This page lists the current graduate students. For a list of previous years, see Our PhD Graduates.
Sadia Afrin is a PhD student under the stream of Rhetoric and Communication Design at the Department of English Language and Literature in the University of Waterloo. She has completed her B.A and M.A in English Literature from Jahangirnagar University of Bangladesh, her country of origin. She has also completed M.Ed in English Education at the Department of Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum of the College of Education, University of Oklahoma, U.S. Her PhD research area combines Postcolonial studies and Educational studies to inform teaching writing to multilingual learners in Higher Education at the West, empowered with praxis, dialogue, and social justice. She is currently working with interests in Brazilian revolutionist Paulo Freire’s educational pedagogy, critical thinking, neocolonialism, hybrid generation, and Third space. Her Master’s thesis in English literature was on Marxist study of Spanish poems of Pablo Neruda and Cesar Valejo. Her Master’s in Education was on comparative study of educational systems of Finland and Bangladesh. She has published a book chapter titled: “Trajectories of Language, Culture, and Geography in Postcolonial Bangladesh” in the book named Handbook of the Changing World Language Map published by Springer International Publishing.
Ayesha Altaher completed a BA (English Literature) at AAU and her MA (Literary Studies) at UWaterloo. Ayesha is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the department of English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo. Her secondary field of research is Composition Studies and Pedagogy, and her primary research interest is American Literature. Ayesha is interested in exploring cultural productions, particularly literary texts, by African, Muslim, and Arabic speaking people who were forcefully relocated to the United States (enslaved) or immigrated between the late 1700s and early 1900s, as well as the representations of these groups circulating in North America print culture at the time. Ayesha is interested in how this history challenges what it means to be American.
Becky Anderson completed a BA (English; French Studies), MA (Literary Studies), and GDip (Cognitive Science) at Waterloo. Becky is the recipient of the Provost Doctoral Entrance Award (2015-2016), a Jack Gray Fellowship (2016-2017), a W.K. Thomas Graduate Scholarship (2017-2018), and an Ontario Graduate Scholarship (2017-2018). Now a SSHRC-funded doctoral candidate, Becky’s research examines the immersive potential of fantastic ontologies across different forms of media. She’s also concurrently pursuing a Certificate in University Teaching from the Centre for Teaching Excellence to complement her extensive instructional experience with a firm theoretical grounding in the scholarship of teaching and learning
Jonathan Baltrusaitis, BA (Film and Communication/Culture Studies at McGill) and MA (Experimental Digital Media at Waterloo) is a PhD student in the department of English Language and Literature. He comes from a film and television background with a drive to extend documentary storytelling into new media, particularly locative augmented reality. His masters research project “The Civic Monument Reinvented and Extended through Enfranchising Documentary AR” explored how augmented reality can alter the narrative potential of civic spaces, particularly by enfranchising traditionally marginalized voices in the context of civic monuments. Jonathan’s current research continues this exploration of “Space, Time and Story” viewing AR as an opportunity to promote community, belonging, civil discourse and cultural understanding by creating meaningful ‘places’ around us, healing the schism of the dual universes we inhabit (the physical and the digital). To this end he’s exploring the cognitive underpinnings of narrative, the effects of stereoscopy and developing a new locative-documentary grammar. Jonathan received the Graduate Grade Average Award (2017-2018) and he is an enthusiastic teacher.
Sally Beresford, B.A. Hons, (English; Philosophy; History, Redeemer University) and MA (Literary Studies, University of Waterloo) is a PhD Candidate at the University of Waterloo. Her research focuses on women’s detective fiction of the interwar period in Britain and the creation of reading communities by the authors through the use of language. She is the recipient of an Ontario Graduate Scholarship (2020-2021). Her research can be found in Clues: A Journal of Detective Fiction. She has also contributed book chapters to edited anthologies which question and define roles of liminal characters of the detective genre.
Betsy Brey (BA and MA, University of Minnesota Duluth) is a PhD candidate specializing in game studies. Her research focuses on the intersections of narratological structure, social context, and gameplay. In particular, she's interested in how players understand and interpret narrative forms in role-playing games and metagames. Her work is inspired by intersectional feminism, knowledge mobilization, and accessible scholarship. Her research and projects have been supported through the ReFig grant, the IMMERSe research network, a Mitacs partnership, and The Games Institute. She is the Editor-in-Chief for First Person Scholar. Her writing has been featured in The Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric, as well as in several book chapters on player control, storytelling, and agency in games.
Christopher Cameron is a PhD candidate. He completed his BA and MA at the University of Windsor. Areas of research interest include Tolkien studies, constructions of national identity, walking literature, and Renaissance drama.
