Concordia University

http://www.concordia.ca/content/concordia/en/artsci/english/programs/graduate/alumni-profiles.html

Alumni profiles


Bryan Sentes
English Teacher, Dawson College in Westmount, Quebec

Do not read what you believe: Appreciate the freedom and time to study, learn and grow
Bryan Sentes
How are you applying your graduate degree in English from Concordia to your work today?

I draw most immediately on my experience teaching composition as a teaching assistant, the creative writing aspects of my studies and a course that examined the theory of the novel. Above all, I rely on the example of friends and teachers for whom nothing was more important than poetry, in particular, and literature, in general.

What do you value most from your experience in the Department of English at Concordia?

What was and remains most valuable are the friends I made and still have from that time, both among my cohort and among the faculty with whom I studied.

3. Is there a particular memory that stands out from your time at Concordia?

Before I took a course on the literature of the Beat Generation, I could not read a poem of Ginsberg’s without tossing the book across the room. Because of the high esteem I had for the instructor, I took it upon myself to read all the books by the authors on the syllabus and exchanged a bunch of old LPs for bebop records. I also took to wearing chinos or jeans and plaid shirts, while indulging in other Beat behaviours. By the end of the course, I appreciated Ginsberg’s poetry and discovered the quasi-Poundian “global narrative” technique of Burroughs. The course also allowed me to recognize the sharp, hard, clear orientalism of Snyder and rediscover Ferlinghetti, an early favourite of mine from high school. This experience was a lesson in learning, empathy and how to escape one’s own inevitably limited taste.

Top


Claudine Gélinas-Faucher
English Teacher, Champlain College in Saint-Lambert, Quebec

Participating in the academic world: Graduate student conferences provide a forum for young scholars to present their research
Claudine Gélinas-Faucher
How are you applying your graduate degree in English from Concordia to your work today?

The knowledge and skills I developed at Concordia help me every day, whether in my role as a CEGEP teacher, course lecturer, or editor. The graduate program offered me the opportunity to be a teaching assistant, which helped me develop my classroom management skills, as well as my confidence. The seminars I took helped me discover critical approaches to literature that I encourage my own students to explore. Finally, the process of writing a thesis—my first experience with a long-term research project—prepared me for the doctoral dissertation I subsequently completed. In many ways, the courses I teach are like research projects, never quite complete and always subject to revision and improvement.

What do you value most from your experience in the Department of English at Concordia?

The friendships I developed with other graduate students are what I value the most. I still keep in touch with several of them, and it amazes me how exciting their trajectories have been.

What advice would you give to someone considering doing graduate studies in English?

Graduate studies in English open a multitude of doors. Teaching is the most obvious option but it is not the only one. Be creative when you market your skills and ambitious when you start your career.

Top


Fazeela Jiwa
Freelance writer and editor in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Articulate new concepts through literature: Learning how to work with words offers opportunities in a myriad of places
Fazeela Jiwa
How are you applying your graduate degree in English from Concordia to your work today?

For the past few years, I have worked as an editor and recently started a business offering stylistic, developmental, and copy editing services. My degree gave me experience in closely reading and discussing critical texts and an environment where I learned to productively and respectfully engage with different ideas and authors.

What do you value most from your experience in the Department of English at Concordia?

I moved from Vancouver and had a hard time with the long dark cold of Montreal. No one tells you what kind of shoes to buy for that kind of weather, but my warm colleagues compensated for my soggy shoes and inadequate jacket. We were taking a class on Lacan and Deleuze that blew everyone’s mind, and we often met in the pub after class to continue our otherworldly discussions. For those four months, I had a lovely time discussing the brilliant theories of those Frenchmen with some cool and smart people.

What advice would you give to someone considering doing graduate studies in English?

To build a society that is founded on mutual respect, you need to develop critical thinking skills that enable you to consider the thoughts and experiences of others. You also have to learn how to communicate your ideas, practice humble self-evaluation, and accept constructive criticism. The graduate program in English gives you the opportunity to develop these competencies, but ultimately your experience will be what you make of it.

