The doctoral program in English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta is definitely worth the challenge. Following my on-going passion for literature and gender studies, I crossed the Atlantic in 2008 to pursue my PhD on borders in contemporary queer transCanadian women’s writing. Through the interaction with different graduate students, professors, and colleagues in this vibrant department, I progressively developed my interest in 21st century Canadian women’s writing and philosophically inflected cultural studies. In the second year of my PhD, the department successfully nominated me for the Trudeau Scholarship, which then provided me with myriad opportunities for network and professionalization, radically changing my academic life at all levels. I will always be thankful for the inspiration, support, and motivation I found in such a world-leading institution as the English and Film Studies Department at U of A. The invaluable support of my supervisor, Heather Zwicker, together with the example of numerous professors in the department engaged in innovative research, also encouraged me to consider the productive possibilities of cross-border alliances between disciplines. In my new one-year position as Postdoctoral Lecturer at the University of Innsbruck, I want to continue examining the implications of transdisciplinarity as an essential pedagogical tactic that could help us re-examine the role of the Humanities and our responsibility as public intellectuals today.
I'm thankful to the University of Alberta for preparing me for my field-related work, as well as for giving me a glimpse of the lifestyle, duties, and politics of being a professor. I deem my time at U of A "successful" because of multiple factors, most notably the dedication of my dissertation committee (particularly the guidance of my supervisor, Dr. Jo-Ann Wallace) in helping me to develop my own area of expertise, and the unerring support provided by the graduate student community. What I didn't realize was as important at the time (but what I now appreciate) was the unique opportunity to teach my own classes and to participate in departmental committee work, which allowed me to perceive the multiple-and often, to students, invisible-aspects of an academic life. All of these aspects-guidance, support, and opportunities-helped me enormously in navigating my new role as Assistant Professor in the department of English Literature at Eastern Michigan University. For that, and for much else, I say: thanks, U of A.
- Amanda Allen
Assistant Professor, Eastern Michigan University
The department of English and Film Studies at U of A supported my interdisciplinary dissertation project; this support allowed me to take my research in innovative directions. The Distinguished Visitors program provided the opportunity to directly engage with the work of some high-profile scholars of literary cultural studies. I also found that EFS really helped me to professionalize while I was in the program, including providing excellent teaching experience, the Public Works series, and setting up a mock interview when I was on the job market. One of the things that attracted me to EFS was the department's strong history of feminist scholarship and feminist interventions into the larger university culture; this influence continues to inform my research, teaching and administrative work. In terms of living in Edmonton, the best thing was Latitude 53 gallery, which for me was an important cultural hub; there's also an evolving queer arts scene that was vital to my survival. After completing my PhD at U of A, I held the Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Calgary before starting a position in Women's and Gender Studies and English at the University of Saskatchewan in 2010.
- T.L. Cowan
Assistant Professor, University of Saskatchewan
I was blessed with a really great cohort during my time in the program. Everybody worked really hard, we did it together, and our work was honest and genuine. Looking back on things , I realize that we were that way because of the example set for us by some of the professors active in the program during our first year. That example came in handy when I was hired at Trent and, working closely with a colleague, helped to establish and administer a new MA graduate program called Public Texts. This was a lot to do in the first year on the job, but I was already able to work in multiple dimensions (administrative, pedagogical, intellectual, political, collegial) because of what I'd seen from some great folks in Edmonton.
- Michael Epp
Assistant Professor, Trent University
I would not get my job done today if the English and Film Studies department at the University of Alberta had not done its job so well. I feel lucky to have been a student there. Looking back now, I am most struck by the department's feminism. It is not something that we generally tell students to look for when making choices about their graduate programs, and it certainly was not the basis for my decision to attend U of A. But I now know that it is something I really value in an academic environment. The department maintains a commitment to feminist practices of teaching, research, administration in ways that were often invisible to me when I was a student because they were so much a part of the way things worked. These commitments meant forms of genuine collaboration that can be very rare in the humanities. It also meant a tremendous amount of support and encouragement for taking intellectual risks. The research that I was able to do at the U of A formed the basis of my book, Eating Chinese: Culture on the Menu in Small Town Canada. I have no doubt that I would have not written this book had it not been for tremendous work of the graduate program at the University of Alberta.