Justin Carpenter is a PhD candidate in English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo. His current research traces the use of the term 'generative' from literary to computational contexts. He argues that such a genealogy can help better situate game studies scholarship in dialogue with modernist and postmodernist literary studies, as well as cinema and other media. His other research interests include poetry, philosophy of technology, and aesthetics. Justin is generously funded by a SSHRC Doctoral Scholarship.
Keely Cronin, B.A (Concordia University of Edmonton) and M.A (Queens) is a PhD candidate studying representations of Canadian immigrant narratives on the popular CBC program "Canada Reads," as well as the #CanadaReads community that has developed on Twitter. She is currently writing her dissertation while also working as the Director of Student Life and Learning at Concordia University of Edmonton.
Sarah Currie is a doctoral student in the emergent field of MAD STUDIES, a rhetorical intersection of medicalized humanities, disability studies and postpsychiatry. Mad studies is an academic and grassroots hybrid initiative advocating for survivors of the broken mental illness treatment system currently practiced in Canada and the U.S.
Sarah completed her MA in English and Film Studies with a specialization in poststructuralism at Wilfrid Laurier University before moving to UW for the chance to work with Dr Jay Dolmage. She is a big believer in research initiatives with realizable grassroots impact — the work is worth doing if you’re meaningfully impacting the lives of those without the same access.
Jennifer Doyle, BA (Mount Allison University), BFA (Mount Allison University), BEd (Memorial University), MA (Wilfrid Laurier University), has research interests that include ecocriticism, American Literature, psychoanalysis, and concepts of place and being. She has just begun work on her dissertation.
Judy Ehrentraut , B.A. (University of Toronto), M.A. (Carleton University) is a PhD candidate specializing in digital humanities, new media and games studies. Her research interests include agency and identity in role-playing games, immersion and interactivity, spatial theory, cybercultures, and utopian/dystopian themes in games and literature. She is particularly interested in avatars and player representation in simulated realities, and how those realities are modeled to challenge current social and political issues globally. As a member of the Games Institute, one of her current projects is the development of a generative narratology application for in-game communication and storytelling.member of the Games Institute, one of her current projects is the development of a generative narratology application for in-game communication and storytelling.
Lara El Mekkawi
Lara El Mekkawi completed a BA (English) at Notre Dame University- Louaize, and an MA (English Literature) at the American University of Beirut. She is currently a PhD student in English at the University of Waterloo. She is the recipient of the Provost Doctoral Entrance Award for Women (2019). Her research interests are in Cosmopolitanism and World Literature; Lara studies the complicated connotations behind being a part of the world. She also freelances as a book editor. She has edited Nadia Tabbara’s debut book Harness Your Creativity (2018) and co-edited a poetry collection titled And We Chose Everything (2018), and is currently editing Nour Abou Fayad’s debut novel The Complete Opposite of Everything (2019).
Elianne is a Lebanese-Canadian PhD candidate at UW. She is looking at identity formation and recreation in colonial and apartheid states, particularly through youth cultures in Palestine. She is interested in cultural studies and politics, Middle East studies and rhetoric. Elianne received her BA and MA from the University of Balamand in Lebanon where she focused on alchemical symbolism, modernism and the poetry of Khalil Gibran. While she remains interested in Middle Eastern art and artists, her focus has shifted from the esoteric to the sociopolitical aspect of cultural production.
Alex Fleck, B.A. (Waterloo), M.A. (Waterloo), is a second-year English PhD student examining virtual reality hardware and software through a media archeology and philosophy of technology lens. This research subject coincides with Alex’s other research into interfaces, FPGA (clone) videogame consoles, various histories of computer technology, the remastering/adaptation of old videogames, modding and piracy/ownership, and game design.
Sara Gallagher (B.A. Hons, Trent; M.A. Public Texts, Trent) is a senior PhD Candidate who specializes in American literary regionalism and print cultures, African American literature, place studies, and digital activism. Her dissertation examines the roots of the African American West in specific regions and cultures (for example, nineteenth-century San Francisco) in order to gather a more nuanced picture of how this space has evolved into contemporary conceptualizations in literature, cinema, and other media cultures. Her research has been generously-funded by Ontario Graduate Scholarships.
Kyle Gerber, BA (Laurier) MA (Waterloo) BEd (Laurier), is a PhD candidate in the department of English Language and Literature. He is working under the supervision of Dr. Randy Harris on a dissertation titled "Figures of Forgiveness: Rhetorical Foundations of the Mennonite Ethos of Forgiveness." Kyle is a recipient of the W. K. Thomas Graduate Scholarship, several Ontario Graduate Scholarships, and is the grateful recipient of a recent SSHRC Doctoral Scholarship. He enjoys teaching, and has several nominations for the TA Award for Excellence in Teaching. He is interested in rhetoric (especially Burkean) and understandings of forgiveness, as well as Canadian Literature (especially “Mennonite” writing): the question at the nexus of these interests is “what action do we symbolize when we say ‘I forgive’?” In particular, his interest has broadened to include figuration, so a central question he is pursuing is "what rhetorical figures cluster around statements of forgiveness?" When not taking up space on campus, Kyle enjoys working with his wife Tracy on their old stone house, and moonlighting as a mandolin player in his side-hustle bluegrass band.
