Anne Baker (BA 1990)


     Many students come in to an English degree because they are passionate about the subject. Anne Baker (née Thomas), on the other hand, “looked at it as a way to strengthen an area I hadn't focused on before.”

     At first, Waterloo was an obvious choice for Anne because the university gave her transfer credits that other institutions would not. She was interested in courses from the Rhetoric and Professional Writing (RPW) option and therefore decided to pursue a degree in English.

     She particularly enjoyed classes with Professors Dave Goodwin (for whom she was a research assistant) and Jill Tomasson Goodwin (for whom she was a teaching assistant). She recalls the encouragement and advice she received from the Goodwins during her undergraduate degree, and the friendship she built with them when she returned to undertake doctoral studies. “They treated me as a colleague, and I appreciated that very much,” she says.

     Anne remembers Waterloo for its welcoming campus and friendly student population. “Even as a mature student,” she says, “I had many friends there.” She attended many social events that she enjoyed very much, particularly a medieval feast, organized by Professor Harry Logan, which she attended twice.

     After leaving Waterloo, Anne accepted a full-time teaching position at a college in Saskatchewan, but she quickly realized it was not where she wanted to be. She moved to Kamloops, British Columbia, where her sister lived. Today, she is a full-time, tenured faculty member at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. Until June, 2010 she was a member of the English and Modern Languages Department, and today she works for the newly created Department of Journalism, Communication and New Media. Currently she is re-assigned for two years as Coordinator of TRU’s Writing Centre. She also teaches a Composition course online for TRU Open Learning.

     Anne credits her time at uWaterloo for her critical thinking skills. She also says that the faculty in the English Department taught her many essential teaching skills which she incorporates into her own career, particularly strategies that foster objectivity and understanding in teaching methods, along with an implicit belief in the importance of not only teaching, but also mentoring students.

     Anne also stresses that uWaterloo taught her the importance of maintaining a balanced lifestyle. Making the mistake of overworking herself early on in her academic career, she quickly learned a very valuable lesson: “Something that is a constant challenge is preventing work from consuming all my time to the detriment of health or time with family,” she says.

Teena Carnegie (MA 1990, Ph.D. 1999)

     A passion for the written word and a love for exploring intellectual ideas drewDr.Teena A. M. Carnegieto the study of English. This passion led her first to a literary study at the University of British Columbia. When she graduated with her BA, she wanted to study practical applications of English and chose to enter the Professional Writing Master’s program at the University of Waterloo.

     The campus environment at that time was “very social,” Dr. Carnegie remembers, and even her office hours became a time when she could take part in academic discussions among the graduate students with whom she shared her office. Debates would often spill into the Grad House; “there was nothing better than spending a summer evening on the patio,” where she and her friends could relax and speak about the topics that interested them. At the time, Teena was a member of the GSA Women’s Issues Committee, which held special events and raised money for women’s shelters by organizing events such as Coffeehouses.

     Lively discussion also drove Teena’s favourite class, which focused on metaphor. The course, taught by Dr. Randy Harris, made her realize the importance of metaphor; metaphor plays a central role in language, thought, and rhetoric. It is instrumental to all forms of writing, from creative to technical, as well as to the design of information.

     Teena reinforced her communication skills through the co-op program, which provided her with excellent work opportunities. During one of her co-op terms, she worked for the Ministry of Transportation in Toronto, a position in which she gained a valuable proficiency in writing and editing reports. During another work term at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Teena contributed to publications about Canada’s accomplishments. The publications were sent to international opinion leaders, to promote a positive image of Canada. The co-op program taught her document design, editing, and managing skills while showing her the real-world applications of an English education.

     Through her co-op experience, she acquired a deep appreciation and value for hands-on learning. Her pedagogical practices now include service-learning in which students, as part of their courses, work with community and non-profit organizations. As part of these community projects, students have written and designed funding recommendation reports, newsletters, brochures, grant proposals, instructional manuals, and policy and procedure manuals for homeless programs, community centers, fair housing organizations, family support programs, libraries, and even the U.S. Navy. 

     When she graduated from uWaterloo with her doctoral degree in 1999, Dr. Carnegie went to Purdue University to complete a postdoctoral fellowship in professional communication. After this, she worked at Oregon State University for two years as an assistant professor. Today, she works at Eastern Washington University as an associate professor of technical communication and Chair of the Department of English. Now a very busy academic, Dr. Carnegie still values the uWaterloo experience for teaching her that balance is important in every individual’s life.

Nancy Richards (BA 1990)

Nancy RichardsNancy Richards enjoys the anticipation of what each new day will bring. "The best part of my job is never knowing day to day what's going to happen in the world or who I am going to interview."

Working as a co-op student at CKCO is where Nancy started to build the foundation of her broadcasting career.

The co-op program at University of Waterloo gave me direction, which had a significant impact on where I am today. The key to success in this business is learning all aspects of the job. Co-op gives you the opportunity to work your way up and understand what takes place behind the scenes, which is very important.

explains Richards.

Of course, life as a broadcaster isn't all glamour and glitz. You have to be prepared for almost anything to happen on live television!

I remember once we were shocked when a light blew up behind our heads which gave me the giggles for the rest of the newscast, and just recently, someone turned the lights off by accident while we were reading the news! Anything can happen!

When Nancy is not on set she is busy enjoying her two children.

Heather Hill (BA 1991, MA 1993)

What made you choose Waterloo?

Heather HillI chose Waterloo for the Applied Studies (Co-op) Arts program. I was very interested in rhetoric, philosophy and literature and wanted to experience the practical application of this education in industry. In addition to acquiring practical skills during my work terms like public relations and marketing writing, I was also able to pay for my degree with my co-op term earnings.

You've had an interesting career trajectory. Can you tell us a bit about it?

I have had a very unorthodox career! Prior to university, I earned a piano performance degree from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. My first love has always been music. I decided instead of pursing another degree in music, I would expand on my other passion…words. It was fun to deviate from the rigors of daily practice and focus on writing. I ended up doing most of my work terms in technology. When I had completed my MA, my first full-time job combined marketing and technology.

I then learned that I loved product marketing. My employer at the time, Bell Canada, paid for my MBA in Marketing and Strategy at the Schulich School of Business. From there I joined a series of high tech start-ups. I worked on business plans, positioning, marketing communications, PR, promotions – whatever was required. After many years in management, I decided I needed to return to my music. I quit my VP of Business Development role with a wireless start-up, sold everything and went backpacking. Crazy right?

While traveling, something incredible happened…songs started pouring out. I was able to use my classical music training and my love of words. Finally the two worlds collided. I met my now husband (also a math grad from uWaterloo) and we moved to New York City. I cut my first album and we had our first baby. The rest is history – I am a mom, a musician and an active follower of all arts. I write songs with other artists, I perform across Canada, and I work on placing my songs in TV and film.

Did your degree in English contribute to your career in ways you didn't anticipate?

My English degrees have been invaluable through all of the crazy career changes I have made. In high tech, the importance of writing well is paramount. Raising money and performing many of the roles in a business requires clear, concise communication in order to be indispensable. In music, you write better songs when you understand rhyme, meter, metaphor, imagery, conciseness and list goes on.

I find that my music career requires that I have a healthy online social network. To manage this, I need to publish all kinds of writing content, from short, snappy comments in Twitter, to crowd-pleasing content in Facebook. The personal blog's job is to further engage my fan-base with topics that interest. The songs themselves tell stories of my life and those around me from all different perspectives and voices. All these forms of writing are everyday examples of why an English degree is a wonderful building block in your career.

Has anything stuck with you from your time at Waterloo classes, books, professors?

One of my best memories of uWaterloo was the time when my writing partner Paula Hendsbee and I received approval to write our Master’s thesis collaboratively. This was the first time at Waterloo that two Arts students were given permission to collaborate. While this is a common undertaking in Science, it is not in English. We set up a case study in the classroom and wrote our thesis entirely collaboratively. The project was twice the length and effort. Our topic was Collaborative Rhetoric in the Writing Classroom: The Art of Getting Along.”

Two of my favourite professors were Catherine Schryer and David Goodwin. I clearly remember Kenneth Burke’s books as well those by Foucault.

What advice do you have for current students?

Don't worry if you don't know what you want to do or become, you can always change! You can zig zag through life. Try many things. You will know when you find what feels right. Money is not the greatest indicator of success or happiness it is doing what you love and the rest will follow.

Higher education is a gift. Whatever degree you have, you will use it in unforeseen ways. An English degree is an incredible starting place so you can express your thoughts as clearly as possible so others can understand you. To me, expressing myself effectively across many forms is a life journey and one worthy of commitment!

What do you wish you'd known right after graduating?

I wish I didn't give in to the pressure of getting a good job and earning a living. That can come later. I wish I had gone backpacking and truly explored who I was and what I could become. I waited until much later to explore what it was like to be free and to truly think freely and creatively. Thankfully, I have no regrets, and it has all worked out beautifully.

