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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Greetings from Alumni and Ex-Faculty:
Photos and Story by : Garrett Bernt and Katherine Duffy
Additional slides and editing by: Eleanor Ty