Christopher Giannakopoulos, (BA, MA Waterloo) is a third-year doctoral candidate specializing in rhetorical studies and contemporary literature of the UK. In his research, Chris investigates how a handful of late-twentieth century poets develop interdisciplinary poetics as a way of engaging traditional discourses for knowing (philosophy, history, theology, etc.) through their poetry. Drawing on the poetics of etymology, the rhetorics of argumentation, and the inventive possibilities of poetic form, Chris’s research explores how language both produces—and in some cases obstructs—the paths towards knowledge.
Ian Gibson, BAH (Queen’s), MA (Trent), is a fourth-year PhD candidate in the department of English Language and Literature. Although his training is in American literature and rhetoric, Ian’s academic interests vary widely, from representations of contemporary science in recent literature to literary theory and its intersections with philosophy. His dissertation is a comparative look at two seemingly unlike authors, Marilynne Robinson and Cormac McCarthy. Its aim is to account for, or to begin to account for, a simultaneous commitment in the authors’ works: to the language of science and materialism on the one hand, and to the language of “orthodox” religious forms on the other. His suspicion is that the overlap indicates a rather serious departure from what is often referred to as the “postsecular.”
Some other interests include: the Frankfurt School (specifically Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno), philosophy of language, theology, existentialism, rhetoric, the imagination, and cognitive science. And less literary/philosophical: climbing, running, camping, horror movies, video games, gardening, and playing the drums.
Vanya Rachel Gnaiah is a PhD Student whose research interests include Animal Studies, Posthumanism, Food Culture and Media Theory. She previously completed an Integrated MA in English Studies with a minor in Development Studies at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. She was also the recipient of the Erasmus Mundus scholarship and was selected for an exchange program to Aarhus University, Denmark. She currently holds the Exceptional Doctoral Student Scholarship and her PhD research examines the conditions that make the animal killable in the abattoir and the biopolitical consequences of technological innovations centered around lab-grown meat and plant-based proteins.
Nicholas Hobin is a Ph.D. candidate in English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo, with an MA (English Language and Literature) from the same, and a BA (English) from King’s University College. His research aims to create links in the fields of humanities-based game studies and animal studies, exploring questions of virtual animality and posthuman identity. His dissertation investigates the many ways in which the non-human animal image is used and articulated in digital games, and how these images reveal, reinforce, or challenge our cultural preconceptions of what it means to be animal. He works at the UW’s Games Institute, and is the Associate Editor of Book Reviews and Interviews for First Person Scholar.
Ashley Irwin, BA and MA (University of Guelph), is a PhD Candidate at the University of Waterloo. Her research interests include discourse analysis, gender and sexuality, critical race theory, Black Canadian literature and history, and literary theory. Her dissertation analyzes the discourse used in Canadian news media sources to marginalize anti-racist activism when framing instances of Black Canadian uprising. Ashley published an article in Borders Undergraduate Arts Research Journal entitled “Grieving the Ungrievable: Negation and Recognition in Execution Poems” (2012) and was nominated for the Associate VP Academic Teaching Assistant Award of Excellence (2014). She is the winner of the Lea Vogel-Nimmo English Graduate Professionalization Award (2017), the Arts Senate Award (2017), and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (2017).
Zahra Jafari is a fourth-year PhD candidate of Rhetoric in the department of English Language and Literature. She completed her BA in English Language and Literature and her first MA in Translation Studies, both at University of Isfahan. She did a second MA in Rhetoric and Communication Design at the University of Waterloo. Currently, she is working on her dissertation under the supervision of Dr. Michael MacDonald. Her project is a comparative, multimodal analysis of the representation of Iranian women in media. Zahra’s book chapter titled “Iranian Women and the Media: The Good, the Bad, and the Untold” has appeared in Minority Women and Western Media: Challenging Representations and Articulating New Voices.
Some of her academic interests include: Rhetoric, Women’s Studies, Metaphor Studies, Postcolonial Literature, Shakespeare, 19th-century British Literature, and Translation Quality Assessment (TQA).
Melissa Johnson is a PhD student in the Department of English Language and Literature. Her dissertation examines how the rhetorical history of hysteria has informed and continues to inform current societal and medical perceptions of contemporary women with illness and/or disability. Melissa graduated with distinction from Western University with a BA (Hons.) in English and a Minor in Sociology. She received her MA in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Northern British Columbia where she examined the negative social and health ramifications of disseminating, legitimating, and perpetuating pathologizing discursive representations of Indigenous peoples in Canadian media. Melissa is the recipient of the Provost Doctoral Entrance Award (2018/2019). She is also an Executive Member of the Student Association for Graduates in English (SAGE) serving as Equity Liaison (2019/2020). She is committed to investigating inequities and oppression, violence, discourse and power, and especially, ableism.
