What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?
I am active in the three key areas of scholarly work: research, teaching, and service. As a researcher, I take a transdisciplinary approach, drawing on topics and scholarship from adult education, cultural studies, women’s/gender/queer studies, and sociology to explore and connect culture-as-pedagogy, work-related and workplace learning, identity, globalization, citizenship, and social issues/justice. The Master's and doctoral courses that I teach deal with foundations and history of adult education, perspectives on community, workplace learning, and qualitative research methods. I supervise students in research-based programs who share my interests and areas of focus. Having worked for some 15 years in the community-based not-for-profit sector, I returned to university for my MEd and PhD. Since then, I have served on the University of Calgary's ethics board for social science and humanities research and on various other committees at U of C, as well as in a leadership position with the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education.
How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?
My learning about conducting, presenting, and writing about research was foundational and crucial to my current work. I was fortunate to have worked as a research assistant with my doctoral supervisor through most of my studies at UBC -- that experience taught me a lot, got me engaged in key scholarly networks and activities, and extended opportunities for me to co-author articles. Courses, although largely optional in my program, gave me a solid grounding in the content that I bring into the courses that I teach. Much of the learning about how to thrive in a doctoral program and in academic work I learned outside classes, though. Good, constructive relationships with and among supervisory committee members, learning to take initiative in moving work forward to publication, forming "study" circles, becoming active in scholarly associations -- these were all things that I did in graduate school that continue to help me in my work.
What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?
I love the latitude and variety that I enjoy in my day-to-day work. I have the greatest freedom is in the areas of research and service. My research projects have been interesting and productive, and well supported. I love writing, and although publication is a slow process with many annoying moments, it is largely through writing that I feel engaged and comfortable with scholarly ideas and practices. When it comes to service, an often-overlooked element of academic work, I am particular about what I pursue and have been able to become involved in committees and boards that interest me and help me feel that I'm making important contributions. I also appreciate how engaging in service helps me meet colleagues from other places or other disciplines. What I find most challenging in my position is the increased workload, which is not a unique phenomenon in academic jobs, the pressures for grade inflation in teaching (A does not stand for average, to me!), and the overall vocational emphasis in higher education even at the doctoral level.
Is your current career path as you originally intended?
No -- I had not imagined that I would have an academic position, given that I was in my early 40s when I started my PhD. This job popped up rather suddenly and unexpectedly and has, for the most part, been a wonderful opportunity.
What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?
Living in Vancouver at the time, I began in a Master's program that seemed interesting to me, given my connection to the community sector and social movement learning. Along the way, I got a research assistant position. I absolutely loved working on the project and with my supervisor. It was a long-term project and I realized that the only way for me to remain on board with it was to carry on with doctoral studies. Realizing that I loved research work and was good at it, I found the thought of entering a doctoral program a bit daunting -- having the financial and emotional support of a partner was vital -- but exciting. I admit that, had I not been living locally, I would not have undertaken graduate studies at UBC; however, especially once I started thinking seriously about the doctoral program, I was conscious of the stellar reputation that my program and the faculty members in my department had nationally and internationally.
What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?
Most enjoyable and rewarding for me were the relationships that I developed with fellow students. Whether meeting to discuss an academic article or theory, or getting together over a meal or a glass of wine to debrief experiences and pressures in the doctoral process -- my time with others was time well spent. Because I was not counting on getting an academic job when I was finished, I also looked at my time as a doctoral student as academic work. Getting to participate in research, present with my supervisor and on my own at conferences, and (co-)author publications were other highlights.
What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?
When I interviewed for the position that I have now, the committee asked if I had any questions. I had one: What interested them most about my application? The answers were that I had started to develop a strong scholarly program of research, including presentations and publications, that I was active in the relevant Canadian scholarly association and in service within my department, that I had online teaching experience, and that I was coming from a well-regarded program, having worked under the supervision of a well-respected faculty member.
What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?
Regardless of anticipated career direction, take advantage of relevant networks and look for opportunities to engage and serve with them. If it's an academic career you're after, seeing that engagement through to publication is crucial.
How did you find out about/obtain your current position?
Toward the end of my doctoral program, I saw the posting for the position, applied, was interviewed, and was offered the job.
What challenges did you face in your graduate degree, or in launching your career?
Completing a doctoral degree is a distinctive and demanding academic process. It requires commitment, perseverance, and -- ideally -- initiative. Lessons that I learned? Some things just take time, and there's always a Plan B.
How are jobs normally posted and filled in your organization or industry?
Like all sectors, higher education has networks that are invaluable for learning about and being considered for positions. It is possible to register for targeted e-mails about vacancies through national academic bodies. Sessional teaching can be a door-opener. When it comes to permanent jobs, there is a standard process of posting, short-listing candidates, interviewing (typically a full-day process of meetings, committee interview, and job talk), reference checks, and offer.