Top


Francis Lardy
English Teacher, Dawson College in Westmount, Quebec

Imparting an appreciation for literary analysis: Concordia alum teaches college students the value of interpreting literature on a daily basis
Francis Lardy
What do you value most from your experience in the Department of English at Concordia?

The eclectic and comprehensive range of courses that were offered has proven very useful to me as a teacher. They have given me a broad base of content from which to draw as I develop my own courses.

I also value the friendly and welcoming attitudes of the faculty members. Professors were consistently congenial, helpful and available—it felt as though I had a sincere and personal relationship with everyone I studied under.

Is there a particular memory that stands out from your time at Concordia?

In 2008, I called the department out of the blue. It had been seven years since I finished my undergraduate degree and I had been away from any academic environment since then. Within a couple days I was in the office of Dr. Andre Furlani—program director at the time—planning the steps to enter the master’s program. Throughout our conversation, we discussed various other topics such as travel, politics and comparative mythology. I did not expect such an immediate or personable response. This good-natured and welcoming interaction sealed the deal for me to follow through with my application, as well as set the accommodating and encouraging tone of my studies for the subsequent years.

What advice would you give to someone considering doing graduate studies in English?

Stay curious and motivated to find literature’s relevant application in the current world. Social critique and perspectives on the human condition are never out of date.

Top


Gillian Savigny
Associate Director of Strategic Communications, SickKids Foundation in Toronto, Ontario

Hospital stories we tell: Close reading skills enable Concordia alumna to translate complex medical information for lay readers
Gillian Savigny
What do you value most from your experience in the Department of English at Concordia?

The opportunity to be a part of a focused community of creative writers was the most valuable aspect of my experience at Concordia. I learned so much—about writing, reading, professionalism, academia and the publishing industry—from my professors and peers, many of whom I still count as close friends.

Is there a particular memory that stands out from your time at Concordia?

My favourite days at Concordia were when the discussion in a seminar or workshop continued after class finished, whether it was over a coffee, beer, meal, or between songs at a karaoke bar.

What advice would you give to someone considering doing graduate studies in English?

If writing and reading are your passions, pursuing graduate studies in English can be a deeply rewarding experience. I felt so fortunate to be able to spend a few years writing and discussing literature with people who loved books as much as I did. Once my time at Concordia was over, though, I discovered that I had to be prepared to adapt the skills I honed in the graduate program to different contexts. This is an important step to take in order to persuade prospective employers of the value of your skill set. The good news is that skilled writers, critical thinkers and communicators have a lot to offer, and smart employers—the kinds you want to work for—recognize this.

Top


Gillian Sze
Creative Writing Instructor, Quebec Writers’ Federation and Writer in Montreal, Quebec

A valued community: Studying at Concordia means coming together with intelligent individuals who share an excitement for language and literature
Gillian Sze
How are you applying your graduate degree in English from Concordia to your work today?

Since graduating, I have remained active in the literary scene, taking part in festivals and teaching creative writing to at-risk youth. I also co-founded Branch, an online Canadian literary and arts magazine, and completed a doctorate in English Literature.

My master’s thesis became the basis of my first published collection of poetry, Fish Bones. Since then, I have continued to write and publish a number of collections and chapbooks, including Allow Me to Conjugate, The Anatomy of Clay, Peeling Rambutan, Redrafting Winter, and Fricatives. My latest manuscript, Panicle, will come out this fall.

Is there a particular memory that stands out from your time at Concordia?

During the final year of my master’s, I shared a book launch with Professor Jason Camlot. WithWords, a small press of handmade books, published our chapbooks, A Tender Invention and The Fruit Man and Other Poems, and held a launch at Kafein café-bar. It was really touching to see how full the room was and I felt incredibly validated as an emerging writer.

What advice would you give to someone considering doing graduate studies in English?

There are many opportunities outside of the classroom to stay engaged. For someone like me, who started out in pre-pharmacy in Winnipeg, moving to Montreal was a dream. This city is rich with literary history and I was fortunate to study poetry in a department that boasts internationally recognized scholars and writers. Take advantage of this world.

