Shirley Lichti (BA 1980, MA 2004)

Shirley LitchtiShirley Lichti credits the co-op program for introducing her to the variety of jobs open to an English major: “I never would have dreamed of working for a company like IBM had it not been for the co-op program.” Her co-op studies allowed her to experience many different professional environments, in government and in the corporate world. Her first co-op placement was as a writer for the federal and provincial government in then-Premier William G. Davis's office. After that, she worked for IBM and stayed there for the remainder of her co-op terms. “Being a co-op student changed the nature and direction of my career dramatically,” she says.

In the middle of her second year of studies at another institution, Shirley realized that 90% of the students in her class wanted to go into teaching, as there weren’t many other good jobs for English majors. She transferred to uWaterloo for the co-op program, which she hoped would improve her chances of getting a good job after graduation.

During her undergraduate years, Shirley remembers the English program as being small. There was a thriving camaraderie between the students as they put on plays and sat in the Modern Languages coffee shop, discussing things such as the meaning of life. Being from a small town, she found the experience of meeting and interacting with people of different religions and ethnic origins enlightening. She is still in touch with some of her classmates now, nearly 30 years later.

Two of Shirley's favourite professors were Dr. Keith Stone and Dr. Bob Gosselink, whom she viewed as fantastic lecturers. Dr. Gosselink in particular was a mentor to her. He took a real interest in his students both in class and in their personal lives: “He would bend over backwards to help you, which was great.” By the time she finished her undergraduate degree, Dr. Gosselink tried to convince her to begin graduate studies, however, Shirley wanted to work.

While still at uWaterloo, Shirley took a course in a computer programming language, then known as the FORTRAN (The IBM Mathematical Formula Translating System). It was helpful in her first full-time job as a Systems Engineer with her former co-op employer, IBM. Her role was technical in nature and “people were stunned that I had an English degree. Never in my wildest dreams would I have considered this job without my experience in co-op.” During her time at IBM, she worked in many fields, including sales, advertising, executive education, and international marketing.

Years later, Shirley returned to uWaterloo to earn her master's degree. The Language and Professional Writing program allowed her to pursue her interests in marketing and she took many courses that dealt with user interface, e-learning, and marketing. She did a reading course with Professor David Goodwin and her thesis with Dr. Paul Beam, both of whom helped her to tailor her degree towards marketing.

Currently, Shirley resides in Waterloo with her husband and son, who is currently studying engineering at uWaterloo. She runs a company, Marketing Magic, which specializes in marketing and communications and is also an instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University, where she teaches a variety of marketing courses.

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Kim Jernigan (MA 1981)

Research is nothing more than following the trail of your own curiosity. You don't need to be brilliant, only open and inquisitive

Kim Jerniganremembers being in a quandary with which every graduate student can sympathize: owing a professor a long-overdue paper, and not knowing how to finish it. The professor in question was Dr. Stan McMullen, and “I felt so abashed I'd hide behind the frozen peas so as not to encounter him in the grocery store!” she recalls. “Eventually, he called me into his office and said, ‘What do you need to get on with this essay?’ ‘A deadline’, I said. ‘Okay, how about next Thursday?’” Three days off! She wrote the paper, and received her lowest mark on a grad essay (B+). However, Dr. McMullen provided her with many helpful suggestions for improvement. She used his suggestions to rework the paper and won a departmental prize for it. Yes, “you can sometimes wrest triumph from defeat!”

Not only Dr. McMullen but many of the professors Kim encountered at uWaterloo influenced her greatly. During her master’s studies, she took away other valuable lessons from Dr. Bill MacNaughton, Dr. Walter Martin, and Dr. Ken Ledbetter. Dr. MacNaughton, she remembers, “had a wonderful way of taking the terror out of scholarship. He'd come into class and say something like, "I was rereading this novel of Twain's and it occurred to me to wonder what Twain himself was reading at the time he wrote it, what the issues of the day were, so I wandered over to the library and checked out the periodicals from that year.”

Dr. Martin was tremendously generous. When she asked him to do a reading course with her on Alice Munro, he hosted her each week “at his house in the country, [where] his lovely wife Trish would make us all lunch, and then we'd while away the afternoon talking literature. It was only after that I realized, blushingly, that he had already stepped back from teaching (though as a professor emeritus, he maintained an office at the university) and was providing this richly engaging tutorial on his own time!”

Kim remembers Dr. Ledbetter as a showman who loved to play devil's advocate. “Alas, I often took the bait--and it was very clarifying to have to argue my point with him! But taking the devil's part wasn't all strategic. He had unconventional views about many American classics, and often made me see with new eyes.”

Many years after completing her master’s, Kim returned to uWaterloo to pursue a doctorate degree. “I never finished. I got as far as the pre-dissertation oral, intending to write about Alice Munro. My committee was positive about the project but by then I had three children, a part-time job in the University's writing centre, and a literary magazine on the go that likely wouldn't survive without me. But I've never regretted my time in the program.”

Kim has worked as a tutor in the writing clinic and as a sessional instructor in the English and Speech Communication Departments. But a volunteer position sparked a lifelong passion. While still a student, Kim began volunteering for The New Quarterly, an independent, not-for-profit literary magazine based in St. Jerome’s University College. Twenty-eight years later, she is still working at the magazine. The majority of the time she has worked on the magazine has remained on a volunteer basis, “gradually squeezing out much of my paid work, but the gratification of watching writers mature and feeling like I've been part of that in some small way is significant.”

Anne Spencer (MA 1981)

     As a part-time mature student at uWaterloo, Anne Spencer had a hectic schedule. “I was teaching full time during the day and did not have much energy left over after graduate classes to participate in university activities.” She knew only a few of her classmates; however, “I valued the opportunity to attend Professor Hibbard's classes and to have him supervise my graduate studies… I have not encountered anyone of his calibre since.” Anne recently won a CBC sonnet-writing contest and thinks that Dr. Hibbard would have been pleased with her accomplishment.

Towards the end of her career, Anne taught at a school in Waterloo. She also spent some time as a freelance writer. She is now retired and has been able to publish more since. Her sons are also graduates of uWaterloo who studied computer science many years ago.

Neil Randall (MA 1982)

Neil Randall    Since his first undergraduate class at the University of Guelph in 1977, Dr. Neil Randall has known that professorship was his calling. Discovering an interest in medieval literature as an undergraduate, Dr. Randall began his graduate studies in English at the University of Waterloo shortly after finishing at Guelph. He fondly remembers the camaraderie among students in his graduate class, and a course in the American Naturalists taught by Professor Bill Macnaughton: “I just liked Bill’s way of handling things, including this wonderful technique he had for asking you questions...something I’ve always tried to emulate but I don’t think I got.” After graduating, Dr. Randall completed his Ph.D. at York University, and returned to teach at the University of Waterloo in 1985. Having taught at Waterloo full-time ever since, Dr. Randall describes his time at uWaterloo as “a really wonderful experience...the best job on the planet.” For Dr. Randall, the most rewarding part of his work has always been mentoring students. He finds “joy is in watching students thrive with individual assignments, individual projects, coming to the end of their schooling and getting good jobs.”

When Dr. Randall was hired in 1985, he was slated to teach half-time Canadian Literature, and half-time for the newly-proposed rhetoric program. An undergraduate program in Rhetoric Professional Writing, which Dr. Randall helped to name, officially started in 1986. Since then, the program has blossomed into a well-known brand among employers looking to hire. Dr. Randall witnessed the emergence of a unique MA in Language and Professional Writing in 1987 (now called Rhetoric and Communication Design), followed by a Ph.D. program in English Language and Literature shortly thereafter (1990).

