Love creative writing?

Posted on February 18th, 2015 by cathygrise.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Hillary Casavant has written a good (short) piece on combining careers with creative writing–ie, making money while you write your masterpiece. What do you think of her ideas?

http://www.writermag.com/2014/09/30/postgrad/

 

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Sticky: Welcome, 2014-15

Posted on October 1st, 2014 by cathygrise.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Welcome grad students! I’m happy to be back after my sabbatical and looking forward to restarting the Non-Academic blog here. Please let me know if you have any questions you would like answered, or any topics I can research/comment upon. And if you haven’t seen the interviews with alumni/ae that were done two years ago, please be sure to scroll down this page and read some of them. Two notes: 1. Upcoming deadline for the Recruitment of Policy Leaders program–an elite program for those with an advanced degree (MA or PhD) to work in Ottawa for the government in mid-level positions. See the webpages here: http://jobs-emplois.gc.ca/rpl-rlp/index-eng.php 2. There is a new initiative called MyGradSkills.ca that I would like to preview in the near future. If you are interested, please try out their website and give me some feedback: http://www.mygradskills.ca

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Thank you Phebe!

Posted on July 11th, 2013 by cathygrise.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Many many thanks to Phebe-Ann Wolframe for her excellent series of interviews with graduates from our MA and PhD programs. This was part of her work as the Department’s Publicity RA this academic year, and she went above and beyond in this job. We are all very grateful for her dedication to profiling the various career paths our graduates have taken.

We wish you all the best for the future, wherever that may lead you, Phebe!

 

Cathy Grisé

 

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Job Profile: Devon Mordell, Instructional Designer, Educational Technologies

Posted on July 4th, 2013 by najblog1.
Categories: Alum Profiles.

Below you will find an audio interview with Devon Mordell, who is an Instructional Designer, Educational Technologies at McMaster University. Devon graduated from the Department of English and Cultural Studies’ CSCT MA program in 2008. She also has a background in fine arts and has studied web design.

Devon

This interview is part of a series that I have been conducting with McMaster English and Cultural Studies Department alumni who are working in non-academic settings in my capacity as the department’s publicity RA. These interviews are designed to give a brief overview of some of the careers English & CS grads might pursue. This is the last interview I conducted as part of my RA position. I hope that you have found these interviews interesting and informative!

To see all the non-academic jobs profiles in the series, click the “Alum Profiles” tag above.

– PhebeAnn Wolframe, Publicity RA

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Dr. Suzanne Rintoul, College Professor

Posted on May 9th, 2013 by najblog1.
Categories: Alum Profiles.

This interview is part of a series that department publicity RA PhebeAnn Wolframe is conducting with McMaster English and Cultural Studies Department alumni who are working in non-academic settings, or outside of tenured or tenure-track professorships in universities. These interviews are designed to give a brief overview of some of the careers English & CS grads might pursue. If you are an English & CS MA or PhD alumnus in a non-academic career, Phebe would like to hear from you at wolfrapm [at] mcmaster [dot] ca.

Today we are interviewing Suzanne Rintoul, who graduated from McMaster Department of English and Cultural Studies’ PhD program in 2008. She currently works at Centennial College as a Professor. While being a college professor is an academic job, it differs somewhat from being a professor in a university as Suzanne discusses.

 

suzanne

Q: What attracted you to college teaching, and how did you find your current job?

A: I was attracted to college teaching primarily because I love teaching, and, since I had been working at an institution in BC that had recently transitioned from a college to a university, I was somewhat familiar with some of the advantages of the college system such as smaller class sizes and an emphasis on applied learning. I found my current job through the Ontario College Employment website. This site is a great resource, though many schools post only on their own human resources pages.

 

Q: What kind of previous work experience (paid or unpaid) did you have before your current position? Did it help you secure your current job?

A: After convocating in 2008 I worked as a sessional instructor at various institutions in southern Ontario, and I was lucky enough to secure a couple of limited term contracts. Out of necessity, largely, I taught a lot and pulled together a CV with a pretty diverse range of ‘teachable’ subjects within or associated with English and Cultural Studies. In 2010 I accepted a full-time position at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, BC, where I typically taught three sections of composition and one upper year English course in my field each semester.