And just for fun, what are you currently reading?

I really love historical fiction, books on spirituality and songwriting craft. I am currently reading Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes,The Kingsmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory, and Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattisson.

John Killoran (MA 1991, Ph.D. 1999)

In a country that focuses almost entirely on literature in its English programs, it is a rare innovation to develop and grow a Language and Professional Writing stream of study.

     When Dr. John Killoran visited the University of Waterloo for the first time, he was unsure whether he wanted to study here. He had completed his BA at Concordia University in Montreal, and he had only been in Waterloo a short while to see his girlfriend when he came to the campus to have a look around. He is happy he made the choice he did; during his years here he found himself on the cusp of a great shift within the Department as it introduced the English Ph.D. program. The Ph.D. program constituted a major change in a Department that, before the 1990s, had had only a small Masters program and relatively few applicants to it, as John was told by the rather “absent-minded yet jovial professor” who was serving as the Department’s Graduate Officer when he first visited.

     Although not a co-op student, John had many opportunities to participate in the work world as a teaching assistant and then an independent instructor. These teaching opportunities helped him develop in more ways than one; during his earlier years at university, John was restless and didn’t like learning in a classroom setting. Being a TA and instructor gave him new perspectives on how undergraduate students learn and the challenges of teaching them while helping him build his pedagogical and social skills; organizing a class of twenty-five opinionated people places one on a steep but valuable learning curve.

     When he entered the newly-created Ph.D. program, John gained even more confidence, as well as the feeling of being part of something fresh at the university. As one of a handful of students in the new doctoral program in English Language and Literature at uWaterloo, John was impressed by his close exposure to faculty who were developing some of the program's policies one step ahead of its students. He describes the feeling as like “being at the very tip of a ship’s bow, watching the boat break the water beneath you.”

     The students too were developing a doctoral-student culture; it was in the early years of the doctoral program that SAGE (the Student Association of Graduates in English) was born. John appreciated the rapport among the grad students, and fondly recalls time spent with fellow students and professors at the Grad House, which to this day is a popular location for graduate students from all faculties.

     Today, John is a professor at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York. He specializes in Professional Writing and teaches courses such as Technical Writing, Grant Writing, and Writing in the Professions. He continues to admire the bravery of this Department; in a country that focuses almost entirely on literature in its English programs, it is a rare innovation to develop and grow a Language and Professional Writing stream of study.

Michael Bryson (BA 1992)


The extraordinary thing about English professors at the University of Waterloo, says Michael Bryson  is their ability to balance teaching the practical with the theoretical. A graduate of the Rhetoric and Professional Writing Co-op program, Michael cites the integration of Waterloo's academic program with the practical experience of work-terms as the prime memory and benefit of his time on campus.

     This balance continues to be central element of Michael's life, as he pursues creative writing projects and a professional career.

     Michael's most recent publication, THE LIZARD AND OTHER STORIES (Chaudiere Books, 2009), includes 16 stories about modern life in Toronto. A recent review called it "an easy book to like" and commented on the "tolerance for ambiguity" in many of the stories.

     In addition to writing stories and blogging at thenewcanlit.blogspot.com, he also has a day job in the Ontario Public Service, where he has worked for the past decade in both communications and public functions.

     Employment within the public service isn't new to Michael; as a co-op student, he worked for the federal government, among other posts. The work during this co-op term wasn't nearly as memorable as "being young in Ottawa," however.

     Of his courses on campus, Michael enjoyed Ken Ledbetter's "Modern American Literature" class most, finding Dr. Ledbetter's flair for teaching astonishing. "He spoke in twenty-minute paragraphs," Michael says, recalling how the professor often spoke of how "literature gets behind the surface of reality."

     Michael spent much of his time outside the classroom with a number of other students who "huddled around the Writer in Residence, Greg Cook"; they all wished to be better writers and thus sought his guidance. He remembers this group fondly, remarking that they were all "a bit on the outside of the mainstream," and he remains in contact with a number of them. Michael also built upon his writing abilities by contributing to IMPRINT, in which he had a column called "Media Surfing" published weekly during the 1991-92 year.

     After graduating from uWaterloo with a BA, Michael went to Saskatoon for two years. After this stint in Saskatchewan, Michael came back to Ontario and earned an MA in English from the U of T, after which he completed the New Media Design Program at the Toronto-based Canadian Film Centre.

     Michael lives in Toronto with his wife and step-children.

To read more about Michael, you can visit his blog: http://michaelbryson.com/

Viktor Haag (BA 1992)

     Viktor Haag chose to attend the University of Waterloo because he practically grew up on the campus (his mother was a faculty member) and because he was attracted to the Applied Studies program offered by uWaterloo's Arts faculty. He later chose to concentrate his studies on English Literature because he enjoyed those courses the most. While pursuing his degree, he had notions about becoming a teacher, but ended up not pursuing that career path.

Viktor initially enrolled as a co-op student in the English Honours program, but when he secured a recurring job with the Computer Science department as a course tutor he switched to full-time employment and part-time study streams. During the last eighteen months of his BA, he worked almost full-time hours at his tutoring job and studied part-time to complete his degree.

"One of the key things that I discovered in my time at university was a more detailed and rounded picture about my strengths and interests, what I, as a person, liked and didn't like. The English degree gave me a robust foundation for building myself an interesting career; one where I'm always learning and collaborating around new things and new ideas."

Upon graduating, Viktor had the option to continue on with graduate school, attend teacher's college, or enter the private sector. He was offered a job in the high-tech industry, working for a local software company as a technical writer and decided to try that as a change from academia. He enjoyed the work and has continued in the industry, working for a variety of high-tech companies in the KW area ever since.

After a decade in the high-tech industry, Viktor decided to return to uWaterloo to pursue an MA with an interest in communities of discourse around collections of information. However, he found that he simply didn't have the time to devote to graduate studies while taking on more responsibilities at work and raising two children.

His favourite courses during his time at uWaterloo were a Shakespeare course taught by Dr. Ted McGee, and the graduate Literary Theory and Criticism curriculum course taught by Dr. Victoria Lamont.

Currently, Viktor works for Research In Motion Ltd. as a Senior Writer in their Handheld Software engineering division. On a day-to-day basis, only a portion of his workload directly involves writing; he also directs and reviews the work of his small writing team, and participates in the handheld software design process by collaborating on and reviewing the functional design for new BlackBerry software features.

Being part of the English Department gave Viktor a good set of thinking and communication skills that he uses to learn, research, and collaboratively solve problems. He has found that the value of a Liberal Arts education teaches people to think, learn, and communicate with others, and feels that private industry sees these as core, valuable skills found in the best employees.

Margaret Hitchcock (BA 1992, MA 1994)

Hitchcock      Margaret Hitchcock sees her choice to attend Waterloo at the age of 54 as a self-imposed “rebirth.” Having dropped out of school at 16 years of age, going back after so long put her in an Educating Rita-type experience (Educating Rita). Finding the campus attractive, she chose Waterloo because she had often heard great things about it and she lived “right on the doorstep.”

      Margaret remembers many classes of which she was very fond, but she especially loved Professor Mary Gerhardstein’s Semiotics class. Dr. Gerhardstein had a way of using her dry sense of humour to open up the eyes and the minds of her students. As a result of taking Semiotics, Margaret began to see the “infinite realities behind signs, symbols, icons, text and just about everything.”

     As a way of applying the new ideas she had confronted in the classroom, Margaret took a co-op position at the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development during the Oka crisis in 1990 . She was in the middle of a battleground on which the Mohawk First Nation faced off with federal and provincial authorities over a major land dispute that brought international attention to native rights issues. Being in this position allowed her to immerse herself in Mohawk culture, and to this day she recalls with pleasure joining in as Natives and non-Natives danced round the field to the beat of drums as part of pow-wow celebrations, as well as eating in the Kumik (a healing room set up to integrate Native protesters and Non-native government workers), smoking “peace pipes,” and taking part in certain ceremonies.

     Margaret respected professors who, like Dr. Gerhardstein, welcomed debate in their classrooms. Lively discussions in class helped her realize the importance of an open mind while allowing her to see the world through the eyes of others.  Margaret believes that she rid herself of many of her own “half-baked ideas and certitudes” as a result of these debates and to this day she says, just as Socrates did: “I know nothing.”

