Having only graduated three years ago, Sarah Emms is comfortable and relaxed back on the Western campus. She sits across from me, hands clasped, back straight, prepared and punctual. For Sarah, life in her undergrad was both rewarding and challenging. She had been the President of the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council in her fourth year, filling up her free time pretty quickly: her days consisted of meetings, council work, applying to graduate programs, running a campaign for a successful USC party, and all with the end goal of advocating for all students, creating an impact, and carving out her place at Western. She tells me about how, at some points in her fourth year, she would wake up at six in the morning so that she had enough time in the day to do homework and get everything else on her to-do list completed, smiling to herself. One of her strongest memories from this time in her life is when she addressed the crowd of first-years during O Week. She standing in front of 6,000 people and being proud of her faculty, addressing future leaders who were just starting at Western while her journey was coming to an end: a moment she’ll never forget.
For someone who seems to have everything figured out, Sarah’s path didn’t always go to plan. She had thought that as an English Language and Literature and French Language and Literature major she, like her parents and grandparents before her, would attend Teacher’s College after her undergrad, but an internship between third and fourth year changed her course. That summer, she took an internship in corporate communications, something she never thought she’d experience, and then started looking at Public Relations and Communications options for post graduation opportunities. By 2015, she had graduated with a diploma in Public Relations through Western in downtown London, moving her life here to maintain the connections she’d made. Sarah thoughtfully recalls how this internship really opened up her eyes and allowed her to pursue a career path that combines her writing skills and critical analysis practice from her English degree with the details and big picture found in the corporate world and Public Relations – she loves the strategic aspect of thinking about where a company is now and how they can reach their end goal through educating an audience. She is now a Marketing Communications Specialist at a London life insurance company owned by Great West Life Co. She consults on the strategy behind the company’s communications in making people feel secure and that they’re taken care of by insurance, making it an awesome place to work, from Sarah’s perspective. Sarah’s diploma gave her the practical skills that act as a career accelerator to building her confidence in taking what she learned in her arts degree and applying it to her career. The diploma also gave her examples of writing that weren’t just essays about John Donne and the role of Ophelia in Hamlet.
Is a practical diploma the best way to get a career with an arts degree? For Sarah, it is definitely one option, but not totally necessary. She explains to me her personal connection with the Arts and Humanities, and her perspective on the arts stigma that still feels prominent at Western. The arts are what bring meaning, beauty, and value to our lives, whether through a photograph or a song or a piece of visual art, a poem, or a book, Sarah shares. Our world would be a sad place without the arts, which Sarah uses to support a joke about the U.S. Presidential Election results. In terms of a stigma surrounding the arts at Western, Sarah absolutely agrees that it exists, and that once students graduate they won’t notice it as much or at all. What people in other faculties miss about the arts faculty is that it inspires creativity and critical thinking that can be applied to all other faculties and areas of life. Sometimes people are blinded by the need to make money, and though the road is slower for arts students, Sarah believes that it is much worthwhile because students are pursuing something they are passionate about, which will render them more successful in the end, and they will still end up making a decent amount of money.
Sarah still sits as straight, yet relaxed, an hour later, as our conversation comes to a close. She looks out the window while reflecting about how, at the end of the day, her experience at Western shaped who she is. She is a kinder person, more empathetic, having felt like she’s put on someone else’s shoes and walked in them for a while. Arts gave her a perimeter perspective that didn’t trap in her in any type of bubble, giving her a greater worldview about what’s going on around her. When she had been the AHSC President, she had tried to initiate a greater connection between students and alumni as a kind of support system, and here she is, three years later, being interviewed as an alumnus in the inaugural year of an initiative she planted the seed for – if that isn’t success produced from passion, I don’t know what is. At the end of the day, Sarah will stand by her Western Arts degree no matter what, believing in the value of her education but also her experience. Don’t let the arts stigma get you down.