I’m quite sure that my experience teaching composition was extremely helpful in securing a college job when I chose to leave Kwantlen and return to Ontario, as was the fact that I’d worked for two years in a polytechnic university, which meant that, although I was teaching upper-year English courses to English majors, my intro composition courses were made up of students in a variety of programs who were studying at the degree and diploma level. From what I’ve seen, colleges are interested in candidates with at least a few years of full-time (or equivalent) teaching experience, especially those who have worked with students from a variety of learning backgrounds (mature students, second language learners, students with special needs, etc), and especially those with PhDs in hand (most postings I’ve seen indicate that a PhD is preferred, and many indicate that one is required).

 

Q: How is teaching in a college different from and/or similar to other teaching environments you’ve experienced?

A: I was actually very surprised by how different it is. The teaching load is generally higher – a 4/4 or higher load as opposed to a 2/2 or a 2/3 – and the semesters are typically 15 weeks long as opposed to 12 or 13. That said, I have never had to prep for more than two courses per semester, and my classes have all be relatively small – generally capped at 25 or 30 students. But the real difference for me has been that my college teaching has definitely been more interactive and student-centred; I have learned a lot about differentiated instruction and constructivist approaches in the classroom, particularly since my students are taking my courses as a requirement for their diploma or applied degree – not because they are particularly passionate about the English language.

 

Q: What do you like most about your work?

A: I realize that the last part of my previous response might sound negative, but really the challenge of bringing reluctant learners into new material is one of the best parts of my job. I find that college teaching is actually quite fun; I enjoy my students, and smaller classes combined with longer terms does allow me to really get to know many of them.

 

Q: How has your post-secondary education, and particularly your graduate work in English and Cultural Studies, helped you in your current work?

A: I would not say that I needed a PhD to do my job (though see question 2), but the skills fostered in graduate programs to adapt, problem-solve, and communicate are certainly advantageous. Beyond that, the scholarship of teaching and learning is thriving in Colleges, so, though my training as a Victorianist specifically is unlikely to come up very often, research skills and the ability to publish are certainly of value in the College system.

 

Q: What advice do you have for recent MA or PhD graduates who may be interested in college teaching?

A: The best advice I was given on this topic was to try out a semester or two on a part-time basis. Write a cover letter and resume that emphasize your teaching practices and achievements. I should also note that it is possible to secure part time work and then move into a full-time position; colleges in Ontario frequently hire their full-time faculty from within their pool of sessional labour.

Thank you very much, Suzanne, for sharing your experience and advice with us! If you have further questions for Suzanne about her career, she has graciously agreed to be available by email. You can reach her at srintoul [at] my.centennialcollege [dot] ca

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Jennifer Guo, Account Executive at LinkedIn

Posted on April 19th, 2013 by najblog1.
Categories: Alum Profiles.

This interview is part of a series that department publicity RA PhebeAnn Wolframe is conducting with McMaster English and Cultural Studies Department alumni who are working in non-academic settings. These interviews are designed to give a brief overview of some of the careers English & CS grads might pursue. If you are an English & CS MA or PhD alumnus in a non-academic career, Phebe would like to hear from you at wolfrapm [at] mcmaster [dot] ca.

Today we are profiling Jennifer Guo, a 2011 graduate of McMaster English and Cultural Studies’ MA program. Jennifer currently works as an Account Executive of Talent Solutions at LinkedIn.com.

Jenn Guo photo

Q: Tell us what you do in your current job. In other words, what does the day-to-day work of an account executive look like?

A: I work as part of a larger Talent Solutions team here at LinkedIn. We enable organizations to gain access to the largest online network of professionals in the world to meet their specific hiring and business goals. We currently have over 200 million LinkedIn members globally and over 7 million in Canada. When an organization is looking to hire — be it a university, an engineering firm, or a hedge fund — they look to platforms like LinkedIn to find the best available talent out there. Day-to-day, I have conversations with C-level executives and HR leaders about their business challenges as it pertains to recruitment and help them discover the solutions LinkedIn offers to meet their objectives.

Q: What attracted you to this career path, and how did you find your current job?