     Apart from the mind-opening changes that occurred as a result of her studies in the English department and in co-op, Margaret also had lighter experiences at the University of Waterloo, including “drinking sprees” at the Bomber and one-time karaoke in front of a large audience (an experience she does not wish to repeat). To this day, Margaret is involved with editing, and writes creatively as often as possible. She also has a green thumb; she completes paid gardening contracts whenever she can. Along with paid work Margaret is a regular volunteer at the Library for the Cineseries, and is the Secretary for the Cambridge Sculpture Garden. One of her stories was chosen by Canadian writer and former St. Jerome’s English professor Eric McCormack as the winner of the Dorothy Shoemaker Award. Today, she often sits in on culture classes at uWaterloo’s School of Architecture. Summarizing her time at uWaterloo, Margaret says, “it does delight me to have reclaimed the academic promise I showed as a young girl.”

Grace Welch (BA 1992)

Can you tell us what made you choose Waterloo? Did you know about Rhetoric and Professional Writing (RPW) when you were applying to university?

Grace WelchI grew up in Kitchener-Waterloo so I was familiar with the local universities and their great reputations. For me the decision came down to the University of Waterloo Applied Studies program or the Business Administration program at Wilfrid Laurier. I wanted to have a career in business, but I had a passion for English. University of Waterloo allowed me the freedom to pursue my passion, but without abandoning my pragmatic side that wanted to learn business fundamentals. While completing my degree in RPW, I also completed courses in economics, computer science, accounting and marketing. The co-op program too was a huge appeal for me. Not only was I able to pay my own way through school, the two years of work experience I received set my career path. I believe I had accepted the offer at University of Waterloo before I learned about RPW.  It may have been a brand new program at the time. But as soon as I heard about the concept and framework, I knew it was for me.

Looking back at the RPW program, what do you think you got from it that a completely traditional English degree wouldn't have given you?

The RPW program taught me to write for many purposes. I learned to write succinctly and persuasively. I learned to understand my audience and look at the texts around me with fresh eyes to question biases and motives behind what I read, and to apply what I learned to my own writing. So, RPW gave me writing, and writing has been my edge throughout my career. My first co-op job was as a technical writer for Waterloo Microsystems – a uWaterloo spin-off company that created the world’s first visual operating system, leveraging metaphors of doors, rooms and filing cabinets to help users navigate their computers. Sound familiar? But at that time Windows and Apple OS were still a few years off. That Waterloo Microsystems hired me was groundbreaking in its own small way. I was the first arts student ever hired there. It was just me and a bunch of computer science grads that liked to drink Jolt Cola, sport beards, and talk about their weekend tournaments of D&D. I doubt they would have hired me if I had been an English student, and not specialized in RPW. They liked that the program taught technical writing specifically. I jumped from there to co-op jobs in marketing communications at Toshiba Canada and then to another uWaterloo spin-off company – WATCOM (now owned by Sybase/SAP). I was writing again, but this time more persuasively – print ads, direct marketing campaigns, promotional artic I had been with WATCOM after graduation for 5 years (by that time it was Sybase) and had a nice career going there and an established life in Waterloo. I had a small team of staff (including an RPW co-op student of course!), had won an award for the best integrated marketing campaign in the software industry, married my high-school sweetheart (Robert Welch, uWaterloo BSc ’93), lived in a house we couldn’t really afford to fix up on Westmount Golf Course, and  had just finished my MBA at WLU. But I must admit, I was a bit restless. Too much work and no play perhaps. So when my husband received a call one day out-of-the-blue with a job offer in Bermuda, I was a little excited. I agreed to accompany him for a long weekend to check out the island and the opportunity. I lined up several interviews for myself while we were there, and by the end of the trip, I had a verbal job offer.

In June 1998, we said goodbye to our lives in Waterloo, Canada, and arrived to our new lives here in Bermuda. Maybe it was meant to be. Certainly, the transition couldn’t have gone more quickly or smoothly. I traded in my career in Software Marketing, for a career in Project Management, which had become another common career theme, along with the writing. I worked as a Project Manager/Business Analyst at an IT consulting company for 4 years, before leveraging that experience to join a global insurance/reinsurance company based in Bermuda. I’ve been with ACE 11 years now, and have grown with them. The company employed 5,000 when I joined to now over 20,000 across 50+ countries. I have a global role in Learning & Development, managing talent systems and a portfolio of course development projects. Writing is still a key asset in my work.  I write for a good portion of every work day emails, instant messages, project plans, course storyboards, blogs, narration scripts, and more.

I recognize that Bermuda took my life in a completely new direction; but, a direction I embrace.My two children were both born here; my life is full here. Of course the weather, soft pink sand and turquoise waters don’t hurt. Last year I learned there are over 100 uWaterloo Alumni in Bermuda, so I’m not alone in choosing this island.

At the same time that you are working in business, you are also active as a creative writer, publishing in a number of significant venues, including uWaterloo's own TNQ and several anthologies published by Bermuda's Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs . Is there a balance?

I struggle for balance and unfortunately, my creative writing often gets the short end of the stick.Like many women, I juggle a busy career with being a wife and mother.And of course there are travel, friends, hobbies and always that extra 10 pounds to lose. Sometimes it feels there’s just no time to pursue a personal passion like writing.But I need that creative outlet, and so I keep at it, bit by bit, in fits and starts. Right now, short writing projects fit well. I write poetry, and more recently have tried out memoir, flash and short fiction. I love playing with language and can lose myself in the creative process of crafting a poem. Here's an example. At the best of times creative writing can completely transport me from whatever else is going on in life. I also enjoy the discipline of writing a poem.How can I mesh rhythm and impactful sound with meaning that resonates on multiple levels in the tightest possible package? Of course, I’m not always successful. But I like to think I will find a welcoming home out there for every one of my poems. Sometimes that means having to give them a little polishing, or in the case of my more pathetic creations, even a frontal lobotomy. I like to take poems out months, even years after I first write them and revise with a more critical and experienced eye. I wish every rejection I’ve ever received from a poetry editor came with some constructive criticism to help in this process. In an ideal world, I would spend more time creative writing and submitting my writing for publication. I would be happier with the balance.

What do other creative writers think of your day job? And what do your work peers think of your writing? Is there any crossover?

Surprisingly, there is no crossover whatsoever. I belong to an organization called BLiP (Bermuda Library Poets), named such because we are a group of poets that meet at the National Library. We meet for a couple of hours the second Tuesday of every month and share our latest poems with each other, often veering off into interesting political or artistic discussions.It's a group where your day job doesn’t matter – only your writing.We are an eclectic group – old, young, black, white, male, female, working, retired, Bermudian and Expat. Id be hard pressed to tell you what most of them do for a living. At work, most colleagues don’t know that I write creatively, and those that do, don't really get that part of me. I tried crossing over once.I wrote a very clever poem for a large project kick-off meeting. I was told in the very nicest way possible by my manager at the time, never to do that again. J  But for me I believe I need each of those 2 worlds, even if they are destined to stay apart. My work brings a discipline, work process and objectivity to my creative writing. My creative writing brings fresh perspective and a renewal of spirit to my work.

What is next for your writing?

I have recently begun writing short stories. In 2012 I wrote my first short fiction piece since leaving University of Waterloo, and published it with Feathertale.com.  I’m awaiting the publication this May of a Bermuda anthology of short memoirs, edited by Jamaican Canadian writer Rachel Manley. I will have a memoir in it called, We Almost Had Paris.I'm 2 for 2 in terms of submission to publication rate! This is most encouraging compared to my poems, for which I usually receive standard rejection notes, if I hear back at all (such is the life of a poet).  I understand that Canadian author Alice Munro recently won the Nobel Prize in Literature for her work in the short-story genre. This gives me hope for renewed interest and readership in short stories.

I will continue to soldier on in my poetry as well.I also have poems my father wrote (Richard Gardner, Honours Specialist in English, University of Waterloo.)I would like to make his writing more widely available to friends and family. He died a few years ago, but I think he would be pleased to have his remarkable life remembered through his writing.

Ultimately, I would like to work less and write more. I hope there is a novel in my future. In the meantime, I have a script for a series of online training videos due next week.

Cathie Kearsley (BA 1994)

Cathire KearsleyWhat led you to choose Waterloo?

uWaterloo is close to my family home in Kitchener. After high school graduation, I traveled overseas and when I returned, I wanted an affordable university education with excellent academics.

Can you talk a bit about your program of study? What stands out from your time at Waterloo?

The great professors and class sizes allowed for discussion and interaction.  Many of my professors, especially my English profs, knew me by name and I was able to meet with them after class for help when needed.

Although I did not appreciate it at the time, I now really appreciate the computer courses I was required to take.  Those courses gave me the foundation that I needed to communicate with IT departments and work together with IT when I am developing a human resources information system.

Before moving to Water Street Ministries, you were director of Human Resources with Mennonite Disaster Service. What was your trajectory from graduation to MDS? What made you a good candidate for the position, do you think?

