Monday, November 29, 2021

It is with the deepest sadness that we announce the passing of Linda Carson, Ph.D. Linda was a Continuing Lecturer at the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business and a wonderful colleague and friend to many in the Faculty of Arts and at the University. As a lecturer at the Stratford School, Linda made tremendous contributions to curriculum, teaching and community life. She was best known for her outstanding contributions to interdisciplinary teaching and creative collaboration and is one of the few individuals to be awarded degrees from three different faculties at the University of Waterloo: BMath (1985), BA (Fine Arts, 1990), MSc (Kinesiology, 2004), and Ph.D. (Psychology, 2013), as well as earning an MFA from the University of Saskatchewan (1993). Before joining the Stratford School, she also taught in the Department of Fine Arts, Psychology, the Arts First Program, Knowledge Integration (a program she developed), Independent Studies and WatPD. Linda developed numerous courses designed to assist students with the transition to academia, to enrich existing program offerings, or to provide new opportunities for creative collaboration. She had a passion for improving access for students, especially those from marginalized groups, and was a mentor and advocate for countless students, faculty and staff.Linda Carson smiling and holding sketchbook

Linda has set up a bequest to the University to establish two new student awards:

  • The Linda Carson Memorial Interdisciplinary Award will be awarded to full-time undergraduate students (from any Faculty) based on the excellence of an interdisciplinary project that has been completed for academic credit.
  • The Belonging Award will be awarded to support students who may feel, for whatever reason, like they do not belong in post-secondary education.

A private memorial service will be held at the Erb & Good Family Funeral Home, 171 King St. S., Waterloo, on Wednesday, December 1 at 2:00 pm. If you wish to view the service, it will be live-streamed, and the link will be available on her online obituary page.

Condolences for the family and donations to The Linda Carson Memorial Interdisciplinary Award or The Belonging Award are appreciated and can be arranged through https://waterloo.imodules.com/LindaCarson.

A Tribute from a Friend

I worked closely with Linda for the past six years in both Stratford and Fine Arts, and while it is impossible for anyone to capture her talent and impact, I would like to recognize three things: her contributions to the programs in Fine Arts and the Stratford School, the mentorship that helped me to become a better teacher, and the numerous instances of generosity that occurred when she thought that no one was looking. 

Shortly after meeting her, I realized that Linda was both a voice of reason and a source of wisdom. Part of this was her tendency to remain quiet during Fine Arts faculty meetings, put up her hand, and then to neatly distill what we were trying to decide, and the other was her deep understanding of the spirit in which the department was formed, and the place where we truly thrive -- as a safe, student-centred place for creative practice in a mainly STEM institution. In Fine Arts, Linda was known for two courses -- Figure and Anatomy, where thanks to her relationship with Biology, students are able to draw in the cadaver lab (*yep, they drew dead bodies), and The Art, Science, and Technology of Colour, a course that covered everything from painting to optics to computer vision, and drew students from across campus. 

After officially joining us at Stratford in fall 2018,  Linda helped to transform the MDEI program by establishing Design Thinking as one of our primary areas, and by drawing from her expertise to transform courses such as Working in Teams (DEI 612), which many graduates said was the best course they took during their degree. Her influence on our curriculum was always evident to me when I taught Design Principles and Practice (DEI 613), where, almost every week, students would put up their hands to excitedly share ‘Linda-isms.’ 

Outside of the classroom, Linda made generous contributions to MDEI, particularly during the time I served as Associate Director, Graduate. She led Lunch and Learn sessions on Main campus that drew prospective students from across faculties, as well as staff who heard about it and snuck in. She said yes, even after a summer of teaching, to running workshops for the MDEI Bootcamp each August. The most recent time where we worked together was in winter 2020 in the lead-up to the DEI Capstone course, where students worked on projects in collaboration with industry partners. She delivered an amazing Portfolio Presentation workshop prior to our Pitch sessions so that students could use them in their applications, and, along with our colleague, Lennart Nacke, met with me to help me figure out how to structure the teams. Because Working in Teams involved weekly reflective writing, Linda was able to make recommendations that considered each student’s communication and working style. This turned out to be extremely important as we locked down due to COVID and students found themselves working in remote teams (which luckily she had trained them to do) and dealing with changes in scale, personnel and circumstance. This group excelled in spite of the uncertainty, and their final presentations were among the best I had ever seen. 

Linda became one of my mentors because of a power outage. One night in winter 2014, I was working late in Fine Arts when the power went out in both ECH, E5 and E6. Assuming I was the only professor left in the building, I grabbed my phone, turned on my flashlight, and started checking the studios for students. After almost crashing into my colleague, Joan Coutu, who was doing the exact same thing, I came upon Linda standing outside of our large lecture room. 

Linda: So is the power out, or out-out?

Me: I’m not sure, but all of the buildings are down, and we should clear the building. 

Linda: OK, because we’re on slide 70 of 120, and things are just getting good. If it comes back in the next five minutes, we just might make it by the end of class. 

I looked past her into the room, which was packed with students. No one was getting up to leave. I decided to check the grad studios, and by the time I had come back the power was on. 

Not long after that, we realized that since we were often the only two faculty left in Fine Arts in the evenings, and needed to eat, we might as well go out to dinner. We dubbed these dinners, which happened a few times a month, DD+D, which stood for Dinner, Drinks and Delirium. They took place at restaurants throughout Waterloo and Kitchener and consisted of us arriving for dinner and then shutting the place down by talking about teaching. Linda had the wonderful quality of being able to appreciate and celebrate your own wisdom and expertise, to provide the right feedback for where you are, and to let you know that she had your back. She was a total link sharer, and I would often arrive back home to find a pile of emails with links to projects, ideas and YouTube clips from the 80’s television series, Fame

I believe that one of the true measures of a person is not how they show themselves in public but how they are behind the scenes. In other words, you learn a lot about someone when you have an office next to them in not one, but two campuses. While I cannot count the number of times I had conversations with Linda about teaching while hanging in the door of one of her offices, what I would like to share with you is what I overheard from dozens of office hours. For the students who dropped by before class, after class or any other time when they could find her, Linda’s office hours were like a mini classroom where you learned all the amazing things that she couldn’t fit into the course. She was notorious for stopping a conversation to look on a shelf and hand you something interesting. I would overhear laughter and excitement as she talked with students about Renaissance drawing machines, pigments, anime, scientific phenomena, baseball, or starting a career. When we worked together in Fine Arts, Linda would deliberately schedule her office hours on Friday afternoons. Because her after-class conversations could literally go on for hours (hence the need for DD+D), she told me she figured if they really wanted to speak with her, they would make the trip in. This backfired every single year. 

Linda was one of my closest mentors and friends, and I cannot believe that we have to go on without her. If you are a former student reading this, I want you to know that you were the lucky ones --  you mattered so much to her. I hope that you find ways to draw from what you learned from Linda, to share it with others, and to keep thinking, creating and dreaming. There are fewer rules than you think. 

- Jessica Thompson


 


 

Some see students. You see potential.

Shape the future this Giving Tuesday. Make a gift to help unlock two challenge grants! Donations will be directed to the Stratford School Excellence Fund, allowing us to recognize student excellence by awarding scholarships to GBDA and MDEI students this year, in honour of the School’s 10th Anniversary.