Among other things, Dr. Randall studies games, including board games, computer games, and board game simulations played on digital table-top displays. For Dr. Randall, English scholars have an important role to play when it comes to digital media and technology: “The study of how we interact with technology is the study of communication...who better to be studying that than people who study language and communication full time?” In fact, Dr. Randall believes that English studies can cover all sorts of ground, both traditional and contemporary – a lesson that continues to drive his work at Waterloo today. “Study in English can impact all fields of human communication. This includes literature. This includes games. This includes film. This includes music. This includes technical communication, business communication, institutional communication. Anything that has to do with human beings communicating with each other can come under the study of what we do.”

Geraldine Balzer (MA 1983)

    Although Dr. Geraldine Balzer began her undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo, a decision to travel Europe led her to take some time off. When she resumed her studies in English and Theatre Arts, she did so at the University of British Columbia. She always loved reading, which was a big part of her decision to study English. Another was that her undergraduate supervisor encouraged her to pursue English further because it would lead to more job opportunities after graduation. She returned to uWaterloo to pursue her Master's degree because the university offered her the most funding for her studies and allowed her to reunite with old friends.

A graduate course on the work of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville taught by Dr. Gordon Slethaug was the best class in Geraldine's studies at uWaterloo. Dr. Slethaug, with whom she still keeps in contact, was an amazing professor who created a sense of community within the small class. She still keeps up with her classmates as well and plays Scrabble with them over Facebook.

Working towards her MA at uWaterloo helped her gain a sense of the “worthwhileness” of reading. “Reading is the core to everything to my life. If I can't read, one of the greatest pleasures in life is gone.”

The English Department organized many social events for the Graduate Students and, like Dr. Slethaug, worked hard at making a community amoung the students. Geraldine remembers one class having a potluck party at a professor's home at the end of the term. She would also have lunch at the University Club with professors and other TAs as the instructor's thank-you graduate students who helped teach the course.

Being at uWaterloo also gave Geraldine confidence in her ability as an academic. She had the opportunity to teach ENGL 109 and 110 (Introduction to Essay Writing 1 and 2). She wouldn't have been a teacher if she had not had that chance: “In those classes I discovered my love for teaching and that I'm a good teacher.” Her professors showed her that one of the greatest things a teacher can do is build relationships with their students. Doing so is as important as any subject matter an instructor might cover in lectures. She has continued to apply this lesson with all of her students throughout her teaching career.

Geraldine has learned that is it important to “maintain a balance between working hard and doing the things I love. I think that that was an important lesson, that I didn't spend my life only studying and there was also time to have fun.”

After graduating from uWaterloo, Geraldine worked in Toronto. But finding lasting employment was difficult at the time, and she moved to Saskatchewan (her home province), where she earned her Bachelor of Education (BEd) at the University of Saskatchewan. She then taught in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut for 14 years before returning to the University of Saskatchewan to earn her PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies. She has since been faculty at the University of Windsor and the University of Saskatchewan.

Currently, Geraldine is living in Saskatoon and is married with two daughters (her older daughter is a student at uWaterloo and her younger daughter hopes to be a uWaterloo student soon). She works as an Assistant Professor at the University of Saskatchewan in the Department of Curriculum Studies. She teaches Secondary School English Language Arts, which prepares students for becoming candidates to teach high school, Curriculum theory and English Language Arts at the graduate-level, and conducts research into the transformative nature of Service Learning.

Cathy Fraser (BA 1983)

     Cathy Fraser chose to study English at Waterloo because she had a love for reading and, except for a short time immediately after earning her degree, she never left. Today, she has been working at the university for over 25 years.

     What Cathy appreciated most about being a uWaterloo student was that “a lot of professors were concerned for their students.” She remembers Dr. Paul Beam telling her first-year class to make sure they got enough sleep and enough to eat, and a pillow from home to help them sleep better at night. “Words of the wise when writing our first exams in first year,” says Cathy. She also recalls Professor Roman Dubinski as her kindest professor, always willing to listen and constantly encouraging students to discuss essay ideas.  Cathy says the passion and interest that uWaterloo professors displayed is something she has adopted in her own career: “If you have a passion for something, and are willing to share it, it comes across…and that’s what I take to my job.”

     Although she enjoyed many of her uWaterloo English courses very much, she recalls a class on romantic poets with Dr. Helen Ellis as one of the highlights of her academic career. This was her favorite literary era to study, and Dr. Ellis’ passion in the subject helped keep her engaged. Cathy also remembers being part of the English Society as one of her fondest memories at uWaterloo. She recalls spending time with her peers in the English Society office, writing poetry and discussing papers.

     Upon completion of her degree, Cathy worked at a bank and in customs brokerage, before returning to uWaterloo’s Alumni Affairs Office, where she works today. She volunteers for The Literacy Group, which, through its volunteers helps to upgrade language and writing skills for adults. As the local economy becomes less focused on manufacturing, she says this program “teaches and trains adults to reach a level to be able to attend college.”

     Her time at Waterloo has given her the confidence to write and communicate well. Working in Alumni Affairs, Cathy has done a great deal of procedural writing for the new software that has been implemented in the office over the past few years, and she has also been instrumental in training people who are new to the department. She says “grounding in the language has helped me in these ways.”

Kelley Teahen (Hon. BA 1983)

     “I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to study in university. I thought I wanted to study psychology,” remembers Kelley Teahen, “but it became clear that writing was my strength and I wanted to pursue it.” Waterloo was an obvious choice for Kelley because she lived nearby, was drawn to the university’s excellent reputation, and she could spend her first year exploring options in the arts before choosing a major for second year. “It was a just a great fit,” she says.

     Kelley was always an engaged student and took a variety of classes. Most terms, she took more than a full course load because she “really enjoyed taking electives and learning.” Some of her favourite English classes included Shakespeare taught by Professor Ted McGee and Old English with Professor Doug Letson, whose “dry wit and enthusiasm” she appreciated. “I couldn’t read a word of Old English if you asked me to now, but I really loved his classes,” says Kelley.

     What she enjoyed most about being a Waterloo student was the welcoming atmosphere on campus, which gave her a sense of home. She remembers taking late-night walks with friends to the Campus Centre (now Student Life Centre) and grabbing a hot chocolate: “I loved those simple things - studying late into the night at Dana Porter Library, sitting around the Arts Quad statues, talking. Living on campus, it really becomes your home.” Within the English community, she appreciated being around others who had a love of the language. “It was nice to be with other people who got frustrated by “its” and “it’s” errors – people who got it,” she jokes.

     Kelley lived at the St. Jerome’s University residence for three years and was actively involved in residence life. She says that orientation weeks were some of the greatest times of her life, a chance to catch up with friends who she hadn’t seen all summer. She also sang in the Conrad Grebel Chamber Choir and fondly remembers the concerts it gave and the trips she took as a member. Through her ties to the Waterloo music community, she was able to study music and culture in Vienna, Austria, for a month. “That was a highlight for me, to be able to access those opportunities.”

     After completing her BA at Waterloo, Kelley went to Dalhousie University, Halifax where she earned an MA in English. While in Halifax, she also earned a BA in Journalism from The University of King’s College. She pursued a career in journalism for some years, and then was media manager at the Stratford Festival of Canada before returning to Waterloo to work in its communications department. She has been with the university for five years and today is the institution’s Director of External Communications. She works to “communicate that university’s story and message to the public and external audiences.” She edits the University of Waterloo Magazine, contributes to the website, and creates material for other Waterloo publications.

     She says that an English degree from Waterloo truly strengthened her abilities as a writer. “Understanding the development of language equips one well for a career in communications,” says Kelley. Although she did not plan on returning to work for Waterloo, she says that when the opportunity presented itself, she jumped at it: “It’s nice to be promoting a cause you really believe in.”