After graduation, I wanted to go to teacher's college however I was not able to get in, so I chose to get more teaching experience with adult education. That led me to training and development in human resources.  I worked at the Hudson’s Bay Company in Human Resources training employees in customer service.  Communications and recruiting are two other important aspects of HR.  Transferable skills for an English grad are strong written and verbal communications, and journalism.  The love of a good story and the ability to ask good questions were skills needed to be a strong recruiter.  One of the best parts of recruiting is hearing a person’s career experience: listening to their personal story and identifying transferable skills to the position open.

After working with Hudson Bay Company, I moved to Tyndale College Seminary, and then to Mennonite Disaster Service. What made me a good candidate for moving to Mennonite Disaster Service was my ability to effectively communicate the vision, mission and values of the organization. Recruiting and developing strong leadership also was imperative. Teaching leadership development to volunteers throughout Canada and the USA developed enough leaders to mobilize more than 15,000 volunteers in five years.  Those volunteers rebuilt hundreds of homes impacted by natural disasters in Canada and the USA.

It has been almost twenty years since you graduated. Reflecting on your career, what do you know now that you wish you had known then? Would you have plotted your career differently in hindsight?

I am so thankful that I went into HR instead of getting a teaching degree.  If I had known the opportunities in HR that are available for English majors, I would have gone into the field with more confidence that I have employable skills directly related to this field. My career has allowed me to travel and be a part of rebuilding communities into stronger, dynamic neighbourhoods. The only thing better than reading a good story is being a part of a great one and community development work in disaster response and now my work in sheltering homeless people has allowed me to be a part of incredible stories of resilience.

Finally, can you tell me what was the last novel you read that made you think amazing and why? And what novel is currently on your must read list?

LOVED reading Alice Munro's Dear Life because she is an incredible story teller. I just got a copy of Jeanette Walls's The Silver Star and am looking forward to starting that this week.

Lisa Kember (BA 1994)

Lisa KemberWhat is your degree?

Honours English Rhetoric and Professional Writing. Minor – Sociology. Following Waterloo, I did a post-grad diploma in Resource Development Management at Sheridan College.

What has been your professional history?

I started out as a technical writer, which I discovered I did not enjoy, so I moved into the marketing department as a copywriter. Thanks to a combination of the support of a great mentor and being in the right place at the right time, I was able to move fairly quickly into a management role in the marketing department for Kasten Chase. They went public through an acquisition, so I took on the role of managing investor communications and public relations. I later moved to a small digital marketing company, Devlin Applied Design, as Manager of Sales and Marketing. In 1999, I decided to launch my own agency, Hyperactive Communications, which I built up to 11 staff and more than 25 long-term accounts before exiting from the business in 2009.

What is your current job title, and what responsibilities does it include?

I am now Regional Development Director, Eastern Canada at Constant Contact. This is a rather unique role – it has elements of PR, sales and field marketing. The majority of my days are spent at events targeting small businesses and non-profits, where I present keynotes and seminars as a brand-building activity; I manage a team of people who also do speaking to a bit smaller groups. I am also responsible for media interviews, organizing learning events, and ensuring we are meeting sales targets in the region (leveraging a call centre at our corporate office in Boston to follow up on leads we develop in the field).

What made you choose Waterloo?

I chose Waterloo because I wanted to have an exceptional education, but also develop practical skills along the way. I benefited from the co-operative education program; the roles I took on as a co-op student later led to full-time employment opportunities because I leveraged the connections I made.

What has stayed with you from your time at Waterloo studying English?

The one thing that has stayed with me is the understanding that there are many ways to spin a story. The facts may be X, but they can be interpreted differently according to different perspectives. This has been an important understanding for every role I have had.

What advice do you have for current students?

Your education is the foundation for learning. But you will never stop learning – every job, every conversation, every connection you make will add to the knowledge that you have. So stay open, stay willing to learn. No matter how far you progress in your career, there will always be more you can learn.

What do you wish you'd known right after graduating?

I wish I had known how important it was to stay connected with everyone I met along the way. I still get job offers and consulting projects through people I met a decade or more ago. That is the power of leverage. Every opportunity, every connection, can lead to your next one. Do the best work you can and handle each opportunity as critically important. Because it is.

What are you currently reading?

For pleasure, I am reading Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed. But I also always have a business book on the go – right now that is The Power of Why, by Amanda Lang.

Adam Lee (BA 1994)

Adam LeeWhat made you decide on an English program at University of Waterloo?

When I applied to uWaterloo it was not known for its Arts programme, but I kept reading how pronounced the faculty were and how avant-garde the approach to English was in respect to recruiting established and emerging professors who challenged the traditional literary canon and encouraged new thought and perception. I was an Ontario Scholar, and at that time we could choose where wanted to study. Waterloo was my first choice. I was very fortunate indeed to have studied under Dr. Brenda Cantar for Elizabethan English as she challenged our understanding of Shakespeare and sexuality, the power of theatre, and the theatre of power – I still have my notes and books! Being part of St. Jerome's also impacted my education as we were constantly encouraged to be different, to question, to be creative in our writing and arguments.

You've made your career in Human Resources Management,can you talk a bit about your trajectory and what you do now?

I started out as a technical author and then progressed to editing for a publishing house. Instinctively I knew this was not the career for me, so when I moved to Europe I started studying human rights and international employment law in order to position myself as a consultant, and also utilise my English degree in respect to consulting and directing communications around redundancies, organizational (org) design, and strategic transformation, as well as making an individual's journey through such change more understandable and less stressful. Drawing on my degree, I use literary figures and examples to assist me in drafting documentation, to ensure comprehension and direct reactions.

I left Canada to work for Philips in the Netherlands as an HR business partner, looking after one of the largest cross-cultural people learning programs, and spearheading a graduate programme. I also negotiated with the works councils, employee tribunals, and unions. This led to a new contract in India, where I spent a year designing people strategies and org design implementations for a multinational corporation.

I returned to the UK (where I was born) to work as a consulting director of HR and learning for a large IT company which led to being the interim global head of learning and development for IBM – a contract that took me around the world to design training programs, people strategies, and large corporate mergers/acquisitions. I oversaw all people planning training and development. After IBM, I moved to Paris for two years and headed a people and change programme, as well as the people planning and works council negotiations for an SAP merger/acquisition. This led to a job with British American Tobacco as an HRBP for people planning & transformation, taking me to Indonesia, Cambodia, Brazil, and Australia.

After British American Tobacco I was recruited as a consulting director for Ernst & Young in Riyadh. There I created HR divisions in Saudi and designed org structures for two petrochemical cities. I worked in Iraq as well on an org design piece – what an adventure!I returned to London, focusing primarily on strategic transformation and people planning with Lloyds, RBS, and now HSBC. I work closely with the unions, works councils, and cultural recruitment teams. Designing and implementing HR strategies is hard work and you have to really enjoy your job to do it effectively. Corporate takeovers, mergers/acquisitions, and reductions all have to be well planned, communicated, legally safe, and above all, people friendly – I find every day different and every hour presents a new challenge.

Have you bumped into other Waterloo grads in your travels?

I have yet to bump into uWaterloo grads but our university is globally recognised as one of Canada’s top schools. When I was living in Paris, a colleague approached me and said that when his French university offered engineering placements at a Canadian university, he applied for Waterloo but his grades were not strong enough for such a good school. He said when my CV was circulated during the hiring cycle, the committee all noticed I had attended a prestigious university!

How do you think your English education shaped you? Now that you have twenty years behind you, what stands out?

English allowed me to escape into stories and develop my imagination, offering a release sometimes from university life and letting me be someone else for a couple of hundred pages. English was always my first love and I still reread the books that I studied at uWaterloo. Did I understand friendship, love, or tragedy in literature age 19-23? Most definitely not. When I read Shakespeare now, I read with a little more experience, maturity, and gravitas. I understand the beauty and humour of Chaucer and Shakespeare and enjoy them now. Likewise, when I read books and articles by Dr. Higgins, Dr. Fogel, and Dr. Diehl-Jones, I read them with a scholarly interest but also, as someone who has experienced a bit more. Relating to literary characters, their adventures, emotions, and challenges puts my own life into perspective.

Literature and the descriptions that the writers conjure up also influence a great deal of my design work – from choosing paint and bricks to art. I am restoring a Victorian warehouse in London and surprise myself when I go in search of my favourite books to influence the design of my space. Your home is your sanctuary and I believe it impossible to be comfortable without influences from your life, family, and education around you.

Are people surprised to find out you have an English degree?

Yes! I keep leaning toward art and architecture now and I suppose I never quite look like the consultancy or director type in dress or action, so I am not surprised to be asked if I have a degree in art, design, or PR.

In hindsight, what do you wish you had known when you had graduated? Would you have charted your career differently?

Good question! I wish I would have known how difficult finding that first job is and how much graft goes into establishing yourself. I thought I would immediately walk into an amazing job instead, I worked as a French translator for a telecommunications company and a dentistry supplier company! I also wish I would have known that it is okay to change your mind and career later in life – and to be brave enough to do so.