Accepting the Arts: An Interview with
Sarah Emms, BA ’14, Western University
by: Morgan McAuley
How an English Language and Literature Grad became a Communications Manager in Toronto
By: Misha Apel
I had the opportunity to interview Western alumna Marie-Lauren Gregoire, Communications Manager at the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) in Toronto. I had a blast speaking to a past Western student in my faculty and connecting as students with similar interests, involvement, and degrees. We spent an hour and a half on the phone, as Gregoire is based in Toronto and I in London, and she never stopped speaking passionately and enthusiastically about her time at Western. Marie-Lauren Gregoire has an amazing history of campus involvement, and Western pride, and said frequently during our interview that many of her skills came from her experiences at Western.
English Language and Literature
Gregoire studied English Language and Literature for her undergraduate degree at Western with Philosophy. She almost also had a minor in Spanish. As Gregoire’s field of study was very writing heavy, I asked what she felt were her most effective study habits. “I crammed a lot,” Gregoire stated. It was refreshing to see that sometimes students just have too much on their plates to study for an appropriate amount of time. “I think that weekly review, or as projects came up, group work was very helpful as well as tutorial sessions which were effective study help in class.”
Every student at some point must sit down and consider what trajectory their studies and experiences are taking them. So, I felt it was important to ask Gregoire what she wanted to do when she started her undergraduate degree. “I wanted to study English, definitely. I hadn’t focused on a minor at the time. But I wanted to go into English because I was focused on the arts in high school, especially the dramatic arts. My plan at university was to take as many courses as I could to get a sense as to what I could do academically. I took some film courses, some philosophy, some Spanish. I also branched out and took some earth science courses at the end of my degree, I should have taken it earlier and branched out earlier.” As a current Western student, I find I’m in the same position taking many different courses to try and find my path, and as Gregoire stated her courses were “very interesting and integral to [her] development.” Gregoire knew what she liked to study, focused on those areas, and went from there.
Time at Western
Gregoire was a very involved undergraduate student. She was on the Delaware Residence Council, the University Students’ Council and was the Clubs commissioner in her third year. She was also involved with the Black Students Association (BSA), the Caribbean Students Association (CSA), and even participated in a couple plays with the Arts Department, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and For Coloured Girls- When the Rainbow is Enuf.
An important question I asked Gregoire was what the hardest part about school at Western was for her, to which she answered “managing the distractions.” This is something I connected to deeply. It is hard managing everything and wanting to do everything at the same time, and clearly this is not a new phenomenon. Gregoire enjoyed that Western allows for a “360-degree experience, combining social life, leadership, and schooling.” It was a constant battle of being a student versus balancing life that Gregoire found to be the most challenging. “Being a very involved person, I found myself stretching to keep up my academics while being involved in student life. I learned time management during a seminar, and this helped me to learn how to not only do well in my academics but to get involved and evolve my resume.” Gregoire still uses techniques from that seminar today. “Even though technology has changed I still use things like organizing lists, timelines, colour coding, even though I can use calendars like Outlook and reminders now.” Marie-Lauren ended this question with an important piece of advice: “Make sure your life has balance: student life and academics.”
Life After Graduation
So, what did Marie-Lauren Gregoire do upon receiving her graduation status from Western. Well, like any other young adult, she turned towards getting a job. Gregoire took some courses at the Ivey Business School about entrepreneurship as she had ambition to help her mother’s small business. She worked at a bank, and then at a marketing firm. Working in marketing was preferred to Gregoire as it overlapped with her degree and she got to work with words. She then found a job at a local newspaper working in journalism, which inspired her to go to Ryerson University for Journalism. She felt that although she did not need more schooling, her job prospects opened up when she completed her journalism degree and she could now do something she enjoyed.
Gregoire is currently in public relations, which she chose for being able to be on both sides of the issue. She worked as a journalist for a couple of years, but journalism uses a different type of skill set than what communications people use. She now gets to see the perspective from the company’s side while continuing to write. “I felt I had a broader skill set based on my experience and as a communication professional, so now I do writing, programming, organization, event management and more.”
I was curious, because as a fellow English student, how her current career uses things that she learned during her undergraduate degree. “For me, the English Language and Literature Program and study of English has been essential to my success. I continue to use English skills in marketing communications and as a marketing manager. Understanding the English language in my current work is critical every time I have to write an issue note or news release or if I’m reviewing content for a website or social media.”
