Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I decided to pursue a graduate degree in general because my bachelor's degree in French and English wouldn't be enough to provide me with stable employment. Why I decided to pursue a graduate degree in journalism specifically is a better question. I, like many Indigenous people, didn't like and still don't like, the way certain Indigenous stories are reported on in Canada. Some are lacking perspective and often times the quality of reporting is significantly less. I strongly believe that Indigenous stories should be given the same coverage as non-Indigenous stories. Pursuing a master’s degree in journalism will allow me to hone my skills and contribute to the ever-changing world of journalism, specifically the way in which Indigenous stories are told.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
There are so few masters programs in Canada strictly dedicated to journalism that the decision to study at UBC was only one of four (I believe). In looking into universities I wanted an environment that was supportive and provided opportunities for Indigenous students to interact with and learn from one another. Although I'm the only Indigenous person in my year at the School of Journalism, there are so many opportunities from clubs and elective courses to events at the Longhouse that make all of this possible. UBC also offers many scholarship and bursary opportunities, which was extremely important to me. My decision was also further narrowed by my parents. I liked the idea of pursuing a sort of "hybrid-education" of what they both did; my mom did her master's at UBC and my dad did journalism at Langara. It also doesn't hurt that UBC happens to be in Vancouver, one of Canada's most beautiful cities!
Pursuing a master’s degree in journalism will allow me to hone my skills and contribute to the ever-changing world of journalism, specifically the way in which Indigenous stories are told.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
The main reason I chose to study at the School of Journalism was for its Reporting in Indigenous Communities course taught by Duncan McCue. At the time, there was no other program even remotely similar to it in the country (Duncan now teaches the same program at Ryerson.) The faculty at the School are also so diverse, many of whom pursue research in areas that piqued my interest. The program is also fairly liberal with regards to its structure, you can choose to strictly do course based work or pursue a thesis/major research project. I like how you didn't have to decide what you wanted to do on day one. I'm still figuring it out now!
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
The best surprise about UBC is that my faculty's administration really listens to what it's students want and they address any issues that arise almost immediately. The best surprise about Vancouver would have to be the fact that one sunny day makes you forget about all the rainy days you've had!
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
I'm really looking forward to the 6-week intensive modules my program offers! I've heard discussion of a few they're planning on offering next year (still to be determined) and wish I could sign up for them all! These modules will allow me to refine my skills in specific areas that interest me. While first year was all about jamming us full of every element of journalism imaginable, second year will be more area specific. In the past, they’ve had Magazine Writing, Advanced Interviewing, Virtual Reality and Advanced Video. I also can’t wait to work closely with a faculty member on my major research project; it will be an experience like no other! The aspect I enjoy the most however is the relationships, not just with other students but with faculty. Some of the professors have worked as journalists for decades, their experiences, knowledge and references (if they like you [kidding]) are unparalleled.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
My biggest challenge will probably be finding full-time paid employment. Journalism is an industry that in the past several years has been bleeding employees non-stop. It's not fun, but it's the reality. And every time someone asks me what I'm studying, I'm always met with a response along the lines of: "Oh, that’s not a good industry to be in right now, did you read how X just laid-off X employees?"
How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?
My program is preparing me for this challenge by not shielding me from the reality of it all, but it’s also allowing me to make connections for myself. A major part of the master’s program at the School of Journalism is summer internships in which we're encouraged to experience as many newsrooms as possible. So the door to these newsrooms is cracked open, but it's your job with your skills and persona to open the door wide, walk through and impress everyone! I myself have already interned at CBC Ottawa and will soon be heading to one of CBC's international bureaus in London, England for a 6-week stint. Another major part of the program is elective courses, so not only are you preparing yourself for a career in journalism, but you’re preparing yourself for a career in another field if all else fails. I have taken all of my elective courses in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies field and my skills have allowed me to work as a communications assistant for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. So as much as I will try with everything in order to successfully make it into the world of journalism, there are backups available. I’m left feeling unworried, which is reassuring.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
All of my diverse experiences have contributed to who I am as a person which has, in turn, prepared me for my graduate program. I was born in a small rural New Brunswick town (that I even have a hard time pointing out on a map), and then moved around from province to province for about a decade, attended nine schools before even graduating high school: so resiliency for one. Being bilingual, traveling, working six summers with the federal government, being Indigenous and experiencing adversity (which has ignited my desire to make change), have certainly influenced my academic path and career goals. I would say in addition to diverse experiences, the support systems I have had are what truly make it possible for me to be where I am today. My parents and grandparents, my Indigenous community (Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte) who always check in on my academic standing and are so proud of me when I achieve anything – big or small. Professors at both the undergraduate and now graduate level, who have encouraged me, pushed me and helped me mellow out when I get overwhelmed (which happens often). Everything in life, big or small has prepared me for where I am today.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
Vancouver is the city of physical activity, brunch, patios and day trips. All of which are relaxing, all of which I partake in. (As an FYI, brunch in Vancouver is more like 8 a.m. because every place is always so packed!) Vancouver also happens to have some of the best views which you can see from almost wherever you are. My favorite methods of relaxation are grabbing a book and heading down to Spanish Banks on a sunny day to read and stare at the views simultaneously, or hop on my bike and head out for the day!
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
I would advise new graduate students to pace themselves and to not get too overwhelmed right off the bat - but if that does happen, know that there are people in your faculty you can talk to. I also want to acknowledge that, yes, graduate programs are meant to be competitive, but it's important to enter an environment in which everyone is really supportive and will be proud of your achievements. I can't speak to any faculty outside of my own of course, but I like to think that they’re all on the same level.