Monique Kampherm, BA Administrative and Commercial Studies-Public Administration, Public Policy, and Political Science (Western University), MA Political Science (Western University), MA Multimedia Journalism-Television, Radio, and Online (Bournemouth University), MA English-Rhetoric and Communication Design (University of Waterloo), is a PhD candidate (ABD) in English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo.
Monique’s doctoral research focuses on political rhetoric, social media, and democratic engagement. She is examining how federal leader debates are evolving because of the rhetorical influence of social media.
Monique holds a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship (2020-2021), and is a recipient of the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (2018-2020) and President’s Graduate Scholarship at the University of Waterloo (2018-2021). She is also named the RhetCanada 2018 Graduate Student Prize Winner by the Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric for her paper presented at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences conference. Her paper, "Democratic Prosopopoeia: The Rhetorical Influence of the I-Will-Vote Image Filter on Social Media Profile Pictures During the 2015 Canadian Federal Election," is now published in the peer-reviewed journal Rhetor: The Journal of the Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric, 8, 59-98.
In addition to her diverse scholarly background, her past professional experiences as a Policy Advisor for the Infrastructure and Realty arm of the Government of Ontario, journalistic experiences with Sky News Business and BBC Watchdog in England, and educational experiences as an Instructor (University of Waterloo), Course Director (York University), and Partial-Load Professor in English (Sheridan; Seneca College) have helped shape her research interests.
Chitra Karki is a PhD student, Department of English Language and Literature. He received an MA in English Language and Literature in 2002 from Tribhuvan University, Nepal, and an MA in Rhetoric and Communication Design in 2015 from the University of Waterloo. His research interests are: Critical Race Theoretical Praxis, African American Rhetoric, Critical Pedagogy, Postcolonial Studies, Nuances in South Asian Diaspora(s) and Critical Sociolinguistic.
Asma Khaliq, BA (Honours English Literature; Double Specialization in Digital Media Studies and English Literature in a Global Context English) and MA (Rhetoric and Communication Design) is a PhD student at Waterloo. She has a research interest in the visual and rhetorical design of websites and online communities such as Reddit and Facebook with regards to medical self-diagnosis, credibility, and the spread of information and misinformation. Asma’s other pursuits include graphic design, marketing, and communications.
Somayeh (Sam) Kiani
Sam Kiani completed her BA and MA in English Literature in Iran. She is currently working on her PhD dissertation under the supervision of Dr. Heather Smyth. Her research focuses on the dynamics of gender, sexuality, race, and diaspora in Anglophone Caribbean literature. Her interests include postcolonialism, Caribbean Literature, Diaspora studies, and women's writing.
Jin Sol Kim
During my undergraduate studies at Carleton I double majored in English Literature and Linguistics, and played a lot of video games. During my Masters in English Literature at Carleton I specialized in science fiction and dystopia, and played a lot of video games. At some point I realized that I ought to combine these interests.
Video games are everywhere now: in books, in film, on your TV, on your phone, in the classroom, in the workplace. I want to make sense of their impact on our lives. People today spend as much time playing games as they might have spent reading books fifty years ago. How does that restructure our cognition? McKenzie Wark summarizes that “Games are no longer a pastime, outside or alongside of life. They are now the very form of life, and death, and time itself." So "play" isn't just about play anymore. Play has become work.
I believe that it's essential to understand how we are using what we learn in games to approach challenges in our real lives. To plead ignorance is to allow external forces to co-opt those influences and manipulate them in their favour. Nick Dyer-Witheford and Grieg de Peuter warn that "video games are a paradigmatic media of empire." To this I ask: what is our alternative? How can we take this cognitive capital back from the gamified office and leverage it positively? Big questions. I can't answer them on my own. That's why I'm here at the University of Waterloo.
Shannon Lodoen is a PhD student in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo. She completed her Honours BA in English Literature and Rhetoric at the University of Waterloo (2016) and her MA at Western’s Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism (2019). She has been the recipient of a Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Master's Scholarship (2018- 2019), the Provost Doctoral Entrance Award for Women (2019-2020), UW's Beltz Prize in Literature (2020) as well as the Rhetoric Essay Award (2020), and an Ontario Graduate Scholarship (2020-2021).
Shannon’s main areas of interest include rhetoric, semiotics, and discourse analysis. Her master’s thesis examined the role of myth, as defined by Barthes, in the construction of Canadian national identity. In her dissertation she plans to shift her research southward to the United States, using a pessimistic framework to investigate and deconstruct American narratives of social and technological progress in the twentieth century.