Renate Wickens (BA 1983)

Dr. Renate Wickens chose to attend the University of Waterloo as a mature student. She earned a joint honours degree in English and Fine Arts, with an option in film studies. Her reason for studying English was simple: she loved to read and write. The Department gave her the opportunity to pursue both passions.

Renate recalls that her favourite courses were those taught by Professor Walter Martin. She found that “his approach had a timeless quality that didn't pander to the trend of the moment. Instead of Foucault and Derrida you got Plato and Aristotle which, in retrospect, gave me an interesting foundation on to which to build subsequent discourses.” Renate took away a love for learning, reading, exploration, innovation, and excellence from uWaterloo.

The Department of English made it possible for Renate to have the opportunity to make some wonderful friends with other mature students through the Dean of Women, the late Hildegard Marsden.

The prestige and credibility of uWaterloo has opened doors for Renate that she never knew existed. After graduation, Renate entered graduate school at York University, where she received a PhD in Social and Political Thought. During her time at York University she was the founder and executive director of the THIRD CINEMA Festival, taught as a contractual instructor, and continued her work in commercial photography.

Currently, Renate is a tenured Associate Professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University. Her areas of expertise are fine arts, interdisciplinary studies with a focus on the relationship between photography and film, and e-learning. Renate represents the first formal technology enhanced learning appointment to York University. She is currently in the third year of a major SSHRC Research Creative Grant.

Chris Ditner (BA 1984)

     If there is one thing thatChris Ditnerlearned at Waterloo, it is the importance of good storytelling. As the Vice-President of Marketing and Innovation with Ketchum, a global Top 5 public relations agency in Atlanta, Georgia, she has seen many times the rhetorical impact that the right story can have on the market for a product. In her position, she specializes in “Women and Technology,” which involves studying how women think about and use consumer technology and social media. “When you work with technology products, no matter how well known the brand is, you need to be able to craft a compelling story if you want to persuade reporters to write or consumers to buy.”

As a co-op student at uWaterloo, Chris learned that “there is a place in the real world for good communicators, no matter how obscure our studies.” She found it jarring to juggle courses on Beowulf and Chaucer with work terms at computer companies and the government, but she loved the experience of being a co-op student. Through her work terms, she learned that there was a connection between her studies and the professional world, for the art of storytelling was common to both. “Everyone responds to it, and the world's greatest businesses are masters at it.”

Linguistics was one of Chris's favorite classes at uWaterloo because she had never encountered anything like it before. Professor Harry Logan was highly entertaining and offered a strange, yet enjoyable, new way to look at the language she had been speaking all her life. “Who knew that even slang was governed by rules?”

Chris recalls her first summer term on campus, when she and a group of other co-op students bonded through their mutual belief that the term imposed an unfair workload on students (they all would have rather been at the beach). “We named ourselves the Black Bituminous Gurge in homage to Paradise Lost, one of the many pieces of required reading we didn't read that summer.” By August of that term, the group started staying up all night to prepare for final exams. “After trying to speed-read a whole term's set of assignments in a single night, we piled into the group's only transportation, a decrepit sedan with holes in the floorboard, and parked outside Tim Horton's until it opened so we could consume enough caffeine to stay awake for the exams.” Because of that memorable term, she still keeps in touch with members of the Black Bituminous Gurge.

After leaving uWaterloo Chris studied at UBC, where she discovered that she enjoyed the workplaces she experienced as a co-op more than academics. She left her studies at UBC to become a technical writer at Netron, a software company in Toronto. She found that many of her fellow uWaterloo students also worked in similar capacities for the same company.

Chris sees her experience as an English co-op student as what got her to where she is today, doing a job she loves. Her work-term experience was primarily in the technology industry and piqued her interest in the field. The courses she took in linguistics, logic, and psychology taught her how “to break things down into parts and then see how they can be built back up to create persuasive communications.”

George Elliott Clarke (BA 1984)

George Clarke

     George Elliott Clarke is E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto, a position established specifically for a poet-professor. He is the author of nine poetry texts, three chapbooks, four plays in verse (and three opera libretti), a novel, a scholarly essay collection, and edited two anthologies. His plays and operas (one composed by James Rolfe and two composed by D.D. Jackson) have all been staged, and his two screenplays have been televised.

     Although acclaimed for his poetry, Clarke has also won laurels for his work as an anthologist and scholar of African-Canadian literature, a field of study that he has pioneered. His honours include The Governor-General’s Literary Award for Poetry (2001), The National Magazine Gold Award for Poetry (2001), The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Achievement Award (2004), The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellowship Prize (2005), The Frontieras Poesis Premiul (Romania, 2005), The Estelle and Ludwig Jus Memorial Human Rights Award (2005), The Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction (2006), The William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations (2008), The Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry (2009), appointment to the Order of Nova Scotia (2006), and appointment to the Order of Canada (2008). Clarke has also received seven honorary doctorates.

Lori (née Behrendt) Morgan (BA 1984)

     “I chose [to study] English because I loved it. If I had to read for homework, better a great novel than a math textbook!” says Lori (née Behrendt) Morgan Lori now teaches at the high school level and hopes to inspire her students to study English as she did, particularly at the University of Waterloo.

     She came to the university as a local student, having attended Bluevale Collegiate in Waterloo and chose uWaterloo over Wilfrid Laurier University because “the large campus held so much more appeal.”

     After just 3 years at uWaterloo, Lori was admitted into a teaching program at Brock University. She earned her B.Ed. and returned to uWaterloo to complete the fourth year of her Bachelor’s degree. During that year, she taught ESL to a group of foreign students. After graduating, she became an English teacher at Waterloo Oxford District Secondary School.

     Soon after, Lori married, and she and her husband (a uWaterloo graduate from the Department of Economics) moved to Toronto, where she took a job with the Peel District School Board. She has worked 25 years for the Board and today heads of the English Department at Mississauga Secondary School. Lori’s daughter currently studies Urban Planning at Waterloo.

Kelly (née Smith) Regan (BA 1984)

     Beginning her studies at Waterloo as an aspiring political science or history major, Kelly (née Smith) Regan changed her mind after taking a first-year English class with Dr. W.K. Thomas: “He just made it so interesting; how could you not be in English after that?” Since studying English at the University of Waterloo, Kelly’s life and work has taken her across the country. After graduating from UW, Kelly began a long and successful media career, working locally as the producer for a two-hour weekend show aired on CKCO. Six months later, Kelly moved to Nova Scotia, where she worked for a radio station, and later for ATV, a regional CTV branch where she stayed for almost ten years.

Kelly has always had an interest in politics, and has been an active political volunteer since 1992. More recently, Kelly’s concern over public issues inspired her to run for the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly: “I was seeing things happening in my local riding that I didn’t think were right.” A member of the official opposition in the province, Kelly was elected as a Liberal MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) for her riding of Bedford-Birch Cove in June 2009. As the Opposition Critic for three portfolios (education, labour and skills development, and the status of women), Kelly’s new role offers the challenging yet rewarding experience of working to help the people she represents.

For Kelly, her past studies in English have followed her in a number of ways, some of them unexpected. One of her favourite classes was Dr. Warren Ober’s Arthurian Legends, and she shares that love when she reads with her twelve-year old son today, twenty-five years later. Kelly’s experience as a co-op student unveiled her “passion for broadcasting,” and her placements helped her to make professional connections and find direction. “For me, the value of co-op was that I had the chance to experience several very different jobs, and to get a good idea of what was my passion.” Kelly has also found value in the academic side of her English degree, especially when it comes to understanding the media: “Sometimes we read into things what they want to, but it’s important to understand ‘What does it really say,’ ‘What does it really mean’... a good course in practical criticism will teach you.”

Jim Marshall (BA 1985)

Jim Marshall     When deciding which university to attend, Jim Marshall found the idea of being an English co-op student appealing. He had always held an interest in the study of English literature, with some of his favourite hobbies including reading and writing.