A: It wasn’t a clear path for me. I have dabbled in public accounting, non-profit, and research before discovering sales. I knew ultimately that I wanted to work with people and understood that the biggest value I could provide to an organization was likely my communication skills. From there, I researched some of the top sales industries and discovered an interest in technology and digital media. Coincidentally, the last three jobs I’ve held came through LinkedIn – from utilizing its job board to networking with employers. In my current role, I was recruited by LinkedIn directly and went through the interview process.

Q: What kind of previous work experience (paid or unpaid) did you have before your current position? Did it help you secure your current job?

A: In undergrad, my first job came as a university fundraiser for the University of Waterloo. It was a tough job as you’re asking alumni and parents of students for donations. However, I learned a ton in this role about how to overcome objections and be politely persistent. More importantly, I discovered that I enjoyed interacting with people in a sales capacity. From there, Waterloo had a co-op program and I completed three co-op terms at PwC. This was my first introduction to corporate life and I think some of my biggest lessons here were not necessarily how to audit financial statements, but rather the intricacies of the professional office environment. After undergrad, I took an unpaid summer internship in Washington D.C. at a non-profit think tank. This was a great experience for me because I travelled to a new city, made some life-long friends, and experienced a completely different atmosphere where ideas and words replaced numbers and ledgers. I then went on to complete my MA at McMaster. After grad school, I found my first full-time job in B2B sales at CareerBuilder and then as a consultant at a boutique executive search firm. Both roles revolved around human capital and technology and they are definitely related to my current job at LinkedIn. In fact, both organizations would be considered competitors. It’s beneficial to see all sides of the industry. Overall, I think all of the (often unrelated) experience I’ve had is valuable to differentiating myself from others, realizing my strengths, and providing more insight and value to my clients.

Q: What do you like most about working as an account executive at LinkedIn?

A: The amazing company culture is something you always read about in the news but don’t believe until you’re actually here. It is unreal. Everyone loves coming to work every day. It is such an energetic and optimistic organization and it is growing. The best thing about LinkedIn is the vision of wanting to change the world through technology and connectivity. To be a part of that change is a great feeling.

Q: What are some of the challenges of your work?

A: Sales is an industry where people realize very quickly whether or not they’re a fit. You will get rejection more often than you hear “yes.” Being able to stay positive and persistent are the attributes of some of the best Account Executives.

Q: How has your post-secondary education, and particularly your graduate work in English and Cultural Studies, helped you in your current work?

Grad school has helped me appreciate the bigger picture of what I do day-to-day. I have a completely different outlook from my peers. When I read the news, engage in conversations, and think about the things I want to accomplish, I consider things differently and bring a fresh perspective to the table. It’s also benefited me in those “soft skills” that sales requires – to write convincingly and speak confidently.

Q: Given that you work for LinkedIn, and that you’ve been successful finding jobs through that site, do you have any advice about how to make the most of your LinkedIn profile?

A: I would say to fill out every possible field in LinkedIn whether it’s courses you’ve taken, discussion groups to join, where you volunteer, previous work experience (and detailed bullets would help), any and all accomplishments. The other vital action to take is to connect with people in your network. It is through knowing more people that you have the likelihood of being introduced to a certain recruiter at your dream company. Also, take advantage of the “recommendations” and encourage people in your network to promote your skills (and likewise). This is nowhere to hide or be humble – put your best foot forward as it becomes your professional online profile or record. All in all, be active on the site – connect with people, share relevant content, and keep your accomplishments current so organizations can identify and reach out to you.

Q: What advice do you have for recent MA or PhD graduates who may be interested in working in your field?

A: Get on LinkedIn and start networking with people. Ask them for coffee, go to industry events, and have informational interviews with those in the industry. You would be surprised at how open and willing people are to help you. Have a good work ethic. Try to help others when you can.

Thanks for the fabulous interview and advice, Jennifer! If you have further questions for Jenn about her career, she has kindly agreed to be available by email. You can contact her at jeguo [at] linkedin [dot] com

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Jaspreet Sandhu, Manager for Advancement, Toronto International Film Festival

Posted on April 16th, 2013 by najblog1.
Categories: Alum Profiles.