Kem-Laurin Lubin completed an Honours BA at the University of Ottawa and an M.A in the Rhetoric and Professional Writing stream at the University of Waterloo. She has returned years later, after a career in Design and Innovation Coaching to begin a Ph.D. in the general area of Computational Rhetoric.
Kem- Laurin is also the author of a design text User Experience in the Age of Sustainability, an accredited Innovation coach and Design Strategist. She brings over 15 years of practical experience and foresight into next level Design consulting that understands the changing needs of business delivery. Kem-Laurin has worked in a wide range of design spaces including, Cloud, Web & Mobile, Logistics & Assembly; Mobile, Energy & Automation; Postal Automation, Medical Imaging & Health Information Systems. She drove the institutionalization of design at Siemens, Blackberry along with numerous consultancy roles, including the hands-on building of the Toronto-based Platform Maidstr. She led the visual redesign of the multi-layered 3D Animation software Maya®, the industry's leader in 3D animation software. She is also the holder of several mobile patents. She is mum to two boys and a rambunctious German Sheppard, Chewie.
Tommy Mayberry (he/she/they) is a PhD candidate in the Department of English Language and Literature. They hold a Joint Honours BA in English Literature and Fine Arts: Studio Specialization (with Dean’s Honours) from the University of Waterloo and an MA in English and Cultural Studies from McMaster University. They have been the recipient of two Ontario Graduate Scholarships and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) Doctoral Fellowship, and they also were one of the recipients of the 2015 Amit & Meena Chakma Award for Exceptional Teaching by a Student. Their research-creation dissertation, “I AM OLOLON: Transperforming William Blake’s Eve, Ololon, and Oothoon,” focuses on Romantic Period and contemporary transgender visual culture as they “drag up” their academic writing to embody their research.
In addition to their doctoral studies, Tommy is also the Manager of Outreach and Recruitment at St. Jerome’s University at the University of Waterloo as well as Co-Editor of the upcoming collection of essays RuPedagogies of Realness: Teaching and Learning in RuPaul’s Drag Race and its Paratextual Cultures (forthcoming McFarland, 2020). They have also received numerous grants for their writing and multimodal science communication project (“The Science Library Project”) and have been invited to speak on instructional inclusivity at several universities, including Western University as part of their Future Prof Series and as the Keynote Speaker for the University of Alberta’s annual Teaching Institute.
Lindsay Meaning is a PhD student in the English department of the University of Waterloo. She previously studied English Literature at Wilfrid Laurier University, and completed a Master’s in Experimental Digital Media at Waterloo. Her research lies in the field of Game Studies, focusing on representations of imperial ideologies and colonial practices in strategy and role-playing video games. Further interests include digital life writing, fan communities, and Victorian women’s writing.
Houman Mehrabian, completed his MA (English Literature) at the University of Tehran. He is currently a doctoral candidate in the department of English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo, studying the history and theory of rhetoric and William Shakespeare. He is particularly interested in ancient Greek and Roman texts on the art of persuasion (Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian) and the role of rhetorical argumentation in Shakespeare’s tragedies. Houman is also a recipient of the 2017 Amit and Meena Chakma Award for Exceptional Teaching by a Graduate Student.
Diana Moreno Ojeda
Diana Moreno Ojeda, BA (Art History and Theory; Philosophy minor, Los Andes University), MA (English Language Teaching, University of Tabriz), and MA (Rhetoric and Communication Design, University of Waterloo) is a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo.
Her research work is anchored at the intersection of Attitude, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Cognitive Narratology. More specifically, Diana looks at how authors deploy patterns of Attitude in science fiction to present their evaluation of AI to their readers. Attitudinal appraisal is ultimately a device for the positioning of discussions on the cultural value of our technological artifacts and their construction; but, also, for the exploration of our current definitions of intelligence, reason, and cognition.
Diana is also Associate Editor of Essays for First Person Scholar, and she enjoys cooperative table-top games just as much as reading Science and Speculative Fiction.
Devon Moriarty completed her BA (Psychology), MA (English, Rhetoric and Communication Design), and GDip (Cognitive Science) at the University of Waterloo. As a SSHRC-funded doctoral candidate (English, Rhetoric), Devon’s work examines how science communication and political communication unfolds on online social voting communities like Reddit, and has appeared in a variety of journals including Technical Communication Quarterly and Social Epistemology. She is working to find ways to leverage virality in these established, democratically-oriented online communities to the benefit of a more inclusive democracy in Canada where citizens can participate meaningfully in political life by capitalizing on the affordances of virtual platforms.