Gregoire’s Work Experience
Marie-Lauren began her job at the Canadian Hearing Society in September of 2013 as a Communications Manager. She found that her current employer provided her opportunities that allowed her to continue to progress her career. The company she works at, the Canadian Hearing Society, is non-profit and the goal is to help disadvantaged communities. “This is something that appeals to me, something that works from a social justice perspective.” Gregoire now uses her skill set and expertise to help people. She organizes many projects, big or small, employee training, outreach events with students, corporate trip to Washington D.C. for a tour of a deaf/hard of hearing university to share information about job prospects, organizes International Week of the Deaf with a symposium and job fair, does internal internet projects, digital and traditional media, and writes and organizes events for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (UN). This is just a short list of Gregoire’s responsibilities and capabilities.
If you were to hire a Western student, what skills would they need?
Gregoire explained that there are 5 important skills to be a top performer in her job: Language and use of Language, Negotiation Skills, Organizational Skills, Judgement, and Knowledge.
Language and the use of language is incredibly important as that is what PR people do. “We use language to describe things,” and this language creates a meaning. Whether it is English, or French employees need a mastery of language.
The skill of negotiation is essential to come to an understanding with different groups of people. In her field of work, one must work with multiple different groups, internally and organizationally, work with different departments and different programs and come to a decision or effective solution.
One must, for any job, have strong organizational skills. Compartmentalizing your mind, organizing work effectively, and setting priorities are important to be a successful employee.
Having a strong sense of judgement is to be able to constantly juggle priorities and make intelligent decisions as to which to do first. “If there is a media crisis, I have to use judgement to see what is the correct action to solve a problem.” Gregoire explains, “based on my knowledge of the field I have to choose which is the most pressing issue and go from there.”
Specific knowledge of the field is important to work in a communications or public relations environment. One must always know what the trends are, where to find that information, and to keep knowledge current. “In this position, it is important to provide the right information to people with a good, sound judgement.”
“If I were looking to employ a new graduate from Western, I would look for someone who has not only done well in their academics, but has a well-rounded educational experience. It is not always everything you’ve learned in class, but things you’ve learned in life and in the community. Whether you promote something or run an event, when hiring grads, I look for some type of work experience, or volunteer work, paid internships, summer jobs, and if they can transfer skill sets that apply for the job I am hiring for, then they are a good candidate.”
As a second-year student, I felt comfort in speaking to a Western alumna who actually did it! She graduated, and got a job she enjoys. This consolation has made me feel calmer about my experience as a student, and has helped me understand that it is important to gear my studies towards my interests, or I will be miserable in the future. Every student worries whether they will get a job in the field they are studying, and this interview experience has taught me that the world is my playground, and no matter what I choose as a student to pursue, there will be a place for me in the big-wide world.
I want to personally thank Marie-Lauren Gregoire for taking time out of her busy day to speak to me and participate in this Alumni Interview.
There is a common misconception that upon graduation an English major has few options for a successful career, but the skills acquired during the course to an English degree at the University of Western Ontario can, however, be applied to a
multitude of inspiring jobs.
“The curiosity and research skills engendered by literature are absolutely needed to be a successful journalist and the degree from UWO meant that when I applied to work overseas, I had that piece of paper to meet the visa rules,” explained Darryl Gibson, a graduate of the English Literature program at The University of Western Ontario (UWO) in 1973.
"The variety of things you learn pursuing English came into play almost every day after I graduated. It meant that whether I was interviewing a prime minister, a construction worker or a prima ballerina, I had, at the very least, read something, learned something, during my studies that made it easier to think of questions and gave me some, however incomplete, understanding of what the people I was interviewing were about. Without that background, the inevitable floundering of being dropped into other people's lives would have been much more daunting."
Background & Education
Darryl Gibson, born in London, Ontario, grew up in Wingham. Darryl received a Diploma in Creative Writing from York University in 1969 during a hiatus before completing his undergraduate degree at UWO where he initially studied in the Faculty of Sciences.