     Jim recalls Paul Beam and Warren Ober as his top two favourite English professors during his time here at uWaterloo. He remembers that although they had very different teaching styles, “each was an outstanding professor in his own right.” Dr. Beam was incredibly practical and Jim left uWaterloo able to apply much of what he had learned in class to everyday writing tasks his career as a technical writer and consultant call on him to perform. Jim recalls Dr. Ober as being incredibly passionate about literature; he was so passionate, in fact, that Jim says “it couldn't help but rub off on you.” He also saw Dr. Ober as an “incredible gentleman” in general.

     Jim held his most memorable co-op position at the Molson’s Head Office. He recalls it as a very social working environment during that time. Jim also valued the co-op program at uWaterloo because it allowed him to experiment within the world of work without making long-term commitments to any single organization. As he says, it gave him an idea of “what the real working world was going to be like” as well as an understanding of what types of jobs he “didn’t want to have to do.” Jim believes he would not have achieved his level of success today were it not for the co-op program. But just as he appreciates the practical writing skills that his uWaterloo English degree helped him develop, he is also grateful for the exposure to different kinds of literature that he received here, and while he chose a career in professional communications, he hopes one day to devote more time to his own creative writing.

     After graduating from uWaterloo, Jim worked at IBM as a technical writer and later moved to a marketing position as a systems manager. Since 1990, he has lived in Vancouver, and since 1996 he has worked as an independent management consultant specializing in project management.

      Asked whether or not he had taken part in any drama productions at uWaterloo, he says, “I don't think time spent in the Bombshelter counts, although it could often get dramatic and there were many productions.”

Paul Moser (BA 1985, MA 1988)

Moser“I liked writing from a young age,” remembers Paul Moser . He was interested in pursuing a career in journalism, thought highly of uWaterloo’s co-op program, and could not wait to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities it offered.

     Two of Paul’s favourite classes were an introductory English course taught by Dr. Helen Ellis and a history class on Canadian foreign policy taught by Dr. John English. He also enjoyed his class on American literature, taught by Dr. Bill Macnaughton, because, he says, “I hadn’t studied American classics before. It was an eye-opener.”

     Paul was involved in many campus activities. He wrote for Imprint (uWaterloo’s official student magazine), often went the Stratford Festival with his classmates, and was a member of the English Society. During his downtime Paul enjoyed going to the old Grad Club house on campus. He says the uWaterloo campus was “one of a kind. It was great; I just loved to be there. I loved taking the courses, writing, and hanging out with friends. Just being on campus was a thrill.”

     Paul found his experience as a co-op student to be everything he had hoped. He spent three work terms at CTV, and after graduating from uWaterloo, he says he “pretty much walked into a full-time job.” The atmosphere of the newsroom was exciting. When Brian Mulroney visited the Concordia Club in Kitchener in October Moser1983, Paul was the reporter who covered the event and led the six o’clock newscast. “Co-op really gives you a sense of the so-called ‘real world.’ Learning things in theory and doing them in practice are two very different things.”

     After completing his MA, Paul worked for 19 years with CTV, a career opportunity for which he credits the co-op program. Having taken an interest in teaching during his time as an MA student, Paul attended The University of Western Ontario, where he completed a Bachelor of Education in 2001. He took a job as a summer school teacher at a high school, but says he quickly realized “it really wasn’t for me. Teaching those kids gave me a new understanding and respect for teachers who do that every day.”

     MoserShortly after, Paul got a job at Clarica, now Sun Life Financial, in Waterloo. He has been working there for the past 9 years, and today is a Media and Public Relations Specialist. He says it is exciting to be behind the scenes managing messages for news media after spending nearly 2 decades in the forefront, gathering and preparing stories: “It’s a very interesting perspective.”

     Paul says he learned many important lessons as a uWaterloo English student. He developed strong organizational skills which he says are crucial in meeting deadlines in his current work. He also credits former professor Dr. Ellen Shields with helping him master his grammar skills. “I thought I knew a lot about grammar, but she taught me that there was so much more to it,” he says. He credits the uWaterloo English program with strengthening his critical thinking skills. He took a course on argument that he “still thinks about when creating speeches.” A grounding in English has helped him tremendously in a 30-year career that has demanded much in the way of practical writing.

    MoserPaul’s experience as a uWaterloo student was “amazing.” He adds that being a Liberal Arts student is also an incomparable experience because it “opens your mind to so many disciplines.” He found it enriching to be able to take courses from many departments including English, history and philosophy. “Looking back, I wish I could have squeezed in more classes because it was all so interesting. Trying new things is important and as an Arts student, you’re able to do that.” He adds, “I’m very proud to be a uWaterloo graduate and see how far [the discipline] has come since the 80s.”

Photographs shown here are of Paul working at CTV Kitchener during work terms in 1984 and 1985.

Maureen (née Burton) Ashworth  (BA 1986)

     Maureen (née Burton) Ashworth chose uWaterloo because of the co-op option it gave English students. She says, “I could not have applied fast enough – a university degree with work experience for reading books was paradise.” Choosing a BA in English Literature gave her the chance to develop the analytical skills that helped her secure her current role as a Consultant at Foresters in Toronto.

     Although Maureen was not involved in extracurricular activities, she found that being a co-op student was a memorable experience in itself. She remembers working at a pork packaging plant, writing safety guidelines for people working on the operation line. She spent a lot of time “looking at pig parts,” she recalls, “and strangely, I still like pork!” She also enjoyed many English classes at uWaterloo. Some notable favourites include English 101 with Dr. Neil Hultin and a class on Arthurian legends with Dr. Warren Ober: “Anything Dr. Ober taught was my favourite.” Her favourite memories from her time as a uWaterloo student involve spending time with friends. She remembers that “a friend and I had a little too much time before our final class of the day, so we’d often grab drinks beforehand. Modern American Literature can be pretty funny after a rye and ginger or two!”

     After graduation, Maureen married and began her current job. Today, she has three children and lives in Toronto. She believes that “an English Literature degree is as valuable as a degree in Engineering, if you apply it to the right job.”

Josée Duffhues’s (BA 1985, MA 1989)

“Before university, I was a follower and swallower of ideas. The years [in uWaterloo’s English programs] taught me to respect my own thoughts and ideas.”

      Josée Duffhues’s experiences as a student at uWaterloo were both exhausting and fulfilling. On top of her studies, she edited the English Department’s newsletter and wrote creatively (some of her works were published in The New Quarterly, a literary magazine based in St. Jerome’s University College). Although these years were busy, they were “the finest years of my life in large part due to the wonderful professors.” Josée fondly recalls Dr. Gordon Slethaug and Dr. Paul Beam as fantastic lecturers who were able to get you excited about what they were teaching. Because she was a mature student, Josée felt that she was better able to argue with the professors than some of her younger classmates. She found it exciting to have her opinions taken seriously. Many nights “I would go to sleep and wake up thinking the same thing. My brain was working 24/7 and it was glorious!”

      At a writer’s forum, Josée recalls reading one of her works to a relatively large audience. She was so nervous that her knees were knocking. Afterwards, she asked Professor W.K. Thomas how he became such a great speaker in the classroom. He advised her to take drama courses and learn how to act, which would help her use her fear to her advantage. This advice did in fact help her become a better public speaker.

      A variety of co-op employers hired Josée, including CKCO TV, where she worked as a news writer, and uWaterloo, where she worked as a Science Writer in the Information Services Department. Although the television industry did not really suit her, she learned many useful skills at CKCO that she later applied while pursuing her Master’s degree. As a Science Writer, she read articles and explored research that was being conducted on campus. From both of these co-op experiences, “I learned how to analyze language, what people were saying, and what was between the lines.” Josée applied this ability to all the forms of communication that she undertook in her professional life, including lectures, conversations, and news.