This profile is part of a series that department publicity RA PhebeAnn Wolframe is conducting with McMaster English and Cultural Studies Department alumni who are working in non-academic settings, or in academic settings but outside of tenured or tenure-track professorships. These interviews are designed to give a brief overview of some of the careers English & CS grads might pursue. If you are an English & CS MA or PhD alumnus in a non-academic career, Phebe would like to hear from you at wolfrapm [at] mcmaster [dot] ca.

Today’s interviewee, Jaspreet Sandhu, graduated from McMaster Department of English and Cultural Studies’ MA program in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory in 2010. She currently works for the Toronto International Film Festival as their Manager for Advancement.

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Q: Can you describe your job? (in other words, what does a Manager of Advancement do?)
A: Advancement is the umbrella of four sub fundraising units for the Toronto International Film Festival Inc. (TIFF), which includes: Government Relations; Foundation Relations; Membership; and Philanthropy. My position is designed to bridge these units for operational efficiencies, while securing and maintaining my fundraising portfolios, and long-lead project planning. My portfolios include industry programming, digital initiatives, and special projects. On a day to day, I will be writing grants, reviewing funding presentations, developing and maintaining our departmental critical path, and researching current trends.

Q: How did you find your current job?
A: My current position was the result of a promotion. I was initially hired as the Coordination for Public Affairs (now Government and Foundation Relations) from an online posting on TIFF’s site and workinculture.ca. It was also forwarded to me by a former co-worker!

Q: What kind of previous work experience (paid or unpaid) did you have before your current position? Did it help you secure your current job?
A: Yes, I found my experience with the Documentary Organization of Canada was beneficial in providing me with administrative skills, insight into the film festival world, and familiarity with the culture and issues around not-for-profits.

My grad school experience was key to my current position as well. Since my Bachelor of Fine Arts was so hands-on, I felt I didn’t fully delve into the critical thinking and writing skills that I needed to further develop. In McMaster’s Cultural Studies and Critical Theory program, I found that I was able vocalize and assert my arguments while also building my literary dexterity.

Q: What do you like most about being TIFF’s Manager of Advancement?
A: I enjoy the long-lead planning, research, and project management the most. I love to see ideas come to life either by securing the funds the project needs, being involved in the hiring process, providing descriptions on deliverables. There’s a feeling of making something happen!

Q: What are some of the challenges of your work?
A: Perhaps the biggest challenge I find is that TIFF is a growing and developing not-for-profit charity. When I’m trying to fundraise around a project or even describe where/what I do, I find I am faced with the perception that TIFF is all about glamour and the 10-day Festival but what they fail to realize is that we have a year-round facility, TIFF Bell Lightbox, at the corner of King and John Street in Toronto. TIFF Bell Lightbox, the Film Reference Library, Film Circuit (with 198 community screenings across the country), the annual September Festival are all one in the same organization with just too many activities to list! In response, the Department created these short videos on the top ten things people don’t know about TIFF called TIFF Bits.

Q: How has your post-secondary education, and particularly your graduate work in English and Cultural Studies, helped you in your current work?
A: My graduate work was absolutely essential to securing my current position. As described above, without it, I felt my writing skills didn’t quite meet the mark. I am able to proof and interrogate my work in a way that improves its quality and claim.

I can also note that the level of in-class engagement helped me cultivate and formulate my communications skills. Being in class discussion with a high level of critical thought has helped develop and shape my writing and presentational skills for different styles. In class discussions helped me build a confidence in my own work.

Q: What advice do you have for recent MA or PhD graduates who may be interested in working in your field, or for arts and culture organizations more generally?
A: I’m not sure if I can provide very good advice for MA or PhD graduates. They are already a clever bunch who know what they want! I know in my instance, I was going to give TIFF a shot with the Coordinator position and test it out to see if I enjoyed the work. Four years later, I think its safe to say I absolutely love working for this charity and am fortunate to be part of the team. I was open to an experience I didn’t plan or foresee in my future and it worked out. I suppose there is a nugget of advise in the last sentence. I also feel like I haven’t ruled out a future in academia. I just know that it doesn’t suit me at this point in my life.