- Lily Cho
Associate professor, York University
My professors and supervisory committee in the English PhD program at the University of Alberta gave me a lot of practice and intellectual freedom. Help and guidance were there if I needed them but the greatest gifts were time, space, and encouragement. Such freedom and space were thrilling, conducive to creativity and independence - a rare experience indeed! Also rare and highly valuable was the teaching I was able to do. As the sole instructor of first-year and eventually upper-level courses in my own field, I became much more self-aware, flexible, and confident, plus I saw that I would love the work I am doing now. The post-PhD support was very helpful: job letter workshops, mock interview and job talk, bits of sage advice offered in hallways and offices. U of A's Department of English and Film Studies attracts, and accepts, an impressive and refreshing combination of the high-powered and the eccentric. It is an open and stimulating pace to study and I would recommend it to anyone.
- Anne McTaggart
Assistant Professor, Western University
When I moved to Edmonton to begin my work at the University of Alberta, it was the largest city in which I had ever lived and the furthest I had ever been from my home in Nova Scotia. It would be an understatement to say that I am surprised by the twists, turns, and kinks that Edmonton and English and Film Studies have introduced to my life. In my first year, I organized a department-based Drag King troupe that performed for queer distinguished visitors to the department, and, eventually, before thousands at Pride. After the department's successful nomination of me as a Trudeau Scholar, I was able to travel, work with governmental, literary, and cultural leaders, and collaborate with scholars near and far. I was able to pursue my interdisciplinary work on transgender and architecture with mentors who guided me to look at the world both judiciously and generatively. When I spent a year of my degree in Montreal as a research associate at Concordia, my mentors encouraged such travels - as well as my activist and artistic pursuits, as part and parcel of a full intellectual life. As a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at McGill (where I am hosted jointly by the School of Architecture and the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist studies) I regularly put to work the insights and approaches I learned from friends and mentors at EFS.
- Lucas Crawford
Prior to my move to Edmonton, I was a lecturer in the department of Theatre and Media Studies at the University of Calabar, Nigeria where I worked as a Graduate Assistant. I was already participating in academic life with some teaching and research when I arrived at the University of Alberta. Yet I feel I got my best education from EFS. Confronted, for the first time, with subtle cultural codes in everyday life in Edmonton on the one hand, and a fierce critical pedagogy in the university that sharpened my critical antennas to the problems in society on the other, the training I got from the Department of English and Film Studies prepared me not only to be sensitive to my immediate surroundings and to ask questions about unfolding social, cultural and political processes, but also to question both small and big powers in all their manifestations. This training is perhaps the best one can get as an academic because it is seminal to what we do as thinkers, teachers and researchers, and hence has become central to my own work as a young academic. As I criss-cross the world doing my work, I have no doubt whatsoever that the real foundation for my scholarship was laid by the committed and thoughtful faculty of EFS.
- Paul Ugor
Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre of West Africa Studies, University of Birmingham, UK
My time at the University of Alberta really paved the way to my position as a faculty member in Rhetoric and Communication Design at the University of Waterloo. In particular, the department really supported my work in the emerging field of new media studies, letting me write a dissertation on personal computers, and supporting my study of the Java computer programming language as one of my secondary languages. As a doctoral student, I also had wide-ranging opportunities to participate in the life of the department as a PhD co-chair of the GSEA, and as a member of various department committees. In addition to intellectual support, then, the department offered professionalization through this committee work as well as through the many proseminars I remember attending. This professionalization was invaluable as I made the transition to faculty member two weeks after my graduation ceremony: I felt able to hit the ground running, and I am really grateful for that! I have recently been tenured and promoted to Associate Professor at UW and have just been awarded a SSHRC Standard Research Grant for a project entitled Deciphering Digital Life Writing, that continues to build on the work begun during my doctoral studies, on the intersections of subjectivity, representation, and digital media.
- Aimee Morrison
Associate Professor, University of Waterloo
When I first came to the Department of English and Film Studies at the U of A for my Master's degree, I did not realize that I would end up staying to complete a PhD there. That decision has had a profound impact upon my life. The department fully supported my transdisciplinary work in cultural studies, Indigenous studies, and colonial discourse analysis, offering me the opportunity to have an interdisciplinary supervisory committee and to take a course in Cree. My supervisor, Mark Simpson, was nothing short of amazing: his tireless and rigorous engagement with my work showed me how to become a better scholar and, now, a teacher of my own graduate students. Today, as an Associate Professor at Western, I continue to feel a strong connection to U of A. Last year, a colleague and I approached the editorial team at English Studies in Canada to guest edit a special issue on Aboriginal Redress, enabling me to work with many of my former teachers who had once taught me but who were now welcoming me as a colleague. My time at U of A continues to impact my present, and I'm so grateful to the amazing people who make this department what it is.