      During her senior year, Josée recalls writing an honours thesis, which helped her decide to continue her studies and eventually earn a Master’s degree. At the time, she was the assistant director for the play The Normal Heart, which influenced the topic she chose for Her Master’s thesis, the portrayal of AIDS in Canadian medical media. Her thesis influenced the jobs she pursued after graduation, when she was hired to teach the Public Speaking course in the Speech Communications Department at uWaterloo. She then worked for the Waterloo Regional Health Unit, served as a board member for the Ontario Palliative Care Association and AQUA (an AIDS program in KW), volunteered at the Casey House Hospice, and set up and headed a public health AIDS program.

      Despite enjoying her work immensely, Josée eventually found it overwhelming and longed for a slower-paced life, so she and her husband moved to Vancouver where they opened a studio, JoVic Pottery. She is now a full-time potter and artist and a part-time teacher at a local First Nations high school, where she teaches a variety of subjects including biology, math and visual arts.

      Having been an English student at uWaterloo gave Josée tremendous self-confidence in her communication skills and allowed her to become a thinker. “Before university, I was a follower and swallower of ideas. The years there taught me to respect my own thoughts and ideas.”

Colin McGillicuddy (BA 1986)


    Colin McGillicuddy found it difficult to decide which university he should attend. Many of his friends would be attending the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario, where he also had acceptance offers. Finally he chose to attend the University of Waterloo for its unique Bio-Chem program. Colin had two reasons for choosing to study Bio-Chem. First, both of his parents have technical backgrounds, in engineering and nursing, and he anticipated following their example. Second, there was a recession in 1981-1982, and he felt that he should go to school for something that would be employable.

And employable it certainly was: in a second-year chemistry lecture, the professor remarked to the class that by the end of this course, students would be able to function as a professional chemist. Colin should have felt reassured by the statement; instead, it made him realize that he did not want to become a professional chemist. After class, he went straight to Needles Hall and switched faculties. He decided to focus his studies on English because it was the subject that he was best at, had won awards for in high school, and most enjoyed.

Although Colin began his university career as a co-op student, he opted out of the program in order to finish in four years. The change in major meant that he had to take six English courses per term to complete his degree in the remaining three years. Despite his very full schedule, Colin enjoyed many of his English classes at UW, the majority of which concentrated on poetry. Two classes in particular stand out in his memory: Romantic English Literature with Dr. Warren Ober and Contemporary Satire with Dr. Stan Fogel.

ColinWhile at UW, Colin had a variety of experiences, including a year of Science and Math studies, three jam-packed years of English studies, some time as a don, and lots of time as a team member in various Campus Rec sports.

He found that the soft skills he learned outside the classroom have been the most helpful throughout his life and career.

“At UW the most significant thing I learned is that you need to choose your own path. If you let someone else choose you might not enjoy it. Follow your own interests and accept where they lead you.” Colin finds this to be an important lesson because learning it helped him choose a field that suited his own needs. He originally chose a university program based on what he thought his parents would prefer, and later found that it would result in a direction that did not suit him.

Ultimately, choosing to pursue something for which he had a talent opened up opportunities he wouldn't have otherwise even considered.

Colin left UW with an Honours English degree. “After graduation I said to myself, 'what am I going to do with that?'” He decided to pursue a Masters degree at the University of Toronto with a plan to earn his PhD and teach English literature. In his Master's studies, Colin realized that the narrowness of focus required in graduate studies was not something he enjoyed. Upon completion of his M.A., he decided to attend teacher's college at Queen's University, instead of pursuing a PhD, to find out if teaching was something he would enjoy.

Teacher's college was the right decision, and Colin has worked in Secondary Schools ever since. He has been an English teacher and the head of a High School English department as well as Vice-Principal. He is currently the Principal of Holy Trinity Secondary Catholic School in Oakville, where he also coaches boys basketball.

Colin resides in Burlington, with his wife Eileen and two children, Erin and Conor.

Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. (BA 1986)

What made you choose Waterloo?Romuls Buckle and the Engines of War book cover

That was quite easy, actually.  My father was a geography professor at Waterloo (emeritus now) and so the combination of a family tuition discount and familiarity made it an easy choice.  I was scribbling on the chalkboard in my father’s Waterloo office when I was in the third grade.

The years 1982-1986 seem like a long time ago now but I have wonderful memories of my professors and classmates that still stick with me.  I remember being shocked at how big my first year psychology 101 class was. I spent of a lot of fun times at campus centre movie screenings and down at the Bombshelter, which was the only campus pub then.  One strong, odd memory: I loved the long hours of sitting up high in the library in the wintertime, camped out inside one of the little cubby stations with a stack of research books while a blizzard raged outside.  I’d occasionally fall asleep there and wake up with drool on my arm or on a book.  Many of the books in the library are probably drool-stained by cramming, sleep-deprived students.  Not very sanitary.  I really enjoyed my time at Waterloo.

Can you fill us in a bit about your post-university career trajectory?

Well, that's one winding road!  I guess we all have one, right? After completing my English BA at Waterloo I worked for a year and then attended the Radio and Television Broadcasting program at Algonquin College in Ottawa. I figured that I needed a skill to go along with my humanities degree and I was interested in journalism.  After graduation at Algonquin I was employed as a CBC news cameraman and as a freelance cameraman, but I soon realized that I wanted to do something more creative.I won a talent scholarship for a year of studies in the film program at York University, but I after that I’d had enough of undergraduate schooling.  I backpacked around England, Scotland and Wales that summer, and returned home with the idea of pursuing the thing which I wanted to do most, which was writing.  I moved to Los Angeles (I am an American citizen, though I grew up in Canada) and worked on a screenwriting career.  I worked at Universal as a script reader and eventually got a Hollywood agent.I never sold a major script, but I spent a lot of years writing medium-budget movies and television episodes for outfits like HBO, USA, TNT, Animal Planet and Fox Kids. After burning out on screenwriting, I decided to plunge back into poverty and take up penning novels, which, in the end, is the thing which suits my temperament the best.  I’d also like to add that I had regular day jobs of various sorts throughout most of the years I was writing.

The first two books in your Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin series,Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders and Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War, appeared fairly close to each other: how long have you these actually been in the works?I know you're working on another series as well.Can you tell us a bit about it, and how you achieve balance between the different universes?

I am actually working on three series now, all in various stages of progress. The initial series you are referring to is a trilogy set in Russia during the Second World War. I have been working on it off and on for 8 years and it is an epic, sprawling mess.  I traveled to Russia in 2007 to research museums and battlefields and interview surviving veterans.  The books are based on a true story and I am trying to make them as accurate as I can.  That said, the project is certainly historical fiction because there is very little information available about the original people involved so I must invent interior lives for them.  The conflict between Russia and Germany was a terrible, terrible period in human history.  I needed to take a break from the bleakness, so in the spring of 2011 I wrote the first installment of my steampunk Romulus Buckle series.  Buckle was fun and lighthearted and written in the spirit of The Adventures of Robin HoodandIndianaJonesand I had the first book ready to send out to agents in the fall of that same year.  My intention was to return to my writing cave and the Russia project while peddling the Buckle manuscript in the meantime. Lightning struck and I was picked up by a literary agent quickly (November, 2011) and a two book deal quickly (March, 2012) so the writing of the second book came right on the heels of the first.  I am currently outlining the third Romulus Buckle book (awaiting a new series-extension contract from my publisher, hopefully) and also writing the first book in a middle-grade series, and chipping away at the Russian behemoth.  Too much!  As for achieving balance between the different book universes, I’ve never had trouble writing more than one thing at the same time.  That ability could have been birthed in agony while I was writing multiple essays due at the same time at Waterloo, I don’t know.  I was often involved in different stages of different projects while I was screenwriting as well.  I find the movement between multiple projects keeps me fresh and I sometimes stumble on great ideas for one story while researching or writing another.  The main issue is prioritizing and time management.  When I really get in the swing on the first draft of one book I do tend to focus all of my energy on that one story, however.