“I was graduated in English Lit, after a rather checkered academic career that include two years of pre med before switching into English, which I had always taken even while immersed in sciences because that turned out to be where my interests actually lay.”
An Interview With Darryl Gibson
By Madison Clarke
“I was lucky enough to do contemporary lit with Mike Ondaatje, and novels, film and Shakespeare with equally interesting profs.”
In October of his second year of at UWO Darryl was recruited by The Gazette as a reporter and editor. The experience Darryl gained during his time working for The Gazette was the first stepping stone towards his career in journalism.
“The Gazette grabbed me in October of my second year and ended up making me a reporter, foreign correspondent and foreign editor in real life.”
After graduating UWO in 1973, Darryl began working for The Spectator in Hamilton, Ontario as a reporter and Bureau Chief until 1979. During this time, in 1976 to 1977, Darryl spent a year abroad in Europe working as a freelance correspondent for The Spectator and other newspapers and magazines. Once returned from the time abroad Darryl married his European travel partner Brenda Bushell, now a professor at the University of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo. Together, they wanted to see Asia, which they had not done during the year living in a VW van in Europe.
"A tiny ad in The Globe and Mail on a dreary February day in 1979 offered a chance to work in Japan, and on the other end of the ad was an old friend of mine from The Gazette."
"Six weeks later, we landed in Tokyo, planning to stay for enough time to see the country and then move on with our trip and end up back in Canada."
"Fate intervened, new jobs were offered, new horizons and we're still here."
From 1981 to 2004, Darryl worked as a foreign correspondent in Japan for The Canadian Press, Toronto, for National Public Radio in Washington, and, many other international news organizations. He was also an editor at Kyodo News in Tokyo, Japan until 2015.
In addition to extensive travel for reporting across Asia and in Europe and Australia, he also worked as an editor with the Olympic News Service at seven Olympic Games, at the football World Cup in Japan and Korea, and at more than a dozen international sporting events in Japan, Qatar, China, Azerbaijan and Myanmar.
Darryl is currently a freelance writer and editor, still based in Japan.
In 2015, Darryl and Brenda went back to school in Italy for 7 months where they both studied Italian Food History and Culture, Darryl took the Business of Wine and Brenda, on sabbatical from Sacred Heart, specialized in Sustainable Development at Umbra Institute in Perugia.
"They have lots of other courses and if you ever consider a semester abroad, or postgrad, this a a great place to go. Very interesting courses, great professors and lots of very interesting classmates."
Darryl and Brenda, also a UWO graduate, have a house in the Japanese countryside, an apartment in the city and a dog, Shoga, who joined them in Perugia and Europe in 2014/15.
“She, like her humans, is a great traveler!"
I had the pleasure of corresponding with Carol Deimling, a UWO English graduate from the class of 1974. She enjoyed campus life in London, Ontario for an undergraduate degree, a Bachelors in Education, and a Masters before continuing to various cities throughout the province. Carol's focus had mostly been on education in the field of English and Dramatic Arts, but she shifted her career to counselling after obtaining a second Masters in Applied Psychology from the University of Toronto. The options for English graduates are not limited and no one has to complete a degree thinking their years of study have gone to waste. Carol shares her journey to show how a Bachelors in English is just the beginning.
Carol Deimling grew up in Port Hope, Ontario, east of Toronto.
"Great place to grow up. I was in a family of five and we all went to UWO."
Carol attended the University of Western Ontario from 1968 to 1974, graduating with a Masters in English Language and Literature.
"In my 4th year, we had to do a comprehensive exam on all four years’ work! I spent many hundreds of hours studying in the UC Library reading and writing essays. I think I took about 24 English honors courses during my degree. I had the heavy weights: Dr. B. Rajan for Yeats, Milton and Eliot. I had his wife, Dr. Rajan for Shakespeare and Dr. Gerry Parker for Drama. I keep in touch with him. I was also privileged to have excellent professors, such as Dr. James Reaney, Mr. Richard Stingle, Dr. Barker, and Dr. Tom Collins for Criticism."