Evelyn Morton's creative and nonfiction work has appeared in The Atlantic’s tech channel, Plenitude Magazine, Briarpatch Magazine, StrangeHorizons, Lackington's, and Bitch Magazine, among other publications. Evelyn (pron. Eve-a-lyn) received an MA from Trent University’s Public Texts Program after completing a Gender Studies and English Literature BAH at Trent years earlier. Evelyn’s current dissertation examines adapting transgender narratives from medical texts, memoirs, and novels to film and other digital media.
R. Travis Morton is a game studies scholar pursuing his PhD at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, studying collective identity-building online through ostention and legend-tripping. He is also an online journalist, writing articles for Lost Hemisphere and other online periodicals.
Graeme Northcote, homo sapien sapien (occasionally living up to the name), BA Honours (English and Philosophy, University of Guelph), MA (North American Literature, the University of Guelph), is a PhD student here at the University of Waterloo, with a dual specialty in rhetoric and media studies. When he isn’t referring to himself in the third person, he is working to apply ecocritical and semiotic systems of analysis to discussions of modern technostructures. His research aims to explore the mythological rhetoric of communication and transportation infrastructures.
Specifically, he seeks to critically engage with how these technologies operate as highly concentrated symbolic matrices that encode powerful and pervasive cultural narratives of what it means to be human and our place in relation to non-human animals and the rest of the living world.
Zach Pearl is a PhD Candidate in the English Language and Literature program. His dissertation research centres on fictocriticism—a method of writing that blends fictional narrative with critical commentary and theoretical frameworks—and its relationship to second-order cybernetics and post-Internet communication. Since January 2020, Zach is also a Research Assistant on the SSHRC-funded initiative, Entangling the Media History Archive, led by Dr. Henry Adam Svec, which examines various practices of entanglement as they intersect with the histories of digital media and media theory. Additional research interests include media arts, virtuality, smart environments and histories of technology. Zach’s research and methods are often interdisciplinary. Before coming to UW, he completed a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and an MFA in Criticism and Curatorial Practice at OCAD University (Toronto). When not working on his dissertation, Zach maintains a professional practice as a design educator, arts writer and occasional curator. He has produced public programs and exhibition texts for a wide range of organizations, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Vtape, the Subtle Technologies Festival, Eastern Edge and the Gladstone Hotel. Zach is the recipient of the Ontario Graduate Scholarship, the UW President’s Graduate Scholarship and the Jack Gray Fellowship Award.
Dakota Pinheiro is a Ph. D. student in the department of English Literature. He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Honours English Literature at the University of Waterloo, graduating with several grade average awards and with the Dean’s List distinction. Dakota went on to complete his Master of Arts degree in English Literature at the University of Toronto.
As a Ph. D. student at the University of Waterloo, Dakota’s research interests are 19th and 20th century American literature, though he is especially interested with the opus of John Steinbeck and the relationship between literature (and mythologies of literary quality and significance) with the American public consciousness. Dakota is also interested in drawing comparisons between literary developments and shifts in public opinion, such as the dissent generated, and the pressure exerted when literary works transcend the written page and manifest aspects of themselves and their messages or critiques in their contemporary, as well as our contemporary, world.
Toben Racicot, BA Creative Writing (BYUI), MA Rhetoric and Communication Design (University of Waterloo), is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Waterloo.
Toben’s research focuses on role-playing games, player characters and avatars, adaptation theory, and comic book narratives. He is examining player-to-character interactions when characters are adapted from another storytelling medium.
Toben is the co-host and producer of The Games Institute Podcast, interviewing student and faculty researchers from the Games Institute and The University of Waterloo. He’s presented research papers, "Superheroes Beyond Cliche…Invincible" at Comics Forum 2018 in Leeds, UK and “Trauma and Demogorgons: Analyzing Dungeons & Dragons in Stranger Things” at MAPACA 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland.
In addition to academic work, Toben is very involved in the independent comic book scene as a writer, letterer, and designer. He writes Crown & Anchor, a sci-fi fantasy pirate adventure comic that his wife, Alaire Racicot, illustrates. The first volume was successfully crowdfunded through Kickstarter in Spring 2019. He wrote the four chapter mini-series: The Bad Guys: The Ballad of Greg and Chad on Webtoons. He also letters many comics including Beastlands, Menagerie, Leaders of the Free World, and many others.
Supervisor: Dr. Neil Randall
Jay Rawding, BA (University of New Brunswick, Saint John) and MA (University of Toronto), has interests in Canadian literature and ecocriticism. His research analyzes existing literary works that have originated from, and are about, northern Alberta. By studying how the land, history, and culture have previously been represented in texts, he establishes connections with contemporary narratives that characterize this highly contested region. Other interests include romanticism, postcolonial literature, and American literature.