Top


Kristopher Woofter
English Teacher, Dawson College in Westmount, Quebec

As urban as its surroundings: Remembering the thrill of campus life in the downtown core
Kristopher Woofter
How are you applying your Concordia graduate degree in English to your work today?

For the past 15 years, I have taught literature, cinema and popular culture with a focus on horror, the Gothic, the fantastic, and the Weird tradition. These courses derive from my graduate studies in English at Concordia, where I participated in seminars on the American Gothic, William Faulkner and Toni Morrison, and the Victorian Sensation Novel. Concordia’s English graduate courses featured inventive topics and frameworks that continue to inspire my current work.

What do you value most from your experience in the Department of English at Concordia?

I remember the sense of community in graduate courses. Groups were small and professors were friendly and supportive. When I came to Montreal to visit the university, I was impressed by the genuine quality and down-to-earth personalities of the professors with whom I met. Dr. Nicola Nixon even offered me use of her voicemail in case I needed a local number for potential landlords to phone during my apartment hunt.

What advice would you give to someone considering doing graduate studies in English?

If you have the option, consider doing more coursework instead of a thesis. You can always write a thesis while pursuing a doctoral degree, but you will not get many opportunities to be a student participating in a round of discussions. The main attraction for me as an MA student was to be part of a learning community that meets weekly to discuss issues. I miss that stimulation when I am writing and tend to schedule “work dates” with friends as a result.

Top


Lizy Mostowski
Slavic Literatures and Languages Instructor / John Klier Scholar in the Program of Jewish Culture and Society, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Champaign, Illinois

Fantastic guest speakers: Seeing Elie Wiesel tops this Concordia alumna’s most memorable moments
FL. E. Sterling
How are you applying your Concordia graduate degree in English to your work today?

The close reading, grant writing and teaching skills I developed as a graduate student apply to the various roles I take on at the University of Illinois. My teaching assistantships at Concordia allowed me to ease into teaching with the guidance and mentorship of various professors, giving me the confidence, skills, and experience to be an effective lecturer and educator.

What do you value most from your experience in the Department of English at Concordia?

I value the mentorship of professors who guided me through the various modes of graduate school, particularly the counsel of my thesis advisor, Professor Bina Freiwald. I also greatly benefitted from exhibitions organized by the Centre for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence—now Curating and Public Scholarship—that exposed me to new ways of thinking through cultural tensions.

What advice would you give to someone considering doing graduate studies in English?

It is important to have support from within and without one’s own department. Dr. Freiwald was extremely important to the development of my thesis, but professors in other departments, namely Drs. Norman Ravvin and Erica Lehrer, were also influential in my thinking and development. Concordia also has many excellent research centers to explore, which are helpful when studying literature that is outside the usual canon. The Department of English gave me both the support and flexibility I needed to explore different modes of reading literature during my master’s.

Top


L. E. Sterling
Communications Officer, University of Toronto
Author in Toronto, Ontario

Utterly transcendent course offerings: Literary criticism and ideas stimulate lifelong creativity
FL. E. Sterling
How are you applying your Concordia graduate degree in English to your work today?

After graduating from the MA program, I completed a PhD at McGill University in English Literature and taught college and university courses. Later on, I applied the writing, editing and analytical skills gained from my graduate degrees to a career in communications. I currently have a fantastic “day job” as a communications lead at the University of Toronto.

The MA taught me how to craft long writing projects. This skill laid the foundations for my successful writing career. I learned how to take criticism, edit and navigate the world of professional publication. Now my fourth novel, True Born, is an international bestseller and I am on the cusp of publishing my fifth one.

What do you value most from your experience in the Department of English at Concordia?

The network of writers, artists and intellectuals I met in the department is something I truly value, and I remain friends with a number of my peers and teachers. There are many brilliant and talented people who went through the program and have found remarkable success. I still rely on this network and love to cheer on my friends’ accomplishments!

What advice would you give to someone considering doing graduate studies in English?

Literature degrees are incredibly valuable because they teach you to be critical, analytical, and creative all at the same time. These are the kinds of skills that every employer is looking for, so do not be afraid to take a risk and follow your passion. Do what you love and success will follow.