I would have applied for an MA or teacher’s college as I think I would have enjoyed growing into one of those maverick English teachers! That being said, I have adventures all of the time so I do not regret a thing.

And finally, the literature question: if you could drop everything and re-read one novel right now, what would it be?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I discovered it long after publication, in a charity shop with a friend and she said it was an excellent read. The book moved me emotionally and I get upset writing about it now.  Simple prose is often the best and the writer’s magical ability to transfer the reader into Nazi-occupied Europe and the minds of a child and a survivor always remind me that I do not know suffering of that level, and makes me proud to have discovered my own Jewish ancestry later in life. It made the history of the people who survived such atrocities more real.

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Bruce Dadey (MA 1995, Ph.D. 2006)

[T]he life of the mind is a great life, and it extends well beyond the academy.

     It’s said that landing a full-time position as a tenure-track professor feels the same as winning the lottery. Dr. Bruce Dadey considers himself very fortunate to hold a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor of English at Laurentian University in Sudbury, where he teaches courses in rhetoric and American literature.

     During his MA, Dr. Dadey worked as a co-op technical writer for a Mississauga IT company and found the work interesting, challenging, and unconventional. During the placement he became an "accidental programmer," learning various programming languages and platforms to facilitate his writing tasks. “It was great fun facing the challenges associated with producing documentation across so many platforms and trying to figure out appropriate and workable technical solutions,” he says. He returned to this employer to work as a full time technical communicator for a few years after completing his MA before returning to Waterloo for his PhD.

     When Dr. Dadey began facing the challenges of doctoral studies, he found the experience “both exhilarating and grueling (sometimes simultaneously), and [Dr.] Kevin [McGuirk] very ably supported and prodded me as I made my way through it.” He remembers the faculty in the English Department being supportive throughout his studies. Dr. Dadey commuted from his home outside Kitchener- Waterloo, and on top of his school responsibilities devoted time to his expanding family. However, he did find time to participate in graduate forums that he found to be “useful academic preparation for the work I do now.”

     In general, Dr. Dadey remembers “the intense intellectual stimulation that accompanied my classes. I felt (and still feel) that professors at Waterloo managed to make the classes both academically rigorous and collegial, so that students were challenged but were also comfortable expressing their views and interacting with both the instructor and other students.” While Dr. Dadey finds all of his courses were enjoyable, four of them stand out in his memory. First, a self-directed reading course in rhetoric with Dr. Randy Harris “allowed me to take my rhetoric field exam before I was even finished my coursework and still forms the foundation of many of my intellectual pursuits.” Second was a class on Kenneth Burke with Dr. Glenn Stillar. He remembers this class especially for frequent student debates “[that were] often so intense that Glenn could barely get a word in edgewise.” Third was a Native Canadian literature course taught by Dr. Linda Warley, “[which] provided me with new insights into my previous experience teaching in a First Nations community, as well as [the basis of] my first publication. Lastly, “the class on American Popular Literature with Dr. Victoria Lamont was instrumental in my development as a teacher of American literature.”

     Dr. Dadey first chose to attend the University of Waterloo as an MA student because he was interested in the relationship between technology and language. As he progressed, he developed an interest in the history and theory of rhetoric. “Rhetoric offers so many possibilities for study and application that I knew I would never tire of the subject,” says Dr. Dadey, “and Waterloo offers a unique opportunity to study classical and contemporary approaches to it.” He continued studying at Waterloo as a PhD student because he was able to combine the study of rhetoric with his interest in American literature, which directly links to his academic career. “My Waterloo education prepared me precisely for the academic position I currently occupy, and it has given me skills and knowledge that have also enabled me to undertake various tasks outside the academic world.”

Susan Howard-Azzeh (BA 1995)

HowardazzehSusan Howard-Azzeh came to the University of Waterloo to experience its unique, innovative approach to the study of English. Originally an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto (where she had a class with respected Canadian literary critic and theorist Northrop Frye), she wanted more than the traditional approach to “reading English.” Waterloo, known for its progressive style of education, had an applied program that appealed to her. uWaterloo’s surrounding parks, petting zoo and community also gave her a healthy environment in which to raise her then-young family of four children.

     Passion for the study of English always motivated Susan’s goals and dreams. In elementary school she decided to become a University Professor of English. However, “life took me down another path,” she says. Susan especially enjoyed a second year class called “Rhetoric and Critical Analysis” taught by Dr. Paul Beam. She found the course challenging, thus it inspired her to work hard, gave her an entirely new approach to literature, and confirmed her as a primary source researcher. As a result of her outstanding achievement in the course, Dr. Beam invited Susan to do her Masters with him. Torn between pursuing her Master’s degree and family and community obligations, she chose to devote her time to family and to supporting her community in a time of crisis.

     Thus she founded organizations such as the Community Dialogue on Racism (1994), the St. Catharines Mayor’s Committee on Community and Race Relations (1997), the Niagara Palestinian Association (2001), the Niagara Coalition for Peace (2003), Nidah Building a National Voice for Palestinian Canadians (2005) and is involved with Independent Jewish Voices Canada (2008), all while being actively involved with her children and their schools. She regrets not having earned her MA, as it would have given her work academic credibility. Ironically, in 2001 she wrote a well-regarded report on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance for the federal department of Canadian Heritage which she didn’t realize at the time could have been used as a thesis for a Masters degree.  

     uWaterloo taught Susan skills she uses every day in every aspect of her life – writing on-line political pieces, a newspaper column, an ESL blog, and creative writing begun under Dr. Gordon Slethaug; acting as a public speaker and radio host; teaching Human Rights, Anti-racism and ESL courses at Niagara College; organizing numerous conferences and workshops for youth, police, employers, school boards, labour and faith groups; publishing items such as a manual on “Symbols Used by the Organized White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi Movement,” articles such as “Palestine: Children Under Occupation” and others; recently mobilizing and writing for the Ontario Health Coalition.

     uWaterloo also taught her to analyze the “tsunami of information” to which we are all constantly exposed, and to critically read through propaganda. Predominantly, uWaterloo taught Susan perseverance.

     Currently, Susan lives with her family in “beautiful, agricultural Niagara Region.” Her work earned her the first ever Human Rights Award from the Ontario Federation of Labour (1995), the YMCA Canada Peace Medal (1998), recognition from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (1999), the Canadian Islamic Congress Canadian Service Award (2005), and the YWCA Award for Public Affairs and Communication sponsored by the St. Catharines Standard newspaper (2009). At this stage of life she finds herself “in a period of flux,” deciding whether to teach English in the Middle East, to write her first book, or to simply paint.

     Her husband (MA 1988) and daughter (BA 2008) are also uWaterloo grads.

Wendy Schaffer (BA 1995)

Wendy SchafferHow did you decide on Waterloo over other universities?

I chose Waterloo for a couple of reasons. One of them was that I got a scholarship. The other was that I could major in a non-traditional English program. I knew I wanted to be a writer so I went for RPW, and combined it with Applied Studies in order to get some hands-on experience through co-op placements.

What would you have been doing on a Friday/Saturday night during your Waterloo time?

I would have been hanging out a friend’s place, dancing at Fed Hall or Phil’s, or going to a movie or concert.

Can you tell us how your career developed following graduation?

For my last two co-op terms (they were combined), I worked as a tech writer for Nortel in Australia. That experience landed me a full-time tech-writing job for Nortel in downtown Toronto. After a few years there, I moved to Extend Media because I wanted to do something more creative. I started there, writing for one of their in-house software products, but they also were a Web shop – one of the first. I asked to write web content and found my niche.


You were just a few years out when the dot.com bubble burst, which shifted the industry. Do you think the boom and bust helped or hurt you overall?

I think it helped, though it was really fun to work during the boom. It was a time of excess and actually building blue-sky sites. And I rather liked celebrating with champagne on the rooftop deck every week or so. The bust helped re-define the industry, and made strategy and creative align more. I like being both creative and strategic. By adding focus and objectives, things became more challenging. Overall, I like how digital is constantly redefining and evolving. It keeps things interesting.

What made you decide to move to freelance? And why was this the right time in your career?

I moved to freelance because I wanted more control over the projects I’d work on and over my time. I have a three-year-old son. Having more flexibility to spend time with him is very important to me right now. Given that I’ve worked with a great crew of people on big brands, I have a good network. Opportunities came up and freelance felt like the right move to make.

Finally, can you tell us what you are currently reading? And what one book would you recommend to your best friend?

