PhD student, Applied Philosophy

Why did you choose to pursue graduate studies at the University of Waterloo?

After months of research and conversations with faculty, I decided on the University of Waterloo for my PhD because I felt like it provided the friendliness of a small university with the resources of a big one. Nowhere else did I feel like I would get all the things that the University of Waterloo offered me.

Janet JonesDescribe your research and what makes you passionate about it:

As an Applied Philosopher, I take insights from philosophy and apply them to real world problems. Specifically, my dissertation focuses on the stigma associated with substance use disorder - how is it produced? How is it maintained? Who maintains it? And why? I'm combining developments in recognition theory with critical theorists to demonstrate that how we treat people who use drugs further entrenches the stigma associated with and myths about substance use disorder and marginalized communities.

My passion for research is a byproduct of being an addictions advocate in the community. I regularly volunteer with the Cambridge Recovery Homes, which offers housing to people seeking recovery. I feel lucky to be able to combine my volunteerism with my research.

What is the best part about being a grad student?

As strange as it may sound, my favourite part about being a grad student is that I'm my own boss. Sure, I have supervisors, but I ultimately get to choose what to study, what to take on, and even when to do it. In the beginning, it was hard to make my own schedule and stick to it (!) but now that I've established a pattern, I think I'll be sad when I have to conform to more regular “business hours.”

The other great thing about being a grad student? All the cool stuff you learn. Even more than I thought was possible!

What activities, groups, events are you involved in?

In 2021, I was hired as a TA Workshop Facilitator for the Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE). I'm sort of an introvert, and I was looking for a way to develop my presentation skills during the pandemic. And that I did! Working for the CTE, I learned so much about pedagogy and what makes a good instructor. The discussions with the other facilitators were also really insightful. I don't think I could have learned more! Thanks to Kristin and the whole CTE team!

What campus services have you accessed?

I accessed Counselling Services during the pandemic. I joined a self-compassion group for a few weeks, and I can't say enough good things about it. It got me out of my funk, I met people going through the same thing, the facilitator was super informative, and I even made a friend!

How has grad school helped you develop your teaching skills?

Grad school has forced (yes, forced because I'm an introvert) me to work on my presentation and facilitation skills. I used to think that being a good teacher means knowing a lot of stuff about what you're teaching, but it's really more than that. You learn, just like while you do your research, that it requires listening to voices that are hard to hear, finding ways to communicate with people who think differently from you and supporting them in their journey.

How do you spend your free time?

Sitting at a desk for hours or looking at a screen too long makes me really cranky. To combat that, I go running. I love to trail run, and there are great trails near the university. After a run (or any time of day, really), I like to eat. There are lots of cute and scrumptious places in Waterloo!

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

My advice? Look around and see what's available to you, then try something! I felt really overwhelmed when I first started grad school. It seemed like there was always something I didn't know. So, I started to look for things I wanted and then I talked to people about it. Opportunities came up and I applied. Even when things looked like a long shot. I think that curiosity and willingness really pay off. (But make sure you schedule some downtime too!)

What are your plans once you finish your education?

I got recruited to work for the Federal Public Service!

What are some of the challenging aspects of being a graduate student and how do you address these challenges?

Research can be an isolating activity. I personally like to be alone when I write, so I make the effort to do things with other people when I can. For example, I joined a reading group, attend wellness workshops, and make time to just hang out and talk to people. My trick? Treat these things like meetings or deadlines - if it's in the schedule, I'm doing it!

Do you have anything else you’d like to share that is interesting about yourself?

I was really worried about applying to and starting grad school. I had heard horror stories about grad students who never graduate or never get a job. But my experience has been quite the opposite. Through grad school, I've met some interesting people, learned cool things, and got opportunities that I never even thought possible. I'm really glad I decided to do my PhD - even if it is a lot of work!

Country of origin: Canada

Domestic or International: Domestic

Academic stream: Research

Full-time or part-time: Full-time

Research supervisorMathieu Doucet

Graduate student awards held: Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, President's Scholarship

University of Waterloo