"I finished my Honours English Language and Literature degree from UWO in 1972. Another wonderful professor I had was Dr. Ross Woodman. He was a Romantics expert. Wonderful teacher."
During her time at Western, Carol lived on-campus and mentions the leadership skills she gained through campus involvement.
An Interview with Carol Deimling
By Shelby Powell
"My first year I was at Delaware Hall and I joined the Purple Spur. My second, third and fourth year, I stayed at Saugeen-Maitland. In third year, I was a house senior and in fourth year, a Don. Lots of good leadership experience. I also helped out with theatre productions doing props or stage management."
After years of schooling, Carol began teaching English and Theatre Arts at a secondary school in Exeter, Ontario.
"In Exeter, at South Huron District High School, another teacher and I put on Colours in the Dark, a play by Dr. James Reaney. He came to see the play and we were very humbled."
Carol has a Bachelor of Arts and Masters in English, as well as a Bachelors of Education. Later, she obtained another Masters in Applied Psychology.
"I knew I wanted to do a Master's degree so the English Department gave me a $1,000.00 bursary for assistance. My siblings, Rob and Peg, were at UWO at the time so I had an OSAP loan too."
"I did my MA in English at UWO and then took my teaching degree at Althouse College. I had an excellent professor at Althouse College. His name is Don Gutteridge."
Carol married Peter, also a UWO student, in 1974. After teaching for a year in Exeter, her husband Peter finished his medical degree and they moved to Toronto.
"I got a position at L'Amoreaux Collegiate in Scarborough, again teaching English and Theatre Arts. My colleagues and I worked with students and staff and put on two plays that year. That year all the secondary teachers in the Toronto area went out on strike so 8,800 of us were [out of work] for 6 weeks. It was winter time and we walked a picket line in the cold. During the strike, the office staff served us hot soup during wintry days."
"During that year, Peter and I had to be very frugal as he was interning and I was on strike and we had to pay rent, heat, and food."
After some time in Toronto, Carol and Peter moved to Orilla. Peter became a family doctor while Carol spent one year as a supply teacher. After supply teaching, Carol was given a position at Twin Lakes Secondary School in Orilla, again for English and Theatre Arts. During this time Carol was also a member of CODE, the Council of Drama in Education.
"Twin Lakes Secondary School is a terrific school, and had a good staff and the Guidance programme at the time was highlighted in The Good School Study researched and written by Queen's University's Dr. Alan King. I did my MEd part-time while I continued to work at Twin Lakes Secondary School."
After years of dedicating herself to the classroom, Carol spent her final six years in education as a consultant in Guidance and Cooperative Education at the Simcoe County District School Board. Always getting involved outside of the classrom, Carol was a member of the Ontario School Counsellors Association, the Ontario Guidance Leadership Association (which she co-chaired for two years) and the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.
"I learned so much during my education at the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto. There were many leadership experiences along the way. The friendships I made at UWO and U of T have lasted my whole life and I am so grateful for those."
Now retired, Carol volunteers at the Orilla Museum of Art and History and with the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign through the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
She takes painting lessons and participates in art exhibitions as a member of the Simcoe Watershed Art Project, an environmental art group. She enjoys music, painting, photography, skiing, hiking, canoeing and kayaking, and travelling with Peter. ▣ Shelby Powell
dance competition buzz continues in the background, but Jeanine carries on, revealing her experience with being busy– a skill she attributes to her time at Western. She believes that, above all, it is important to do what you love and to not worry about money. Yes, you have to be tenacious, says Jeanine, and yes, it won’t be easy at first, but she is now someone who created her own job in an area of her strength and passion and she loves it every day. She impacts the lives of over 300 of her students, exercising the right side of their brains, and building them to be artists and innovators in their own lives. She also suggests that anyone interested in pursuing a dance career should contact her and she would be more than happy to act as a mentor. Jeanine’s time at Western allowed her career path to become more focused, and after teaching dance for a few years post graduation, she was able to create a job for herself. However, what I gathered most from Jeanine is that pursuing an arts education is not about reaching the end goal of finding a job: an arts education is about pursuing what you love, what makes you tick, and sticking with it long enough to make the most of it in the pursuit of being happy.