What do you know now that you wish you knew right after graduating?

Big question. I was never one of those people who knew from kindergarten what they wanted to do – I didn’t know what I wanted to do even after I graduated.  I was always casting about, trying one major after another, one career after another, until I finally realized that I just had to be a writer or I was going to be miserable for the rest of my life.  I am glad that I never let my life stall out—I had my ‘relaxed’ periods, sure—but I always tried to attack new things even if I didn’t know what the results might be.  I do wish that I had designed a life plan, a one-year life plan and a five-year life plan, even if I erased and changed them daily.  I think that forcing myself to continually reassess my progress and re-think my fluctuating goals would have saved me from some unnecessary flailing around and time wasting.  But in the end, I am happy where I ended up.

And just for fun: what books are you currently reading?

I am keeping such a rigid writing schedule right now I find it difficult to set time aside to read. But it is important to keep reading, because when I read it fires up my imagination and I learn new things from every author which I can apply or keep in mind when I practice my own craft.  I am sort of leapfrogging between two books at the moment: The Silver Sickle by Ellie Ann, and The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens, both of which are wonderful.  I am reading The Emerald Atlas to get a sense of a popular middle-grade book series.Coming up on my docket are The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje (he is one of my heroes) and Time to be in Earnest by P.D. James.

Stephanie Fysh (BA 1987)

fysh   What is it like to work with someone famous? Since graduating from uWaterloo, Dr. Stephanie Fysh has “worked with everyone from first time children's novelists to Prime Ministers.” Dr. Stephanie Fysh currently works two jobs. One of these is as a freelance editor for a book publisher in Toronto. In this role, Stephanie edits general nonfiction, novels, and university textbooks and has had the opportunity to work alongside some famous people. She finds it very exciting.

In her second job, Stephanie is the Academic Coordinator of the Publishing Certificate Program at Ryerson University, where she teaches copy editing and proofreading. She sees a comparison in her work at Ryerson to her experience at uWaterloo; the courses she teaches takes a hands-on approach that she associates with Waterloo.

As a student at uWaterloo, Stephanie learned from her classmates who were co-op students that getting a traditional non-co-op education in literature did not necessarily limit one to a career as a teacher or writer. Although Stephanie started her career in the field of academics and believes that knowing that the traditional career paths are not necessarily the only ones has made her a better career counsellor to her own students.

FyshFor Stephanie, choosing to attend the University of Waterloo was an easy decision for a number of reasons--for example, she could stay in her hometown and attend a school with a good reputation that offered what she described as the “right balance of Humanities courses.” In addition, her parents both worked at the University when she was a student, so her tuition was slightly discounted.

At that time, Stephanie was looking to study both Theatre and English and began her studies majoring in both subjects. Majoring in English was an obvious choice for Stephanie. She had loved to read since the age of three and her love of English studies continued throughout high school. Stephanie was most excited about taking the second year required criticism course, The Practice & Theory of Criticism, taught at the time by Dr. Helen Ellis. She remembers appreciatively that the course looked at works from as far back as Plato until today. Stephanie especially enjoyed courses that gave her the opportunity to go deep into the study of particular authors. In one course she read all of Milton's works, in another all of Chaucer's. She sees these courses as having been a great opportunity to deeply explore the work of different authors and periods during her undergraduate degree.

Stephanie also fondly recalls living with an English graduate student whom she met by chance as the other was looking for a place to live.

Upon finishing her English studies at uWaterloo, Stephanie continued her education at the University of Toronto where she earned her Master's and PhD degrees. Her dissertation was on eighteenth-century literature and publishing history.

If she had it to do all over again, however, she might combine her English studies with courses in other humanities disciplines, as she learned in graduate school that all of the humanities connect.

Jack Nahrgang (BA 1987)

    After seven years of working, Jack Nahrgang  chose to attend uWaterloo because it had a Mature Students facility. In addition, he was attracted to the variety of courses offered both on the main campus and at the University Colleges. Ultimately, he wanted to become a teacher and he chose to study English as part of his plan to reach that goal.

The English Reading Room was a place that Jack loved to go to when he needed time to read. He found that many of his professors, including Gordon Slethaug, Ted McGee, Bob Gosselink, Rota Lister, and John North all modeled a love of literature and writing that made his studies more enjoyable. “Today, in visiting the campus, I lament that current uWaterloo English students really have no truly silent place to dive into literature, unless there is a new novel entitled Twitter.”

Jack found the English 109 course with Ken Ledbetter outstanding: “He not only taught great content on writing but held the audience with his zany analogies, like insisting we capture our reader's attention and then illustrating his point by pulling a meat cleaver and a kitten out of a box. No one in the audience spoke-- we were all riveted to the stage. We got the point (and the kitten lived!).”

After graduating, Jack attended the University of Western Ontaio's Althouse Faculty of Education, where he earned his BEd.

Since then, he has been an English and history teacher with the Waterloo Region District School Board.

Being a student at uWaterloo helped Jack to hone his writing skills. Today, some of his accomplishments include receiving the 2003 Finlay Stewart Award for Excellence in Teaching, placing second in the 2006 Telling Our Stories writing competition, and serving on the KW Record's Community Editorial Board. “None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the solid base provided by uWaterloo English.”

Kathleen Niccols (BA, 1987)


     Kathleen Niccols had initially chosen to attend the University of Waterloo to experience its reputable math co-op program, a choice she believed was not offered by many universities. However after taking an English course for fun during her first year, she switched into the English program. For Kathleen, doing a co-op English degree “established the foundation for what she has done ever since” and turned out to be a “great choice.”

     Kathleen enjoyed many English classes during her time at uWaterloo. Some of her favourite classes included Shakespeare taught by Professor Ted McGee, who always had her on the edge of her seat, and a class taught by Ken Ledbetter, in which she learned to apply literature to her life. “We read great works of literature that I still remember, that I still love, and that still have great meaning to me,” says Kathleen.

    Her time as a co-op student also enabled her directly to apply English to the work world. Kathleen has had a variety of employers, including Prentice Hall Canada, a publishing company, in the educational book division, where she read all day and did some copy-editing. Her co-op terms were memorable for her because those too furthered her interest in words, language and books. During her work terms she would connect with other co-op students to go to parties or just hang out. She believes working from such a young age was invaluable and gave her the necessary experience to be successful at work later on. “Looking back I appreciate having had those learning opportunities,” says Kathleen.

     Once she left uWaterloo, she found a writing job in Kitchener at Mutual Life, which eventually led to a marketing position in product development. From there, she left Mutual Life to attend the University of Western Ontario, where she completed a combined LLB and MBA degree. Since 1996, she has worked primarily in law and has completed an LLM, specializing in financial services at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University. Today, she is Chief Legal Officer of an insurance company. Kathleen credits her English degree for helping her successfully practice law, as it taught her to use words effectively: “In all the jobs that I’ve had, whether they were officially a business job or officially a lawyer’s job, what I do, and what I do well, is write.”

Laurie Soper (MA 1987)

Laurie Soper is president of Precise Communications, a company dedicated to helping high tech firms develop effective sales strategies. Precise Communications uses proven techniques in plain language and document design and boasts a 70% win rate for sales proposals. Not only is Laurie a businesswoman and mother of two, but she is also an author. In her book Red Wine & Popcorn: Doing Business Like a Bohemian, you'll learn alternative ways to thrive in your marketplace and have the time of your life. Her second book is coming out in 2005 and is entitled What's the point? Achieving self-fulfilment in business.