Jenn Rickert is an interdisciplinary-trained academic, currently in the English PhD program, who specializes in the study of people, technology, and culture. Currently, her research focuses on gender, power structures, and social dynamics surrounding competitive gaming communities, particularly within World of Warcraft. She is also interested in gaming cultures (more broadly), identity, embodiment, gamification, gaming narratives, world building, storytelling, cultural reciprocity, and human-technology interactions.
Her research interests and object-texts have included 3D printing of archaeological artifacts & semiological meanings (MA thesis), modification & cheating in (video)games, emotion and game-investment, microtransactions/DLCs, role-playing (traditional & non-traditional), paratext, video game lore & narrative, and Twitch.
Meghan K. Riley (BA and MA, University of Michigan-Flint) is a doctoral candidate studying the ways in which writers of color in speculative fiction represent the tensions between essentialism and hybridity, as well as how speculative fiction literature and television can be utilized to teach critical theory in secondary and postsecondary courses. In the 2020-2021 school year, Meghan will be teaching English for Dorchester School District 2 in South Carolina. Meghan's current research projects include an article on gender, aging, and embodied memory in speculative fiction, and another on how the constraints on shapeshifting characters in speculative fiction effect strategic essentialism.
Samuel Rowland (BA, MA Trent University), is a PhD Candidate in English Literature at the University of Waterloo. His Doctoral project studies the influence of music, sound, and noise on literature about Harlem from the 1940s and 50s. He is interested in how jazz, oration, and the sounds of the city informed the work of Ralph Ellison, Ann Petry, Richard Wright, and others. His other research interests include transgressive fiction, synaesthesia narratives in Young Adult fiction, and historical video games that rewrite and play with history.
Stephanie Samboo has a Bachelor of Arts (English) and Master of Arts (English Studies) from the National University of Singapore. She is also TESL (Teaching English as Second Language) certified, a CLPBT (Canadian Benchmarks Placement Test) assessor and a certified ISW (Instructional Skills Workshop) facilitator. Her research interests include Intercultural Rhetoric, Composition Pedagogy, the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Postcolonial Studies and Language Acquisition. Her PhD research focuses on how existing models of composition pedagogy marginalize the voices of English Language Learners in the post-secondary classroom and explores ways to mitigate this issue using the concept of translingual studies.
Jerika Sanderson is a PhD student at the University of Waterloo. She is the recipient of the Provost’s Doctoral Entrance Award for Women (2019-2020), and her research interests include contemporary speculative fiction, ecocriticism, critical posthumanism, and animal studies. She completed a BSc in Biological Sciences and English Language and Literature and an MA in English (Text/Community/Discourse) at Brock University.
Sabrina Alicia Sgandurra (HBA Ryerson University, MA University of Waterloo) is a PhD student specializing in games studies. As a resident of the Games Institute and as a student, her research focuses on the intersection of narrative structures and gameplay in role-playing (RPG) video games. Her Master’s research project analyzed RPG video games for their narrative structure, discovering a pattern that replicated structures found in medieval and oral storytelling. Her PhD research seeks to extend this by focusing on how that pattern may reflect a current cultural preference for specific types of stories. In addition to her role as a student, she is also currently working at First Person Scholar as the Associate Commentaries Editor.
I am a PhD student at the English Department of University of Waterloo with the focus on Cultural Studies, Philosophy and Television narratives. I received my BA at Lomonosov Moscow State University in Russia, specializing in Philology (namely Russian Language and Literature). There, I wrote my thesis on Vladimir Nabokov and his literary explorations of the cinematic noir genre, which solidified my general interest in visual storytelling and Modernism. I obtained my MA degree from University of Leeds, England, where I studied English Modernist movements and Philosophy. My dissertation thesis from Leeds focused on the problem of self-identification and post-war trauma in the fictional works of Rebecca West, Alain Robbie-Grillet and Ian McEwan. In Leeds I also kept exploring my passion for cinematic perception, this time approaching the TV series Mad Men through the literary-philosophical lens of thing theory.
I came to University of Waterloo to conduct more broad cultural research on televised series as a genre. For the past ten years we have observed how Television narratives have been changing, investing in, as I argue, more complex narrative structures than ever before. The aim of my research is to trace this complexity by applying philosophical, literary and cultural methods of analysis. Narratology, philosophy of language and cultural studies are, therefore, the main fields of my academic interests.
Douglas Sikkema, BA (Redeemer University College), MA (University of Ottawa), BEd (University of Toronto), is currently doing work in 20th century American literature and ecocriticism. His work explores the idea of "disenchantment" and how this has affected the way we think about (and use) language, how we understand the human mind and consciousness, and how we live on the earth. Doug is using the poetry of Christian Wiman and the prose of Wendell Berry and Marilynne Robinson to explore just how the "disenchantment" narrative is breaking down and new avenues are being opened up. Doug has written book chapters on Wendell Berry and Wallace Stegner and on ecocriticism and enchantment.