Only one book?! That’s tough, because I love to read. I have too many favorites. Guess I’ll go with the last book that I loved: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I’m just about to start Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Melanie Cameron (BA 1996)

Melanie CameronBeing a poet in Canada, or anywhere really, is rarely a lucrative career choice. One writes poetry because of a love of words and language and poet Melanie Cameron is certainly a lover of words. In the fall of 2004, Cameron's second collection of poems, wake, was published and selected as a finalist for the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

For many years, Cameron called Kitchener-Waterloo home, even before she attended Waterloo. She had also lived in Saskatchewan, North Carolina and California with her family, but her teenage self grew up in Kitchener-Waterloo. Wanting to spread her wings a little, she headed to Toronto for university. After a brief stint as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto (U of T), Cameron returned to her home town and continued her studies at Waterloo. U of T's size and lack of community made Cameron realize that Waterloo was a much better fit. As a last-minute transfer student she was only allowed to attend Waterloo part time, a trend she continued throughout her degree. She called Conrad Grebel University College home for several terms and even became a residence don.

She entered the Rhetoric and Professional Writing program after a few months in the English program, as she wanted

to be challenged to think about writing in a new way, about how writers were accomplishing what they did, about technique and audience....It got me thinking about writing and its evolution

and was instrumental in Cameron's future - to be a writer.

In the mid-nineties, Cameron completed her degree with majors in Rhetoric and Professional Writing and Peace and Conflict Studies and headed to one of Canada's warmest destinations: Winnipeg. Drawn by the creative thesis option and Winnipeg's active arts community, Cameron began her Masters in English at the University of Manitoba. That was in 1996 and Winnipeg has been her home ever since.

Cameron got her first kick at being a published poet in 1995 when uWaterloo's own The New Quarterly published some of her poems. She has since been published in several Canadian, American and United Kingdom literary periodicals and anthologies and in 2004, two of her poems kept Winnipeg city bus riders entertained as part of Winnipeg's Poetry in Motion project.

As a writer of poetry, Cameron knew there would be some lean years and was prepared to live frugally in order to focus intensely on writing. When she was writing her first book of poems, Holding the Dark, Cameron said she"essentially cleared everything else out of my life, eliminated every possible distraction." She lived in a city where she knew few people, had no outside job or volunteer position and had no TV, VCR or Internet service. She made her world about writing. The result was a collection of poems she is very proud of but the lifestyle she maintained during that writing process could not be sustained.

I think I needed to do that, to learn to put together the first book, to figure out at least one way into that 'writing space', to get into a groove with it

says Cameron.

Now writing has to be more integrated and balanced in her life. She fears that writing every day would cause her writing to suffer and she "would become a much grumpier person." During the writing of her most recent book, wake, Cameron did work at least five days a week on her poems but also integrated other writing projects and responsibilities into her day. As a writer, she is constantly "sitting with" her work, thinking about new projects or how whatever she is engaged in at the moment could fit into what she is writing. And what differs from the reclusive time of writing her first book is that she now wants to spend significant time with her husband.

Cameron is married to fellow writer and CBC Radio journalist Mark Morton. In a creative blend of marketing by their publishers, wake was launched in conjunction with her husband's latest book entitled, The Lover's Tongue: A Merry Romp Through the Language of Love and Sex. Cameron was unsure how the audience would respond to the co-launch as hers was "a book of poems preoccupied with memory and his was an etymological nonfiction work about words pertaining to love and sex." Apparently the blend worked as the launch was a success.

In the modern world of writing and publishing, you can't just be a writer scribbling away in the safety of your home. You must also have a public persona and be comfortable doing public readings, in order to promote your book.

I really, really love the actual writing process; the public aspects, including readings, come with the territory, and more and more I am adjusting to it,

says Cameron. She generally dreads all readings beforehand but ends up enjoying the reading itself and meeting new people afterwards. The most memorable readings are

typically those where I've had some kind of brief, intense and completely unexpected conversation with somebody I didn't know and will likely never meet again.

Although, whenever Cameron reads to kids, she is thrilled by witnessing their immediate reaction to the poems. The fact that kids will ask and tell you "the best and craziest things" makes those readings a pleasure for her.

Like most writers there are readings that have been less than pleasant. She recalls a reading that became embarrassing-after-the-fact when she told a joke about fellow poet and musician Leonard Cohen that flopped. Months after the reading, a friend explained that her attempt at humour was lost on the audience and people were actually concerned about her seemingly unhealthy interest in Leonard Cohen.

While poetry is a labour of love, few poets ever grow wealthy from their endeavours. During high school, Cameron delivered the Waterloo Chronicle door-to-door for a penny a paper and jokingly likens that salary to her current wage as a poet. Over the years, Cameron has supplemented her income with writing-related projects such as teaching writing at both the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba and as a poetry editor at Prairie Fire magazine. The arts community in Manitoba has also been good to Cameron by supplying several arts grants, which have allowed her to take a hiatus from working regular jobs.

Cameron likes to have several concurrent writing projects on the go and is surprised by the amount of work required to sustain her writing. The "business of writing" can involve corresponding with her publisher and/or the marketing director, her editor, sending work to periodicals, scouting for suitable submissions, writing grant proposals, responding to requests - all more time consuming than she ever expected. But in between all that Cameron has found the time to work on a children's book with her husband, complete some short stories and a nonfiction work about her grandmother and a novel manuscript. Looks like readers have much to look forward to from Melanie Cameron.

Your local bookseller should have copies of Holding the Dark and wake. If not, you can order copies through Cameron's website.

Written by Jude Doble, Office of Alumni Affairs

Marcy Italiano (BA 1996)

Italiano     It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be a published author, songwriter, and web designer. However, Marcy Italiano’s English degree prepared her for the challenges that accompany her career.

     Marcy’s favourite class was ENGL 108F (The Rebel), taught by Dr. Ted McGee. Aside from discovering a love for literature, she found the “approach/discussions during class were different and interesting.” She was able to keep in touch with Dr. McGee after graduation and “years later my husband and I joined Prof. McGee on a (class) trip to Stratford to see Equus where we got to sit on stage and see the action up close!” says Marcy. “That class really inspired me to write.”

     ItalianoAnother of Marcy’s favourite classes was ENGL 306A (Introduction to Linguistics). “I found the course very interesting and one of the most challenging courses I've ever taken,” says Marcy. “Professor Randy Harris was fantastic during class, and also very easy to talk to when I needed help.” In fact, she enjoyed the class so much that she still has the textbook and lecture notes sitting on her bookshelf!

     Right after graduating, Marcy married her husband and songwriting partner Giasone. Times were hard as they “floundered for a little while working retail jobs and picking up extra summer work with special needs kids." She then became a Corporate Computer Instructor and commuted all over Southern Ontario before settling as a Computer Instructor at St. Louis Adult Education in Kitchener. “When the school caught fire, most of the staff was shuffled out of the centre, and I found myself taking another job that seemed from left field working in radio. I covered a maternity leave running the websites for CHYM FM and 570News.” At the end of that year, Marcy and Giasone we went on a cruise to Mexico. “They dropped us off in New Orleans just in time for Katrina,” Marcy recalls. “That experience changed our lives, needless to say.” Upon returning home, Marcy started her own home business designing websites.

     Today, Marcy is a mother by day and web designer by night. She still writes music with her husband, some of which has appeared in small budget horror films. “One of my solo songs "Thursday Morning" received an Honorable Mention in the Blues Category, in the 2009 Unisong International Songwriting Contest,” says Marcy. She is also a published author who has written three books in addition to short stories and poetry. She is currently working on her fourth book.

To read more about Marcy, you can visit her website: www.marcyitaliano.com

Jennifer Lamb (BA 1996)

Was uWaterloo an obvious choice when you were choosing universities, or were there others you were considering?

Jennifer LambI am not sure how obvious uWaterloo was at the time. In those days we had presentations from universities to try to help us understand what each offered. I did what a lot of students in their last year of high school were asked to do which was apply to up to three universities. I applied to three, but uWaterloo was my first choice (for a lot of reasons) and so I was crossing my fingers for several months before I heard I was accepted.

Thinking back, what stands out from your time as an undergraduate English student at Waterloo?

One experience in particular that happened in my 3rd year was the opportunity to participate in a four month volunteer experience in an orphanage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Professor North in the English Department asked if there was anyone in his classes who wanted to spend a term somewhere in the world helping out children in need. Within a couple of weeks, four of us from different classes met together and with Professor North's help and guidance we chose to go to St. Petersburg. We ended up living in an apartment attached to a rather deprived orphanage on the outskirts of town. It was a life-changing experience and I have never forgotten it or the kids we worked with.

Aside from that, my memories of uWaterloo focus on what it was like as a new student there. Not only did it have a gorgeous campus; with lots of greenery, ducks, and a creek,  it was close enough to home to calm my nerves about being away from home for the first time. And at the same time just far enough away that I knew I would have some independence. Also the campus had all the amenities you could ask for including a bank, bars, a medical clinic.  It felt like a small town within a medium sized city. A great transition from my hometown. At the time though, and most importantly I think, was the range of English Lit. courses and classes I was able to take. I admit, though, getting distracted by the sheer choice and graduation was delayed simply so I could continue to take additional courses! And I loved the smaller college campuses as well. Walking across the creek to attend class at St. Jerome’s, or Conrad Grebel added a layer of learning and experience that I still find very valuable.   As I grow older and look back I realize more and more how much of an impact uWaterloo had on me.