Laurie believes her learning experiences at the University of Waterloo helped her succeed.

It wasn't the content or the knowledge. It was the ability to digest volumes of information and process it for other uses, condense and abstract it.

explains Soper. She recalls one experience that makes the connection between her education and her career. As a teaching assistant for an essay writing class for English Professor Neil Randall, she believed her job was to bring out the best in the students, to help them develop readable writing styles and to get them thinking about the big picture. This is exactly what Laurie does today with her clients.

In her spare time Laurie spends time with her partner and her two teenage children. She also enjoys watching football and recently attended the Grey Cup.

Visit Laurie's website for more information about Laurie and her books.

Rick Maranta (BA 1988, MA 1990)

Maranta    At uWaterloo, Rick Maranta learned that a degree in English could lead to many career opportunities beyond teaching: “I think that one of the advantages of attending Waterloo for an English degree is that you are steeped in a world where technology takes centre stage. Though you may study Chaucer or American Literature, it’s a place where it’s easy to see where your growing abilities to write clearly, think critically, and express yourself creatively can find a place in other fields such as business, technology or science.”

Rick admired several of his professors—Dr. Bill MacNaughton (his thesis supervisor), Dr. Peter Hinchcliff, Dr. Lynne Magnusson, Dr. Gordon Slethaug, Dr. Bob Gosselink, (who taught him to write better), and Dr. John North (who encouraged him to do a PhD--which he didn’t do) to name a few. Rick remembers spending many a fine hour during his Master’s degree, discussing Critical Theory over a game of tabletop hockey at the plaza or a beer at the Grad Club with his friend Norm Klassen, now himself an English professor, and current Chair, at St. Jerome's.

While at uWaterloo, Rick tutored several Chinese visiting scholars in English before the whole Tiananmen Square thing happened. He enjoyed engaging some of the brightest minds that China had to offer and hoped to move there after graduating to continue teaching English.

After earning his Master’s degree, Rick attended teacher's college at the University of Ottawa where he earned his Bachelor of Education. Unable to find a permanent teaching job at the time, he sought employment elsewhere and was eventually hired at Nortel Networks. He stayed with Nortel for about ten years doing technical writing, technical training, multimedia development, and online learning. For fun, Rick has, over the years, tried his hand at stand up comedy, comedy writing, and screenwriting.

Rick currently co-owns a successful e-learning company called Pinched Head specializing in creating custom e-learning courses for corporate clients.

Kelly Young (BA 1988)

Kelly YoungKelly Young faced many of life's challenges while pursuing her education. She attended the University of Waterloo because she was interested in the co-op program, which was unique at the time. She was on her own financially, and the co-op program was a big incentive. She also wanted to be close to her boyfriend, who was already attending uWaterloo. She was enrolled as a co-op student for the first two terms of her degree. She recalls a serious recession in 1981 when she, like many other students, was unable to find a co-op job. She left Waterloo to live with her sister but still couldn’t find work, and as a result, she could only attend one more term at uWaterloo before she ran out of money. When Kelly returned for a third term of studies, financial constraints prompted her to switch to correspondence classes.

After working in Toronto for a year while taking distance ed courses, she moved to Kincardine, Ontario where she continued to work full time and take more courses by correspondence. Before completing her degree, Kelly became a mother and often listened to her classes on tape while feeding the baby. Upon completing her degree, Kelly made sure she attended her convocation.

     English was the only subject that Kelly had ever wanted to study. It had never occurred to her to study anything else. She recalls that she “devoured books like my life depended on it and loved to write.” While attending uWaterloo, Kelly thoroughly enjoyed every class that looked at anything to do with Shakespeare. Even though she tried to work part-time throughout her undergraduate years, keeping up with her readings always remained a priority. Her one regret is that she did not get more involved in student life while at uWaterloo.

Kelly Youn at graduationAfter graduation, Kelly took a part-time position as a reporter for the Owen Sound Sun Times and was a freelance writer for about 15 years. She then became a full-time reporter for the Kincardine News for three years before making another career change. Today, she lives in Kincardine with her husband Jeff and works part-time in a local bookstore. She is a member of the executive for the town's swim team, a coach of the high school swim team and a member of the Beta Sigma Phi sorority. Kelly and her husband have two sons, one who attends Fanshawe College and another who is in his fifth year of high school.

From her experiences at uWaterloo, Kelly learned that life doesn’t always unfold according to plan. Even with all the twists and turns in her own undergraduate experience, however, her English degree led her to some great writing jobs.

Gerard Cleveland (BA 1989)

A self-described working-class Irish-Italian kid who thought the possibility of ever going to university was a myth. Gerard Cleveland became a cop but always wanted more. At 31, and with some trepidation, he enrolled at Waterloo, choosing to study English through correspondence.  He says that this experience gave him a million-dollar gift, one he uses every day in his work as an educator, a lawyer and university lecturer. 

Gerard is a police education specialist and the President of the Police Society for Problem Based Learning (PSPBL). He is the co-author, with Greg Saville, of the National Police Training Officer (PTO) model and the co-author of the National PBL manual for police trainers.

Can you tell us what it was like earning your degree through distance education?

Correspondence was the best academic thing that I’ve ever done. I attended another university in Ontario and went to classes on campus but it just wasn’t working with my schedule and my style of learning. I didn’t fit the education model of an organized and linear thinker. Through distance education, Waterloo offered an innovative approach to learning; it was fantastic. I raced through the program, was able to focus and work at my own pace. For a self motivated learner this was the ideal learning opportunity. 

I recommend distance education to mothers and people who have busy lives working full-time. I teach at law school and I ask students why they are in class and many of them reply “Because it’s the next step,” with no forethought as to where it will lead them. Whereas with mature students, there is a purpose, a will and a drive. 

What is problem based learning and how does it work?

Problem based learning is ‘real life’ learning. For example, I was a cop studying English. In order to make poetry and Shakespeare real to me, I had to think of it as a problem. Shakespeare involved tragedy; as a cop I dealt with domestic violence on a regular basis. I would think to myself, “Wow, this is Romeo and Juliet.” I took real life and made it applicable across the ages – using what I learned at Waterloo and applying it to everyday life. 

Waterloo can take a deep bow. It was the distance education at University of Waterloo that inspired me to co-create the national program in the USA with the web element. In the PTO program, the regular duties of policing are incorporated, but they are put into the context of specific neighbourhood problems. Recruits are challenged to think creatively, and use community resources, to deal with disorder and crime.

Can you tell us about the Loka Solution?

The roadway to success is through education. However, most people still see the “working world” in corporate terms, yet we believe solutions to community problems need to be more universal. Loka is a community approach that creates local ‘webs’ of social, business and academic interests. It involves teaching people how to share space effectively, how to interact with each other in an emotional intelligence manner, and it supports the creative redesign of living and work spaces.

It will be an interesting challenge, but there is a motivated team of us from across the world who are going to give it a go!

What do you know for sure?

I know one thing for sure! I know that without education we are lost in whatever ebbs and flows of the moment happen to be driving us. 

Education is the ultimate ‘sail’: once we raise it, we choose our own destinations rather than suffer the vicissitudes of fate or chance. I know Waterloo gave me a terrific opportunity and thanks to them, I’ve been able to sail to some fairly amazing places. Thanks to Waterloo for getting me started.

ail Corning (MA 1989 , PhD 1999 )

Corning    Imagine this: you have finally decided to back up your dissertation chapters to keep them safe. You highlight the relevant files, push a button, and suddenly the whole thing is gone. Dr. Gail Corning will never forget the day she found herself in this very predicament. She was carefully selecting the relevant chapters when everything disappeared. Panic ensued. And then it was decision time. Tech support told her not to turn off the computer. Dr. Neil Randall told her to turn off the computer and bring it to him. She held her breath and chose Door Number Two. Dr. Randall took the computer, asked a frantic Gail to leave and, using his magical powers, recovered her thesis. She is grateful for his help to this day.