Top


Richard Almonte
Professor, George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario

Montreal’s beguilingly literary backdrop: Memories of walking streets made famous by Gabrielle Roy, Hugh MacLennan and Mordecai Richler
Dr. Richard Almonte
How are you applying your Concordia graduate degree in English to your work today?

I constantly apply the skills and strategies I developed at Concordia in my classroom teaching, as well as in the ancillary tasks I undertake. For example, I employ competencies such as close reading, analysis and synthesis, public speaking, and research and writing to tertiary projects like textbook writing, conference papers, and curriculum (re)development. Just recently, I was inspired to teach a Gothic Culture course based on a class I took with Dr. Lewis Poteet at Concordia 20 years ago!

Is there a particular memory that stands out from your time at Concordia?

My most indelible memory is the quick bond that developed between the people in my circle of friends over regular post-evening class beers, frites and jazz. Other showstoppers include a memorable train trip to New York City and the bewitching snowy walks home through the quiet city.

What advice would you give to someone considering doing graduate studies in English?

Understand quickly that there are a couple of options once you have chosen to go down this road. The first is the academic option, which requires you to be familiar with the realities of applying for work in a university or college. The alternative is what I call the allied option – jobs for which having a graduate degree in English is excellent preparation. If you are following the second option, you should marry your academic preparation with one or more of the following: intense networking with people in industries you would like to enter, internships, and specialized training.

Top


Stephanie King
English Teacher, Marianopolis College in Westmount, Quebec

Opportunities to study literature from many genres and time periods: English graduate program incorporates readings from different countries and centuries
FL. E. Sterling
What do you value most from your experience in the Department of English at Concordia?

The professors were incredibly intelligent, but also very approachable and caring. On a personal note, some of my closest friends are people I met while at Concordia.

Is there a particular memory that stands out from your time at Concordia?

This may sound strange, but my experiences studying for the comprehensive exams were enjoyable, enriching and only a tad stressful. We had a study group that would meet daily to review and discuss literature, after which we would often venture to McKibbins Irish Pub for a well-deserved beverage. We developed a sense of community and collaboration that helped to shape my identity as an academic. Moreover, we all passed the exam!

What advice would you give to someone considering doing graduate studies in English?

Be both passionate and realistic. Pursue what you love, but also consider different paths to follow after completing your studies. If you do go into academia, be generous with your ideas; sharing and collaborating will teach you more than secluding yourself in the library will. That being said, graduate work in English will involve quite a lot of independent thinking and careful, considerate writing, so be prepared for that. Of course, I must add: choose Concordia. I was enlightened, enriched, and fulfilled by the people and ideas I encountered here.

Top

Stephanie Stonehewer Southmayd
Teaching Assistant and Doctoral Candidate, University of Toronto

Hard-pressed to find more gratifying work: Moments of total literature inspire euphoric learning experiences
Stephanie Stonehewer Southmayd
How are you applying your Concordia graduate degree in English to your work today?

I first became interested in postcolonial studies and contemporary South Asian literature under the direction of my MA supervisor, Dr. Jill Didur. My thesis work with Dr. Didur provided the foundation for my in-depth investigation into globalized postmillennial Indian literature that I am currently conducting at the University of Toronto. It also formed the bulk of one of my dissertation chapters, as well as an article I wrote for Postcolonial Text, an open access journal.

What do you value most from your experience in the Department of English at Concordia?

My professors encouraged me to study texts and periods that I did not think would interest me. Before I started graduate studies, my reading habits tended to focus exclusively on 20th century American and British literature written by white men. The Department of English opened my eyes to new and unexpectedly exciting literary genres and ideas.

Is there a particular memory that stands out from your time at Concordia?

There was one spring afternoon I spent with Dr. Didur at La Croissanterie Figaro in what would turn out to be our first meeting about the direction of my MA thesis. After discussing and rejecting a few ideas, we finally landed on my thesis topic. If memory serves me correctly, I was so excited about this that I started to choke on my almond croissant. Luckily, I survived.

Top


Back to top

© Concordia University