Street in LondonYou went from Stratford, Ontario to Stratford-upon-Avon. How did that happen? And what do people in the UK think about the other Stratford?

Most people find it very odd and quirky that I have landed here. I do think I am one of the few who can boast about having lived in two Stratfords, each having a renowned theatre in it. My husband and I were living in Macau China when the Head of Production position came up at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) here in Stratford-upon-Avon. When we saw the posting, it was like being called home to the mothership (of repertory theatre!). He was fortunate enough to be offered the job and we moved right away.

Can you tell us about your current job? Was this what you set out to do upon graduating?

I also now work at the RSC, in the Development Department, working with supporters who live in the United States. I have the best job in that I get to live in England, and travel to New York several times a year to meet some lovely people who share a passion for theatre and for Shakespeare in particular.

Regarding graduating: all I knew from the time I was a teenager and through university was that I wanted to work in theatre. My dream was to work at the Stratford Festival in CaInside RSCnada. Directly after graduating I was living in London, Ontario, volunteering at the Grand Theatre in London. There were few if any jobs in the arts at that time. But about nineteen months after graduating, my dad called to tell me about a four month internship at the Stratford Festival that had just appeared in the Stratford Beacon Herald. I applied immediately and happily did get that internship. I ended up working at the Festival for an additional nine years, in a variety of positions in marketing, advertising, special events, and fundraising.

What has been the most interesting part of life in England?

That is a tough question! Living here is like living in history. I sometimes say it is like living in a cultural garden. The museums, theatres, and historical properties to visit and experience can be overwhelming.The British are committed to preserving their history and traditions in ways we don't or can't I suppose in Canada. There are so many places still standing today here in Stratford upon Avon and Warwickshire that Shakespeare knew, it really is amazing. But the more challenging and surprising thing for me and my husband I think was understanding that it is a completely different country than Canada. I had always envisioned England as similar to Canada but maybe older and wiser. But it is more than that. It is significantly culturally different. We may share a language but even that at times is a challenge and result is questioning looks and many laughs from my work colleagues, neighbours, etc.

Finally, can you share what you are currently reading?

I am reading a couple of books right now: The Luminaries and Death and the Penguin. Two completely different reading experiences. I am also reading my daughter Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I mention that as it was a book I was first introduced to by uWaterloo Professor Ted McGee, from St. Jerome’s College when I was a student at the university. I had, of course, always read Anne of Green Gables but Professor McGee, taught this book in a course on Children’s literature and it has remained one of my favourites. I am lucky now I get to re-visit it with my eight-year-old.

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Mike Farwell (BA 1997)

FarwellEven if you didn’t share a class with him, you may have met Mike Farwell in his capacities as a well-known local TV talk show host, news reporter, and radio personality. “Had it not been for the formal training I received at uWaterloo, I would not have got as far in a journalism career,” Mike remarks. On a daily basis, his tasks include researching the stories he reports, conducting preliminary interviews with the people involved in news events, and drafting the copy he presents on air.

     He finds there are many similarities between being a student and being a news writer. As a student, he learned to do research, a skill that he now uses every day. “Essays seemed like the worst chore imaginable,” Mike recalls, “and now I write one every morning for the introduction to my talk show.” Having grown up in Kitchener-Waterloo, attending uWaterloo had always been Mike’s first choice for its reputation. He was offered an entrance scholarship and knew many students from his high school that would also be attending. He had decided relatively early in high school that he enjoyed literature and writing and would pursue a career as a teacher. While his career plans eventually changed, his love for literature remained.

     The first class Mike had in his university career was in the Arts Lecture Hall, and about 200 students were enrolled in it. “There were so many people in the classrooms,” he remarks. “Coming from a high school environment, it was an incredible experience. You get to meet so many people.” He became good friends with his classmates and still keeps in touch with many of them.

     FarwellMike fondly remembers a class with Dr. Eric McCormack. At the beginning of every class, a student would have to bring in a new word and teach its meaning to the class. From this practice, he learned the word “penultimate, meaning next to last” says Mike. “I remember him [Dr. McCormack] writing it on the board.” To this day, Mike finds himself using this word whenever he can. The class that left the greatest impact on Mike was Forms of Fantasy, which he took by correspondence in third year. What made the class stand out most was the literature. He enjoyed reading everything on the syllabus.

     After completing his degree at uWaterloo, Mike had a “change of heart” and decided to abandon plans to attend teachers college, as he had originally intended to do, in favour of enrolling in the Radio and TV Broadcasting program at Conestoga College, a technical and hands-on program in media arts. Upon completing the program, he travelled the country to build his career in radio broadcasting, working at stations in British Columbia, Thunder Bay, and Toronto before returning to K-W.

     Mike’s career today constantly reminds him of his time at uWaterloo and Conestoga College, from its many writing responsibilities right down to the types of evaluation he undergoes: His career involves doing “virtually what I did back in school. I’m not graded on it now, but we have ratings and performance reviews.”

Carrie Snyder (BA 1997)

Carrie Snyder"Writing is never easy," says newly published author Carrie Snyder. But somehow she made it happen, as Penguin Canada just published her first collection of short stories, entitled Hair Hat.

Carrie, who has been drawn to writing since she was a child, found that a particular picture of a man with a head of hair styled into a hat, reoccurred in her thoughts. She wrote a short story with the hair hat man as a minor yet influential character and found that he had more to say. After the birth of her first child, who slept frequently as new-borns tend to do, she spent his nap-time hours writing while this character stepped in and out of the stories.

The resulting relationship with Penguin has kept her very busy as Hair Hat was published in February 2004. Carrie has been travelling to promote the book for the last couple of months doing public readings, television and radio interviews. One of the most momentous readings was at Toronto's Harbourfront Reading Series where she discovered how much she enjoys performing. Unlike the other readings, there was a large crowd of strangers and Carrie was thrilled as the audience laughed appreciatively throughout.

All the readings were truly an enjoyable experience for her, whether she was reading to a small group in a public library, an enthusiastic group at a book store in Ottawa or a familiar and generous crowd at Waterloo's Starlight Social Club. The television interviews felt like a blur and she began to feel repetitive as there were only so many times she could say, "I'm thrilled that the book is finally here!" and sound as genuinely excited as she actually felt.

The resulting work is receiving great national reviews and Carrie is at work on new projects including a collection of poetry to be published by a small press called Widows and Orphans and a novel. One of the characters that appear in the Hair Hat collection presented herself to Carrie "with an entire history and a compelling set of problems" that she wanted to know more about so she is turning her into a novel.

Writing is always a struggle but Carrie is never bored with the process. She says that

there always seems to be more to the craft that I can learn. Writing gives me pleasure, but it is more than that—it is deeply satisfying. It answers some need within me.

Hair Hat is available at the uWaterlooaterloo Bookstore and booksellers across Canada. Reach Carrie on her website.

Jude Doble, Office of Alumni Affairs

Geoff Sowrey (BA 1997)

Geoff SowreyGeoff Sowrey, Waterloo Arts Alumni , a Calgary-based senior web developer received a phone call from a friend who worked in the CBC Television New Media department. She was responsible for organizing the CBC Television's 50th Anniversary Special Events Train and needed a talented individual with diverse skills to manage technical support and write daily journals for the CBC web site.

The fact that this Arts alumnus also had a healthy interest in trains made Geoff Sowrey the ideal candidate for the job.

In the summer of 2002, Sowrey negotiated a month and a half leave of absence from his employer, Critical Mass, so he could board the CBC Television's Special Events train that was to travel from Vancouver to Halifax, from September 7th to October 5th. Geoff, along with a diverse crew of 30, managed the museum on tracks that made 22 stops across Canada, from Edmonton, Alberta to Cambelton, New Brunswick. His job was varied and included management and operation of the New Media kiosks, on-train computer support, loading and unloading the train at every stop, and writing daily journals for use on CBC's web site.

It was a tremendous honour for Geoff to be trusted with such a responsibility and to have the chance to participate in CBC's 50th anniversary. One highlight of his journey occurred at the stop in Toronto, Ontario where he met two avid CBC listeners from Hamilton. They had specifically come to meet the train because they wanted to personally meet the writer of the CBC Train diaries. Both women were visually impaired and had been reading Sowrey's daily web diaries with magnifying glasses edged up close the monitor and found that his details of the places the train visited were so descriptive that they were able to actually imagine the Canadian sights.

Other days, the train was crowded with eager visitors such as in Kamloops, British Columbia where there was a line up of at least 400 people waiting to see the museum, or in Biggar, Saskatchewan where eager classes of school children showed up at 6:30 in the morning for tours.