Thank you so much for telling us about your job, Jaspreet! Jaspreet has kindly offered to be contactable by email if any current/recent grads have further questions about non-profit careers. You can reach her at jsandhu [at] tiff [dot] net

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Mike Edmonds, Lawyer

Posted on March 5th, 2013 by najblog1.
Categories: Alum Profiles.

This interview is part of a series that department publicity RA PhebeAnn Wolframe is conducting with McMaster English and Cultural Studies Department alumni who are working in non-academic settings. These interviews are designed to give a brief overview of some of the careers English & CS grads might pursue. If you are an English & CS MA or PhD alumnus in a non-academic career, Phebe would like to hear from you at wolfrapm [at] mcmaster [dot] ca.

Today we are profiling Mike Edmonds, a 2005 graduate of McMaster English and Cultural Studies’ MA program, who works as an Associate Lawyer at Bruder Springstead LLP.

When did you decide to pursue a career in law? What attracted you to law?

I decided to apply for law school the year after I finished my Master’s degree at McMaster. Law school was always in the back of my mind as a potential education option. I think even when I applied I wasn’t sure I wanted to be an actual lawyer, but I liked the idea of learning about the law and having some solid career options when I finished the program.

Tell us a bit about what law school is like. How was it similar or different from your previous undergraduate and graduate education experiences?

Law school was interesting. Like an English degree, there is a lot of reading and writing. I think I had an advantage because I could read quickly, something that taking numerous novel-focused courses over the years really helped with, which made the volume of reading less overwhelming.

Having just done an English MA, it was a bit of a shock to take part in courses where your entire grade is decided by a 3 hour exam. There were some courses in the second and third year of law school that had options that allowed you to write papers, but the majority of courses were exam based. When you’re used to having days or weeks to think about something while you’re writing about it, the process of cramming for exams and trying to write something coherent in 3 hours can be difficult.

Law school, itself, teaches you to write and understand legal decisions, but doesn’t teach you a lot about being an actual lawyer. That’s what articling is for. Ask any law student a practical legal question, like how to commence a law suit, and he or she will likely stare at you blankly. Don’t ask your friends in law school for legal advice.
What kind of law do you practice, and why did you choose that particular area?

I practice in civil litigation, which basically means law suits between different parties. I work for a firm that focuses on the defence side and we’re almost exclusively retained by insurers to defend people (or businesses or municipalities or hosptials) who have been sued by someone.

The most frequent example is when someone gets in a car accident. One driver may hire a lawyer to sue the other driver. If that other driver had motor vehicle insurance, his or her insurance company will hire my firm, or a similar firm, to defend that other driver.

I got into this area of law because I was interested in litigation, and this is the area where most litigation jobs are found.

 

What do you like most about your work?

I like the variety of work in my particular area. In any week, I might be out doing examinations for discovery, or attending a mediation, or in court on a motion, or just catching up on paper work in the office. You get to do a lot of different things and interact with some pretty interesting people and that makes it a pretty intersting job to have.
 

What are some of the challenges of being a lawyer?

Certainly, the biggest challenge in most legal jobs is finding balance between the number of hours your employer wants you to work and having a personal life. There is always an abundance of work to be done, so it can be hard to know where to draw the line. Should I work this weekend? Should I take a vacation because I’ll only be more stressed when I get back?

How has your post-secondary education, and particularly your graduate work in English and Cultural Studies, helped you in your current work?

Graduate school helped hone my reading, thinking and writing skills, which, in turn, helped me get through law school and continues to help me in my day-to-day practice. Writing, whether it’s letters or court materials, is essential in law. Surprising (or not) there are many, many terrible writers in law, and it can really set you apart if you know how to string a sentence together.

Graduate school also helped with my reasearch skills. A lot of the work of junior lawyers is researching various areas of law and writing research memos for more senior counsel (not the most exciting part of the job). It helped to have had some extra practice in finding source material and condensing relevant information.
What advice do you have for recent MA or PhD graduates who are considering pursuing a law degree?