When Gail first came to uWaterloo, she thought that critical theory was just a method for "bending literature to your will." Yet she had always been interested in hegemony without knowing the name for it and remembers Professor Judy Segal as a wonderful teacher who helped her realize through her courses in rhetoric that its study provided a theory and practice one could live by: "Learning rhetorical theory was the most important lesson I could take away because it gives me an incredibly useful framework from which to look at the world."

CorningFor years after completing her undergraduate degree, Gail worked as Director of Development for the K-W Symphony before deciding to pursue her master’s degree. During the application process, “Dr. Gordon Slethaug's secretary, Diana, was so welcoming and reassuring that I thought, "Why don't I do this?" Gail was one of the first students to enter the English doctorate program at uWaterloo. She fondly remembers some of her peers, Philippa Spoel, Alice den Otter, and Randi Patterson, who were a fabulous, supportive group of friends. Professor Dave Goodwin was important to her graduate studies. She loved being in his classes because Dr. Goodwin was not only dynamic at synthesizing a wide range of classical and modern theory, but also was energized by the conversations with his students. "I never would have finished my dissertation without his insightful, invaluable help."

From start to finish, it took Gail ten years to complete her master's and doctorate degrees. While pursuing her degrees, she taught as a TA and went away with her husband on his sabbatical term. She defended her doctoral thesis just before her 60th birthday.

After graduation, Gail began teaching as a sessional the Contemporary Rhetoric course in uWaterloo's English Department and later taught writing courses, including ENGL 210F (Business Writing), as well as a Short Story course. She now works in the Department of Drama and Speech Communication teaching SPCOM 223 (Public Speaking). "At this stage in my life, this is what I want to do. I will probably keep it up until I cannot walk anymore. Infusing rhetorical theory into my teaching helps students understand that communicating is not about them, but about their audience. Those who grasp this concept gain a valuable lifelong skill."

Christine Fischer Guy (BA 1989, MA 1990)


    Writing a novel is hard work, but Christine Fischer Guy is up to the challenge. On top of teaching writing and raising two children, she is currently writing her first one.

Christine’s writing career began at uWaterloo when she wrote for Imprint and the KW Record. Since then, she has taught writing in various settings and written everything from journalism to online help. Her work has appeared in national publications such as The Globe and Mail, Today’s Parent and Canadian Living, and she currently contributes fiction reviews to the Globe and podcasts to Bookninja.com. She has also written short fiction, which has been published in Prairie Fire and Descant, her most recent short story appearing in Descant 145 (summer 2009). Her hard work has earned her a nomination for the Journey Prize, a prestigious award for emerging Canadian short story writers.

     fishcherguyChristine recalls that she enjoyed classes taught by Professor Warren Ober the most. “One term he taught two courses I was taking, Arthurian Legend and the second-year survey course of British literature. He was funny, erudite, and endlessly approachable.” She remembers the Arthurian Legend course fondly and remembers hearing Yeats’s poem The Second Coming in the survey course. “Professor Ober had arranged for Professor Walter Martin to read the poem to us. It was probably my first poetry reading, ever, and it was electrifying. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.” She and Dr. Ober have since stayed in touch. Literature of the Fantastic with Professor Neil Randall was also a favourite.

Upon completing her MA in Language and Professional Writing at uWaterloo, Christine moved to London, England, where she lived and worked while her husband was earning his MBA. They moved back in 1992 and have lived in Toronto since then.

Michael O'Driscoll (BA 1989 , MA 1991)

    Thanks to his first co-op job at CKCO TV, Dr. Michael O'Driscoll spent twelve years working in the “glamorous” television industry. He had the opportunity to observe local television personalities as he worked behind the scenes as a writer and producer for the TV station. After thoroughly enjoying that first co-op term in 1985, he decided to return for his remaining co-op terms and, after graduating, he continued to work for the TV station while pursuing other interests.

For Michael, his co-op experience was beneficial because it provided the experience and funding for him to continue his education as well as take care of his family. After completing his undergraduate degree, he pursued a master’s degree at uWaterloo and then a PhD at the University of Western Ontario, all the while continuing to work at CKCO. Upon graduating from uWaterloo, he took a placement at the University of Alberta, where he still works today as a tenured associate professor of English. “The day I signed my contract with the University of Alberta was the day I resigned [from CKCO].”

As an undergraduate student, Michael recalls “a very tight group of about half a dozen students who were great friends. We were all involved with the undergraduate English Society. We put out a monthly newsletter and set up a monthly reading series called ‘Poets and Pilgrims’.”

Michael found all the English classes he took at uWaterloo important. His three favourite courses were a year long course in modernism with Professor Murray MacArthur, the Shakespeare course with Professor Ted McGee, and a senior-level class in post-structuralist theory with Professor Stan Fogel because they were the most eye-opening for him. “If it wasn't for the guidance and models of the professors and students I encountered in the English department at uWaterloo, he says, “I don't think I would have been so enthusiastic and so prepared to go forward in my studies and career as an academic.”

From his early teens, Michael knew that his strengths lay in reading and writing. By the time he began university, he was certain that he wanted to follow his father’s example and become a university professor. “I think that my education at uWaterloo really helped to shape me as a reader and a writer. I also learned to care about what I do, whether I am teaching, doing research, or being part of the community. I learned that from the professors at uWaterloo who were my models.”

Ray Siemens (BA 1989)

There were so many fields to enter through co-op that English students were able to broaden their skill inventory and increase the diversity of their experience

 The innovative approach to education at the University of Waterloo is what drove Dr. Ray Siemens to study here. Having always heard great things about the co-op program, Ray thought he would gain tremendous experience if he complemented his favourite subject, English, with the co-op option.

     Ray found that the English and co-op programs were integrated so well that "together they were absolutely crucial" in determining where he is today and what he has been able to accomplish. He also praises the co-op program for shattering employers' all-too-common assumption about the limited career capabilities of English grads; there were so many fields to enter through co-op that English students were able to broaden their skill inventory and increase the diversity of their experience. Ray believes that co-op students have a greater understanding of the importance of their education because they are able to apply what they learn in the classroom directly to the tasks they perform and the projects they pursue in the work world. In other words, they see that "education has real applied value" in the world beyond the university.

     Ray's love of the co-op program was at its peak when he landed a job at IBM in one of their Toronto research and development labs. In this position, Ray updated manuals describing the Internet protocols that soon became standard for internet servers around the world.  When "World-Wide-Web" became a household phrase, Ray realized that he had participated in something truly historic at IBM.

     Ray describes the campus as a place in which everyone felt togetherness and developed strong friendships with one another. He remembers the many social events that occurred during his time here. Whether it was Wednesday night at the Bombshelter or an evening trip to the Princess Cinema, students on campus often took part in events that connected them to each other outside the classroom setting.  And there was plenty of camaraderie within that setting too, in classes such as the course that Dr. Paul Beam taught on 'Analytic Criticism,' an early favourite that focused on critical thinking and analysis techniques.

     Upon his graduation in 1989, Ray was offered a job in the high tech sector, but turned it down so as to pursue a Master's degree in English from the University of Alberta. He would later obtain his PhD from the University of British Columbia. Today, Ray is Canada Research Chair in Humanities Computing at the University of Victoria, a position in which he collaborates with and leads a local research team of 10 and an international research team of 35 others, with a focus on researching electronic publications and electronic books. In 2009, Ray received the Humanities Award for Research Excellence from the University of Victoria and the Arts in Academics Alumni Achievement Award from uWaterloo.

Read an interview with Dr. Siemens here.