In addition to his research, Doug has a passion for editing and public policy research. He has published research on health care and education in Ontario and Canada and continues to explore arguments that bolster the institutions that mediate the individual from the State and the Economy.
Maude Stephany (pronouns They/Them) is a Ph.D. student in the English Literature and Languages department at the University of Waterloo. Maude can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and has an office in Hagey Hall 241.
Maude received both their BA Honours and Master’s degree from The University of Guelph’s School of English and Theatre Studies. Maude’s fields of interest include transgender and non-binary studies, performance, improvisation, contemporary American and Canadian literatures and media, spatiality, gender, and young adult (especially Steampunk) literature and media.
Maude Stephany has been published internationally in children’s and parenting magazines, and their first novel, Delilah, was published in 2012. Maude is a creator and curator of Steampunk and Victorian inspired art and accessories at The Explorer's Emporium, and creates works that take form in poetry, prose, short stories, novels, articles, paintings, collages, sculptures, presentations, and performances.
Christin Taylor holds a BA (Writing; Communications Arts) from Indiana Wesleyan University and an MFA (Creative Writing) from Antioch University of Los Angeles. She is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Waterloo studying the evolving nature of internationalization of higher education in Canada and how it impacts the teaching of composition and writing for international students.
Maša Torbica completed her BA (Criminal Justice and Public Policy; English) and MA (English and Theatre Studies) at the University of Guelph. Her teaching and research interests include Canadian literature, rhetoric, social justice movements, and decolonizing pedagogies. Her dissertation (supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) examines affordances for decolonizing communication within contemporary Canadian society. Maša is a fiction editor at The New Quarterly and a co-organizer of the Balderdash Reading Series at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Valerie Uher, B.A. (Toronto), M.A. (Ryerson), is a PhD student in the department of English Language and Literature. Valerie’s research, supported by a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, focusses on representations of labour unrest and precarious work in 20th and 21st century Canadian literature. Her dissertation addresses the myriad ways in which worker subjectivity is imagined in this literature, and how those representations are impacted by shifting notions of race, gender and citizenship in settler-colonial Canada.
Valerie is an active member of the GSA., serving as Councillor for English, as well as working as a volunteer for the UW chapter of the Fight for Fifteen and Fairness, an advocacy group that supports students in their fight for improved working conditions. A life-long educator, Valerie is the grateful recipient of the T.A. Award for Excellence in Teaching (2020).
Jessica Van De Kemp
Jessica Van de Kemp, BA (St. Jerome’s), B.Ed (Western), MA (Waterloo), is a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo studying adaptation, media, gender, and violence. She is concurrently pursuing an executive program from Cornell University’s business school. Funded by three Ontario Graduate Scholarships (2016–2019), her dissertation examines depictions of gender-based violence in crime drama TV to advocate for positive change and better representation for women and girls. To read some of her scholarly work, visit: Academia.edu, Research Gate, or UW Scholar. An educational leader, she is the recipient of three Awards for Excellence in Teaching (2015, 2016, and 2018). In addition to her studies, Jessica is also a published poet, playwright, and spoken word activist. To read some of her creative work, visit: canadianpoet.org
Supervisor: Dr. Michael MacDonald
Elise Vist (BA, MA English, Carleton University) is a PhD candidate studying queer fans and our relationships to each other and our fandoms. Her research is grounded in contemporary feminisms, queer theory and queer phenomenology, as well as fan studies and literary theory, but is most importantly ethnomethodological. Her dissertation (currently titled "Longing for Queerness in the NHL: Intimate Fandoms and Hockey Real Person Fanfiction") argues that some fandoms operate like intimate publics online, especially when their needs and desires are unwelcome in public fandom spaces. She has also written about queer games, queerbaiting, and immersion for First Person Scholar, where she is now producing podcasts that introduce quarterly special issues. These days, you can find her running around the Arts areas of campus, as she also works with the Writing and Communication Centre to help support first year Arts students learning different ways to write and communicate.
Hannah Watts is a PhD candidate in English Literature focussing on modern and contemporary North American poetry and disability studies. She received her BA Hons. and MA in English and Creative Writing from the University of Windsor, with a minor in Classical Studies.
I grew up in Kitchener, ON, and completed my MA at the University of Windsor. My research interests include the Romantics, Victorians and Pedagogy. From my MA thesis to current doctoral project, I am interested in the sources of influence on early Victorian British fiction. I completed my Bachelor of Education at the University of Western Ontario, have experience teaching 100 level English courses, and conduct research in this field.
John Yoon BA (Honors English, Alberta), MA (Literary Studies, Waterloo) is a PhD candidate at Waterloo. His research interests focuses on the narratology of sports. His dissertation examines the narrative structure of traditional sporting broadcasts and online eSports leagues. John is a member of the Games Institute.