Don’t rush into law school. Don’t be afraid to take a year off while you’re applying. Once you’re in law school, you’ll set in motion a chain of events that will likely see you over-employed for the next few decades. When you finish law school, you have to article to become a fully qualified lawyer, and then, if you want to be a marketable lawyer, you need to enter some sort of law job right after articling to get further experience. That said, if you think you’ll ever want a break — a year off to travel or be a barrista or something — do it before law school starts. It will be hard to stop the momentum once it starts.
Thank you Mike, for the interview! If you have more questions about becoming a lawyer and working in law, Mike has kindly agreed to be available by email. You can reach him at mike.edmonds [at] gmail [dot] com

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Emily Robb, Senior Communications Advisor

Posted on March 5th, 2013 by najblog1.
Categories: Alum Profiles.

This interview is part of a series that department publicity RA PhebeAnn Wolframe is conducting with McMaster English and Cultural Studies Department alumni who are working in non-academic settings. These interviews are designed to give a brief overview of some of the careers English & CS grads might pursue. If you are an English & CS MA or PhD alumnus in a non-academic career, Phebe would like to hear from you at wolfrapm [at] mcmaster [dot] ca.

Today we are talking to Emily Robb, a 2005 graduate of McMaster Department of English and Cultural Studies’ MA program. Emily works as a senior communications officer with Vale Mining and Metals. If you are interested in working in communications, also check out our interview with Christina Getz, writer and Development Officer for the National Ballet.

 

How did you decide to enter the communications field?

This is a really good question.  I didn’t exactly know that this field of work existed when I left grad school.  But as one does, I applied to any and every job I could find that had something, or anything, to do with writing.  Somehow, I landed at SickKids Foundation as an “Advancement Writer” in the President’s office.  (Truth be told, the hiring director has a PhD in English from Western, and he confessed to me later that he wanted someone around who he could ‘talk books’ with.)  From there, I learned much more about how communications is applied and utilized in a business-setting.

How did you find your current job?

An old colleague from SickKids who I did some writing for left to take on the role of Director, Community Investment at my current company in late 2008-ish.  After an organizational change, her portfolio expanded to include communications.  She needed to build a team, remembered me, and through our shared ‘network,’ sent me the listing.  I interviewed multiple times, underwent writing tests, submitted a portfolio, and then landed the role in the summer of 2010.

What is involved in being a Senior Communications Advisor at a mining company?

I work in one of two corporate headquarters for a global mining company.  We oversee and provide support to mining operations across Canada, in the UK, Indonesia, New Caledonia, Brazil and Asia.  Our communications team works with mine sites to coordinate internal and external communication efforts across geographies.  We manage our brand and reputation through media relations and marketing. We work with media, industry associations and the communities we’re a part of to build mutually beneficial partnerships.  We build websites and intranets. We support our executives with media interviews, corporate communications and speaking engagements. And we do research about employees’ and the public’s perceptions and impressions of the industry and our company.  In particular, I’m responsible for issues management, strategic content, digital media, media relations and executive communications.

What do you like most about your work?

The variety. Every day, I have the opportunity to work with intelligent professionals from diverse backgrounds and from diverse fields (engineers, geologists, accountants, scientists, technical experts, sales professionals, and consultants of all kinds). My portfolio also includes a wide array of projects, which means I’m never bored doing the same thing.

What are some of the challenges of being a senior communications advisor?

On the internal side, as a support function in a mining company, we have many “internal clients” – colleagues from all areas of the business looking for communication solutions or support with sharing their information.  A challenge we face every day is balancing the needs of those clients – what is priority content? What tactics do we have available to meet your needs? How much information is too much? How does your information align with our strategic communications plan?

Externally, the Canadian public’s perception of mining companies is at best mixed. We are challenged by the mining industry’s negative legacy – it was a dirty, hazardous sector decades ago. So much has changed since then, however.  It’s no longer pick axes and helmet lights – it’s more like underground robotics and large-scale re-greening.  While there is still much room to improve, as communicators, our challenge is to test perceptions, facilitate dialogue and build awareness of the advancements the industry has already made as well as the steps it still needs to take towards improved sustainability.

How has your post-secondary education, and particularly your graduate work in English and Cultural Studies, helped you in your current work?

My education taught me to write and to think critically.  These two skills are the backbone of my career.  Writing got me a foot in the door, and critical thinking has helped me move into more strategic roles.