With the sound of crowds and kids in the background, Jeanine Henderson Kitching calls me from a dance competition, demonstrating her mastery of multitasking. Having graduated from Western in 2008 with a BA in English Language and Literature and Dramatic Literature, Jeanine runs a fully established dance studio in Stratford, Ontario. Jeanine admits to me that she never would have expected to be a small business owner when she was in her first year at Western. During her undergraduate career, Jeanine was heavily involved with Theatre Western and the dance community. She choreographed many shows at Western, including West Side Story, which is no easy task as Jerome Robbins’ original choreography blends several styles together and is extremely innovative, speaking to Jeanine’s skill as a dancer. Her favorite course was Modern Dance, which I didn’t even know existed. Jeanine expresses to me how being so involved during her time at Western distracted from the arts stigma, and she didn’t really feel like there was a stigma surrounding arts at all – her group of friends were all in arts and she was proud of being an artist. Overall, she loved her time at Western and feels like the experience has shaped who she is today.
Jeanine’s arts education has translated seamlessly into running her own business, helping her to think outside of the box, handling a massive amount of responsibility, and thinking critically about situations. Throughout our conversation, kids interrupt and the
By Morgan McAuley
For the Love of Dance: an Interview with
Jeanine Henderson Kitching, BA ’08, Western University
Kayla Pecora comes from an interdisciplinary background at Western, and shares her advice for current undergraduate students as well as how her studies have translated to the workforce. Born in Canada and raised in the USA, Kayla is a huge animal lover, with “two awesome dogs and a really cool cat.” Kayla also enjoys recreational sports and deep-sea fishing. From Kayla, we have the opportunity to learn from her diverse array of experiences, and how she has integrated her interests along with her time at Western into her career!
Q: How did you decide to pursue both Visual Arts and Biology?
I really just listened to people who told me as a kid to follow your passions and do what you like—for me this was always science and art.
Q: Was this a decision you made right away, or after you had spent time at Western?
I was actually in Psychology in first year, which I am also still interested in and still occasionally study independently. However, it was really the influence of my high school teachers who persuaded me to continue with art. Biology has always been most interesting for me. However, I see both disciplines as intertwined and equal in value.
Q: How did you balance the demands of both programs?
Balance posed one of my biggest challenges as student. I needed to produce a lot of art, additionally examining the context of theory and history, while science overtook me in study hours and lab work. As well, I was taking a greater amount of science courses to fulfill the credit requirements for a BSc, which drew me more towards this field. Beyond academics, I worked a part-time job and was involved with social clubs on the executive board. I had to really use time management skills and learn how to prioritize.
An Interview with Kayla Pecora
Sales & Account Manager, MS Schippers Canada
Area of Study: Visual Arts and Biology
By Jacqueline Grassi
Q: What is one thing you recommend all students do during their undergrad at Western?
Every student at Western should attend O-week to start, and convocation to finish. If you have a study group, it is worth it to have a drink with some nachos (at some point) at The Spoke or Grad Club. Also, check out the Artlab in the visual arts building every now and then. Lastly, support your colleagues who are involved in clubs, as you could make life-long friends with like-minded people.
Q: In your later years of undergrad, how did you decide to pursue your chosen career? What advice do you have for recent graduates?
Exploring options and networking is the key, as many graduates may not end up exactly where they thought they would be. I find the best thing to do is to always engage in your interests and discover where they can take you. Tomorrow is always a new opportunity! I live by the Latin phrase (also my high school motto), . The most important thing to remember is your end goal, even a mediocre job can have the potential to be a means to an end if you stay determined and focused through setbacks or challenges. This can provide a chance to reconsider and reflect on where you want to go in life, and help you to make a decision as to what you really want to offer the world. I believe the key is to keep dreaming and think big, reconstructing your notion of a position or career and challenging yourself to redefine your field or industry.