- Pauline Wakeham
Associate Professor, University of Western Ontario
Graduates at Work
As you no doubt know, the academic job market for PhD's is very competitive, and we believe you should be fully informed about the realities of that job market before undertaking a substantial, multi-year commitment. We believe in disclosing as much information as we can about the present realities.
We are committed to supporting our students and to making sure that they complete their degrees in a timely fashion. Our department has exceptionally good completion times (5.3 years on average), rates of completion (over 80%), and placement in academic jobs (38% in tenure-track jobs). We also work to support students who choose a non-academic career path, offering workshops on non-traditional career options. And we offer two years of contract teaching after your degree, so that you have time to make the transition. Our placement record is among the very best in the country. In assessing our success, we exclude data from the most recent three years, since the job search has evolved nationally into a two- or three-year process, often requiring jobseekers to hold temporary positions before moving into tenure-track jobs (during this transitional period, the U of A continues to offer support to our students, financial and otherwise).
Many other graduates have gotten non-academic jobs for which their Ph.D. in English prepared them, whether directly or indirectly. Some of these former students are currently administrators in higher education, university librarians, staff at non-profit organizations, private secondary school teachers, editors, writers, or professionals in a variety of humanistic career paths.
The following is a list of tenure-track jobs our graduate students have secured in recent years, along with other academic placements such as post-docs, instructorships, lectureships, and visiting positions:
PhD Graduates holding Tenured or Tenure-Track positions:
Linda Van Netten, 2014, Concordia University College of Alberta
Katyoun Toossi, 2012, University of Birjand, Iran
Amanda Allen, 2010, Eastern Michigan University
Peter Roccia, 2010, Grant MacEwan University
Nancy Van Styvendale, 2010, University of Saskatchewan
T.L. Cowan, 2009, University of Saskatchewan
Amber Dean, 2009, McMaster University
Brenda Becleman-Long, 2009, Briercrest College
Anne McTaggart, 2009, Western University
Stan Ruecker, 2008, Illinois Institute of Technology
Ernst Gerhardt, 2007, Laurentian University
Laura Davis, 2006, Red Deer College
Brian Gibson, 2006, Université Sainte-Anne
James Gifford, 2006, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Monica Flegel, 2006, Lakehead University
Sally Hayward, 2006, University of Lethbridge
Lesley Peterson, 2006, University of Northern Alabama
Adam Dickinson, 2005, Brock University
Michael Epp, 2005, Trent University
Nicole Shukin, 2005, University of Victoria
Pauline Wakeham, 2005, University of Western Ontario
Andrew Weaver, 2005, York University
Don Fisher, 2004, Grant MacEwan University
Barbara Langhorst, 2004, St. Peter’s College
Aimee Morrison, 2004, University of Waterloo
Huw Osborne, 2004, Royal Military College of Canada
Cheryl Suzack, 2004, University of Toronto
Wiliam Thompson, 2004, Grant MacEwan University
Lily Cho, 2003, York University
Carolyn Guertin, 2003, University of Texas, Arlington
Tim Heath, 2003, Ambrose College
Mary Elizabeth Leighton, 2003, University of Victoria
Heather Tapley, 2003, Women’s Studies, University of Victoria
Michael Borshuk, 2002, Texas Tech University
Janice Schroeder, 2002, Carleton University
Rachel Warburton, 2002, Lakehead University
Our recent PhD Graduates holding Postdoctoral Fellowships:
Nduka Otisno, Carleton University
Paul Ugor, University of Birmingham
Libe Garcia Zarranz, University of Innsbruck
Matt MacLellan, McGill University
The following is a selection of Non-Academic jobs our previous Graduates have held:
Freelance Writer and Editor
Alberta Catholic School Board
Habitat for Humanity
University of Alberta Press
Edmonton Public Library
Provincial and Federal Government
Teacher, Victoria School of the Arts, Edmonton
Teaching in Japan
Transcription and Editing with ADVANIS
Norquest College, Edmonton
Shaw Conference Centre, Edmonton
Teaching with The Reading Foundation, Calgary
Native Studies, Fort Edmonton
Advancement Services, University of Alberta