What advice do you have for recent MA or PhD graduates who may be interested in working in communications?

I recommend two things. 1) put your hand up. If you can write, and I know all English students can, don’t be afraid to say so.  It’s a coveted skill and one that many university grads are uncomfortable with. 2) get experience beyond academia.  In the summer before my MA, I was an editorial intern at FASHION Magazine in Toronto (part of St. Joseph Communications).  Having a portfolio that included non-academic publications when I first applied to jobs really helped.

Thank you so much for the interview, Emily! If you have more questions about working in communications, Emily has graciously agreed to be contacted by email. You can reach her at em_robb [at] yahoo [dot] com.

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Job Profile: Lane Osborne, Music Instructor

Posted on February 18th, 2013 by najblog1.
Categories: Alum Profiles.

Lane Osborne: Music Lover, Instructor, and Musician

Today’s profile is part of a series that department publicity RA PhebeAnn Wolframe is conducting with McMaster English and Cultural Studies Department alumni who are working in non-academic settings, or in academic settings but outside of tenured or tenure-track professorships. These interviews are designed to give a brief overview of some of the careers English & CS grads might pursue. If you are an English & CS MA or PhD alumnus in a non-academic career, Phebe would like to hear from you at wolfrapm [at] mcmaster [dot] ca.

Lane Osborne, today’s interviewee, received a bachelor of arts in music at the University of Windsor in 2008, and a master of arts in cultural studies and critical theory at McMaster in 2009, followed by a bachelor of education degree at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (University of Toronto) in 2010. She spent a year and a half working as an occasional teacher for the Regional Arts Program with the Peel District School Board, and currently works as a high school vocal music instructor in Guelph with the Upper Grand District School Board. She also teaches private lessons in voice, guitar, piano and theory at a contemporary music studio in Milton. Lane is the second post-secondary teacher we’ve interviewed in the non-academic jobs blog. For a perspective on post-secondary teaching in a private school as a PhD graduate, see the interview with Christina Brooks.

Q: When did you decide to pursue a career as a secondary school teacher? What attracted you to teaching?

 

A: I formally decided to pursue a career as a secondary school teacher when I was still in secondary school. For as long as I can remember, I was always attracted to education as a potential career partially because of a few fantastic teachers I had along the way and their positive impact on shaping my identity. Also, I remember my 16-year-old brain well because it always envied how much my teachers would laugh on the job. Since I’ve never been one to enjoy work if it feels too much like work, being around the constant smiles and genuinely happy personas of the educators I idolized was obviously infectious.

 

Q: How long have you been a musician? Did you study music at the undergraduate level?

 

I think if you ask any musician how long they’ve been a musician, you’ll probably get a standard answer of, “since I was in diapers.” For grandparents, I had an organist and a jazz pianist who regularly gigged in the Windsor/Detroit area, and I have a mother who is known to sing operatic renditions of songs by The Doors, Bob Marley and even Eminem while doing various things around the house. When you grow up with music constantly around you, it is hard to escape it and for that reason, it’s hard for me to define when I became a musician. However, formal training with singing began around the age of 8 for me, and guitar at 13. I pursued a bachelor of arts in music at the University of Windsor, where I fell in love with musicology because I got to spend hours transcribing Jimi Hendrix’s guitar solos and analyzing their sociological impact on America during the Nixon era. I never thought I could be so into school until that point… listening to psychedelic rock for marks? Pinch me.

 

Q: How did you balance continuing to play and/or study music with your academic work while pursuing a graduate degree? Is music still something you make time for outside of your work as a music teacher?

 

A: The best thing about my graduate degree at McMaster was that I got to continue studying music the entire time because of the program’s cross-disciplinary nature. I originally found out about the program because a musicologist I was studying under at Windsor recommended that I continue my studies with Dr. Susan Fast because of her interest in popular music that drew on her traditional musical training. Also, all of my courses at Mac really relied on the personal expertise that every graduate student brought to the table; for me, I got to draw on musical examples for almost all discussions in our seminars.

