Leah Alfred-Olmedo

 
The Indigenous monstrous & the monstrous Indigenous
Faculty of Arts
Daniel Justice
Gwadzi/Yalis
Canada
SSHRC Storyteller Finalist
 
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

The simple answer is that, when I first began my studies in literature, I decided that I wanted my professor's job. I couldn't imagine a better vocation than reading, considering, and discussing works that inspire curiosity and passion. Though my understanding of the position is more nuanced after completing my MA, my experiences in studying literature have strengthened rather than weakened that initial impulse. I believe in the traditional Kwakwaka'wakw tenet that wealth is demonstrated not by what one can accumulate for oneself but by what one can afford to give away. In that spirit, I believe that teaching is the ideal means of sharing with others the wealth that I have accumulated through my own studies.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

My choice to pursue my PhD at UBC was based on relationships, both within the university and without. I have a generative and supportive relationship with my supervisor, with other members of the English faculty, and with other graduate students at UBC. I feel that UBC works to foster and support relationships amongst its Indigenous students, and its proximity to my home community is integral to my dissertation research. Finally, studying at UBC keeps me close to my family and to my chosen family, without whose support I would be unlikely to succeed in my studies.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

There are opportunities within the UBC English literature program for taking some creative cross-disciplinary approaches, which opens possibilities of what PhD work might look like. The potential capaciousness of the program, its ability to conceive of academia in non-traditional ways--even if only in small instances--illustrates its adaptability to contemporary conceptions of what it means to be a scholar.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

Two things: 1) the joy I found in being a TA, and in seeing my students progress in their first-year English courses; and 2) the support and guidance I received from other graduate students in the program.

I feel that UBC works to foster and support relationships amongst its Indigenous students, and its proximity to my home community is integral to my dissertation research.
 
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

I am a returning, (slightly) older student, and I think both my experience in previous studies and my age mean that I approach learning now with both a joy of exploration and a strict work ethic. Knowing some of the alternatives, I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to spend years exploring a field that continually challenges and expands the ways in which I view the world, and I work to retain that gratitude even in the thick of graduate stress.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I read recently that millenials have skipped midlife crises in favour of the granny life, and that basically summarizes my interests. I read, I grow tomatoes, I play board games, and I quilt.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Be kind to yourself and keep an eye on your mental health; graduate work can be a slog and it's important to remember that there is life outside of your studies. Sometimes it can be really hard to speak up in the small intense discussion groups that are so fundamental to graduate work. The greatest way to overcome judging your contributions is to realize that every other student in your discussion has the same internal criticism, and that that criticism is not helpful. If you're holding back on your observations/thoughts/questions, you're impoverishing both the discussion as a whole and your own experience in particular.

 
 
 

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