone for your generosity, and for making the world a bit better place – one pair of undies at a time…

Contributed by: Madelaine Hron

Congress 2014 poetry reading at Niagara Artists’ Centre

Congress 2014 was held at Brock University in St. Catharines, and as I did when Congress 2012 was at WLU, I helped to organize a literary reading, pulling together fourteen poets who were also scholars giving papers at Congress.  My colleague at Brock, poet-professor Gregory Betts,  found the venue — the fabulous Niagara Artists Centre on St. Paul Street in downtown St. Catharines — and booksellers Noelle Allen of Wolsak and Wynn and Kitty Lewis of Brick Books stepped in to manage book sales. Gregory and I each invited some poets, wrote an ad, got a few organizations on board to advertise, and when the people began to pour in at 7:55 on May 25, it was clear that this event was going to be standing room only.

Gregory and I hosted, working out a classic buddy-comedy style that owed absolutely nothing to Nichols and May. English and Film Studies doctoral student Shannon Maguire kicked off the reading that featured poets as diverse as Nathan Dueck, Eric Schmaltz, Phoebe Wang, Charmaine Cadeau, Natalee Caple, Colin Martin, and Andy Weaver, who ended the night with a fantastic love poem. Gregory was a showstopper reading from his book, This is Importance, a poetry book made up entirely of creative errors about Canadian literature and it pretty much brought the house down. (Note to self: in future readings, read BEFORE Gregory.)  Noelle and Kitty reported robust book sales

The fairly new tradition of literary readings at Congress was begun in 2011 in Fredericton, at the University of New Brunswick, when Prof. Ross Leckie called on poets from graduate students to modernist icon Travis Lane (and everyone in between) to do two minutes at the microphone.  Walking away from that event, Eleanor Ty said to me, “We should do this at WLU next year.”  We did, and Jamie Dopp organized another at the University of Victoria for Congress 2013, and now the only question is, who will champion the Congress poetry reading at University of Ottawa next year?

Tanis with Gregory Betts May 2014