Continuing to play during my graduate degree was relatively easy. Whereas obtaining an undergraduate degree in music requires several additional hours of planned rehearsals on campus per week, a graduate degree in cultural studies was much less demanding in terms of the amount of time I spent in class. Of course the amount of reading and writing increased when I was working towards my masters, but I could also go home and practice for a few hours before I began working because a graduate degree afforded me that kind of freedom. As a teacher, I get to play piano, guitar and sing every day because that’s my job. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am working because of that.

 

Q: What do you like most about your work?

 

Everything. I love that I get to teach music and play every day. I love the kids. I love how the kids teach me more than I could ever know on my own about my discipline in terms of how they become musicians and how they consume music. I’ve also seen how music has provided kids with refuge from their broken homes. When you’re passionate about the subject matter you teach and the kids have a love for music that parallels yours, a truly special learning environment exists that is very productive and addictive. I am very, very lucky to do what I do.

 

A: What are some of the challenges of being a teacher in the secondary school system in general, and of being a music teacher in particular?

 

Perhaps the most challenging part of my career so far relates to the tough job market. As a new teacher today, you’re generally expected to go through the motions of working as an occasional teacher in various capacities before you can land a permanent job. If you’re lucky, you go through interviews, create bonds with the students and staff of a school you’re only temporarily at, and then have to start over again a handful of months down the road with no guarantee of daily work.

Moreover, the current political situation surrounding the implementation and repeal of Bill 115 has made it an exceptionally difficult time to be a teacher, and especially a music teacher. First and foremost, it’s hard to teach students about democratic rights when their own government has revoked those rights. Secondly, every day we see how much playing or singing means to the kids, and having to cancel extra curricular activities or shut the music room door at lunch so kids couldn’t come in and jam on their own free time resulted in a wave of disappointment in our department this year. With that said, the challenges relating to the job market and the current political landscape have not diminished how rewarding the teaching career is. With any job there are going to be challenging aspects, but if you love what you do, you will always be able to overcome the rough patches as you move forward.

 

Q: How has your post-secondary education, and particularly your graduate work in English and Cultural Studies, helped you in your current work?

 

A: If you talk to anybody who attended a traditional secondary school, they’ll probably tell you they either had a fantastic or a terrible experience in high school. As a teacher, you see how much this relates to their peers and the sociological environment of their school. Graduating from cultural studies at McMaster, I gained invaluable insights into theories of class, race, sex and gender, as well as the psychological functioning of everything from love and fear to the multiple stages of grief and memory. As a high school teacher, I work in an environment where teenagers are becoming hyper aware of all these things and trying to navigate them as they attempt to become comfortable with themselves. My job is to ensure kids understand the complexity of social difference and its impact on their development while they work towards a truly equitable world in their own small ways. My degree from McMaster has afforded me the opportunity to become confident with having seemingly uncomfortable yet necessary conversations about society with my kids, and the ethical means to navigate them with professionalism. It is unquestionable that preparing to teach kids for life, which is the most important part of my job, was developed during my graduate studies when I was learning to have those conversations myself.

 

Q: What advice do you have for recent MA or PhD graduates who are considering becoming teachers in the public school system?

 

A: With brutal honesty, you have to make sure you really want to teach before you jump into teaching as a career. With many friends who have graduated with degrees in the humanities or social sciences, teaching sometimes seems like a “go to” option as you realize there really is no philosophy or music or English factory down the road that you can apply to once you’ve finished your formal schooling (how many times did I hear that throughout my undergraduate degree?). With the job market the way it is right now in elementary and secondary education in Ontario, you must invest a lot of time into landing multiple jobs and keeping a job, which would be extra exhausting if your heart isn’t fully into the profession. If you really want to make sure that you’re in it for the long haul, the best thing you can do is to contact your favourite old teachers and devote some time to volunteering in their classrooms so you get a true feel for what teaching (and managing a classroom) is really all about. Ask any bachelor of education graduate – the most valuable learning experiences you take away from teacher’s college come during your practicum placements! On the other hand, if you know you love teaching, follow it with your whole heart. I have never met people who are more satisfied with their lives than teachers who truly love what they do.

 Thanks for the great interview Lane! Lane has graciously offered to have her email address posted so that current grads and recent alumni can contact her with further questions. She can be reached at laney.osborne [at] gmail [dot] com.

 

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