Q: What do you do in your job? What is your favourite aspect and how does it relate to your studies?
I mainly work with Ontario farmers to help increase their animals’ health and well-being. I specialize in hygiene, water treatment, feed management, udder health, hoof care, transition, and agri-pest control; I provide solutions to farmers to improve in these areas. There is quite a link between my work and my studies, as many of the issues animals face are biological. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, or pathogens generally cause sickness in animals, which is why so many farmers understand why biosecurity is so important. I often research various sicknesses, as well as provide preventative measures to avoid future outbreaks. Although my current position suits my career path, this is not the exact route I expected to take. Since childhood, I always wanted to be a veterinarian. As I grew older (in high school), I was certainly considering a medical field. I was also interested in teaching Biology and Art subjects, about which I am the most passionate. I find the job I am doing now fits nicely into the genre I wanted to pursue, especially since I love animals.
Q: What skills from your undergraduate studies do you find that you use on a frequent basis in your current position? How much was “on the job” learning?
My undergrad taught me some skills that I still find myself using on a day-to-day basis, however I have also acquired skills mainly came from experience in real life and work. The main advantage university gave me is knowledge and understanding of complex concepts and ideas. I have had the chance to use my knowledge of science quite a bit in my current position. I work in agriculture to help improve overall health in farmer’s barns; especially for dairy cattle, swine and poultry. For example, we launched a new product from Holland here in Canada for water treatment. I was selected to develop introductory material for our new water acidifier for pigs and poultry, and to train my colleagues on how the product works. Furthermore, the treatment of Strawberry foot in dairy cows without antibiotics, a project I have worked on with great efforts, relates to my studies of bacteria, immune responses, and antibiotic resistance at Western.
Q: How did you find the transition from the university to the workplace?
To become fully independent is liberating, yet it can be very difficult too. I began working at a young age to assist my dad with his business. As soon as I reached working age (in Florida it is 14 years old), I started working my first job at Panera Bread. By the time I finished high school, I was already fairly independent. As I entered first year of university, I had already had a lot of work experience obtained through different positions. The main challenge was adjusting my perspective to hold myself up to my true value. Once you realize how much you have accomplished, it can be mind blowing to think about the strides that you had to take to get to where you are today.
Q: What was the biggest change you noticed?
The biggest change for me was the overall atmosphere shift. Being a student on campus most of the time was almost like being in a bubble. It was safeguarded very well, and seemed very secure. I find the “real world” is much more turbulent and unguided. There isn’t an academic calendar to just choose what you want to do in the next fiscal year, or guidance counselors to approach for advice, and you will find a broader spectrum of people and that people’s character and behavior can have a great impact.
Q: Do you have a favourite visual artist or artistic movement? What do you think about artwork that combines biology and artistic concepts?
I am a big fan of Marcel Duchamp, Simon Starling, and Salvador Dali. Surrealism has always been an interesting movement for me, as I enjoy questioning the relationship between the unknown and reality. Art and Biology have been examined together and juxtaposed many times in history. I do find bio-art very interesting, especially contemporary artists who draw on these concepts together. Anytime we can question our ethics, God complexes, and challenge ourselves on humanity; to open ourselves up these questions is a good thing. I find that sometimes an artist has to push the boundaries of science even more than a scientist would to relay a concept. Art often gets us to stop for a second, to stand back and really think about what we are doing. I enjoy Simon Starling for this reason, as he addresses issues of limited resources and global warming.
Q: Where do you see yourself in ten years? Students often think about the transition between university and the workplace. Having made this transition, what advice would you share?
In ten years, I hope wherever I am and whatever I am doing is something I enjoy with great passion. As I know my interests, I see myself working with animals, using my science background, and a huge possibility for research. I enjoy supporting animal and human rights activists. There are many directions I can go in with these basic facts about myself, and there are endless opportunities. As long as there is room to grow and learn, this is what matters most to me. My biggest piece of advice to anyone would be to never let up on your ideas or dreams. It may take time to develop a way to make something work, or to finalize how to do or discover something. If you have your goal in mind everyday, you are getting closer to reaching it.