Being a "railfanning" - one who is obsessed by trains - made this trip an adventure of a lifetime for Geoff. The experience of living and working on a train with 30 people for a month, hosting daily tours of the museum on tracks and meeting fascinating Canadians is an experience Geoff will never forget.

When Geoff is not designing web pages or chasing trains, he is an avid photographer, writer and gardener, when the Alberta weather permits.

Jude Doble, Office of Alumni Affairs

Laurel Lavell (BA 1998)

      Laurel Lavell’s University of Waterloo experience was highly rewarding both personally and career-wise because of her co-op positions, which gave her the opportunity to work with and motivate young people. Not only did Laurel choose uWaterloo for its innovative co-op program, but also because studying here gave her the chance to live at home with her family, which was important to her at the time. Furthermore, Laurel has a great passion for reading and writing, and so English was “the perfect fit” for her.

      Laurel’s co-op jobs built the foundation for her future career as a teacher. All of her co-op terms were spent in Outdoor Education jobs, where she worked to encourage young people to learn and master new skills.

      Laurel’s passion for English would be strengthened by some of her favourite English professors and subjects. Ted McGee’s Shakespeare course (a favourite amongst English students to this day) was especially memorable, along with Semiotics and Linguistics; she loved this course for its uniqueness and for the fact that it reached into “many facets of modern society.” This course, Laurel says, “forms the basis for much of the subject material I share with my current students.”

      After she graduated with her bachelor’s degree from Waterloo, Laurel entered teacher’s college at Queen’s University. Today, she teaches secondary school English at Bluevale Collegiate Institute in Waterloo Region. She lives with her husband and two daughters.

      Laurel offers this advice to students: “enjoy what you’re studying, learn from everyone, meet new people, and try new things.”

Sherry McMenemy (MA 1998)

 McMenemyAfter undergraduate and graduate studies, and some time in the workforce, Sherry McMenemy came to Waterloo to pursue a Master’s degree in the RPW Program. Her studies led her to her current role in knowledge management, a field that didn’t exist when she graduated from high school or from her BA degree.

     Sherry counts herself lucky to have been a student in the co-op program, although she admits that she didn’t think so at first. After completing the interviews for her first co-op placement, Sherry found nothing that matched her interests. But in the second round of hiring, her luck improved. She applied to be a technical writer with Campana, the company that subsequently hired her for every one of her co-op terms. At the end of her degree, she took a full-time position as a Technical Writer there. She describes the job as a “great match and a real learning opportunity.”

     Since then, Sherry has worked in many areas, including Intranet management, user experience design, training, project management, and knowledge management. Until recently, Sherry worked for Agfa HealthCare, building their enterprise knowledge management program. She now works at Sandvine as the Director of Knowledge Management, where she's looking forward to extending their knowledge management program.

     As an English student, Sherry learned how to bridge talk between engineers and end users (who come from very different backgrounds and areas of expertise compared to engineers), a skill she uses daily. Her role as a communicator “has to do with understanding language in a professional environment. In my line of work there is a great deal of attention paid to technical communication, information architecture, other business writing, content management and knowledge management.” She describes her role as facilitating the communication between the company and its customers.

Todd Pettigrew (Ph.D. 1998)

PettigrewFor Dr. Todd Pettigrew, a Ph.D. in English from the University of Waterloo helped secure his current job as an Associate Professor of English at Cape Breton University in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Todd chose uWaterloo for his post-graduate studies because he was impressed that a faculty member at the university took time to personally call and invite him into the program. He says that studying at uWaterloo allowed him to develop specific skills that he might not have been able to hone in a more traditional English department. At the same time, English at uWaterloo gave him a “very good grounding in the [English] discipline,” preparing him to pursue advanced research in the field of English literature.

     During his time at uWaterloo, Todd was actively engaged in community theatre, which gave him an opportunity to meet many creative and talented people. He worked with the Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre, several improvisational comedy groups, a musical theatre company, and was the Artistic Director of Raven Black Theatre which staged Shakespeare plays in Waterloo Park. The Elizabethan Theatre Conference held at uWaterloo complemented his local theatre work with exposure to the professional world of English theatre scholarship as practiced by some of the top scholars in the field.

     Todd’s favourite class was a course with Professor Lynne Magnusson in discourse analysis, “which was especially interesting because it took theoretical models around discourse and applied them to all kinds of texts depending on what you were interested in.” An important lesson he learned as an English student at uWaterloo was that it is okay to be on the minority side of an argument. During his graduate seminars, he found he was usually against 80% of the class. Ultimately it helped him hone his skills as a “skeptic, iconoclast and critical thinker.” He explains, “it helped me get used to the idea of not backing down if I had a different position than other people in the room.” He found the classes to be exciting and provocative, as Waterloo was home to “a lot of people with different ideas and perspectives.”

     After graduation, Todd worked for the publishing company W.W. Norton. Two years later, he began teaching English at Cape Breton University, N.S., where he works today as an Associate Professor. For a time, he served as chair of the CBU’s Department of English Language and Literature. Today, he often draws on the technical and professional writing courses he took at uWaterloo to help him in teaching courses such as his department’s business and scientific writing class, which no other faculty member was qualified to take on. Of his experience as a uWaterloo English student, Todd says “it gave me a very good grounding in the discipline; this is really what any PhD program ought to do.”

Gail 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."

David Eby (BA 1999)

Legal jargon can be difficult to understand. That’s why lawyer David Eby works every day to make the language of the law more accessible to the general public. David chose to come to uWaterloo, his local university, because he liked the convenience of living at home while going to school. He was interested in the Rhetoric and Professional Writing (RPW) program because he enjoyed “literature, close analysis and reading,” but also wanted professional writing training and co-op experience.

     His favourite English course was the first poetry class he ever took, taught by Dr. Kevin McGuirk. The course opened his eyes to many different forms of poetry and grounded his interest in the discipline by “making it exciting.” Another memorable class, Randy Harris’ course in rhetoric, assigned students to a project called “Change the World.” Students had to persuade people about the merits of a particular issue and then write a report on their campaign’s effectiveness. David enjoyed the class because it was “practical yet intensely theoretical.”

     As a co-op student, David picked up many practical skills which help him in his career as a legal expert and human rights advocate. During one of his work terms, he worked at a hospital in Toronto in the information services department, which he found a very hands-on experience. He taught doctors and nurses how to use computers and specific computer programs, and wrote a newsletter for the Information Services department, simplifying technical operations and making them understandable.  What he learned from this experience transferred perfectly into his career as a lawyer, where he frequently “explains challenging aspects of the law to a popular audience.”

     One of David’s greatest memories as a uWaterloo student was putting together a magazine called the Art Riot with a number of his peers from numerous faculties. It was an interdisciplinary magazine, covering topics such as poetry, art, and political arguments. David recalls that the magazine was well supported among students and many uWaterloo faculty members of the time, running for about two years with six issues published. He was also actively involved with the Imprint (the university’s official student newspaper), the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG), and the campus radio station.

     After graduating from uWaterloo, David worked as a tech writer for a Waterloo-based company called Creative Options, whose clients included JC Penny, Kroger Groceries and M&M Meat Shops. He was responsible for writing scripts for safety videos, creating posters and writing meeting guides. Although the job was ideal, he says, for a graduate from the RPW program, David wanted to pursue a career which was more politically engaged. He went to law school at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and became a lawyer.

     After graduating from law school, he joined the Pivot Legal Society in Vancouver, where he did work on housing issues in Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhood and how the homeless are treated. Later he became the Executive Director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, educating the public about the law and their personal rights. David’s work is focused on how the law affects people and populations at the margins of society. Here again, his training from the RPW program has proved most useful, as he wrote The Arrest Handbook: A Guide to Your Rights, 10,000 copies of which have been distributed. His RPW training also comes in handy when he writes reports on issues such as racial profiling and housing.

     David is an adjunct professor of law at the University of British Columbia. He is President of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Research Associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. David was recently acknowledged for his commitment to human rights in a very large way, winning the Renate Shearer Award, presented by the B.C. Human Rights Coalition and U.N. Association.

     Reflecting on his time at Waterloo, David says he would not be able to do his current job without the training he received as a uWaterloo student.  The technical skills he picked up as an English student are invaluable in his daily work. He learned to closely analyze texts, obviously a crucial skill in understanding “language in court and judgments, and constructing arguments based on that knowledge. “I wouldn’t be able to do my job with the same degree of skill if not for my degree from Waterloo,” he says.  “As an added bonus, RPW was a smaller program and I got to know students and teachers well. I’ve stayed in touch with friends and colleagues from the program, which has been a great social and professional benefit.”

To read more about Mr. David Eby, please visit:

www.davideby.ca and www.bccla.org

Twitter: @dave_eby

Email: david@bccla.org