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.
This profile was originally published in November, 2010, as part of the English at 50 celebrations.