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Teaching and English grad Christina Manolescu credits Concordia with a lifetime of learning

The writer ‘couldn’t possibly be more grateful’ as she reflects on her alma mater’s 50th anniversary
May 29, 2024
By Adam H. Callaghan

A Concordia undergraduate student ID card from the early 1990s. Manolescu’s Concordia undergraduate student ID card from the early 1990s.

For Christina Manolescu, BA 80, TESL Cert. 91, there were few opportunities for higher education in the 1970s. By then, she was already in her 20s with some college credits yet plenty of obligations, including a family and a job teaching elementary school.

Concordia, newly formed in 1974 from a merger between George Williams University and Loyola College, offered a mature-student program that Manolescu hadn’t seen anywhere else — including the crucial flexibility of evening classes, even in the summer.

“I think Concordia was a pioneer in this sense,” she says. “It was the only choice I had, but it turned out to be the best.”

She may have been among the first students to enroll at Concordia, but Manolescu wasn’t one of its first to graduate, taking at least six more years to finish her honours English degree. She feels no regrets about that pace; on the contrary, it proved to be another boon. “I was grateful to be able to take courses at my leisure and devote my attention fully to them without cramming it all together.”

Manolescu was so impressed by the university’s flexibility, she returned for a TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certificate. This time it took her at least seven years of part-time studying while teaching. “It was an extremely rigorous program,” she says, “and very worth doing.”

Woman with short hair and earrings looks into the camera Christina Manolescu, BA 80, TESL Cert. 91

A formative professor

Starting out as an atypical undergrad fitting her studies to her unique schedule, Manolescu still had not decided on a field of study. A summer poetry course with Professor Michael Brian, then head of the Department of English, answered that question for her.

“I chose this course, really still unsure of what direction to take,” Manolescu recalls, “and it was nothing less than fascinating, exhilarating, entertaining.”

Professor Brian made the subject magical. He engaged the students informally yet still maintained mutual respect. He was brilliant, kind and tactful, especially when sharing criticism, Manolescu recalls. His course convinced her to study literature, which led to meeting many other noteworthy teachers, a degree and an epiphany.

“By the time it was all over, I decided that writing was the thing for me,” she says.

Self-publishing with help from friends

Manolescu began by penning poems for Concordia’s Los Journal of Poetry and Short Fiction and, much later on, contributing articles for additional university publications such as The Concordian. In the interim, she leapt into the world of self-publishing, which was flourishing in her birthplace of London, England; she moved back there for nearly a decade after finishing her TESL certification in 1991, before eventually returning to Montreal.

That world has kept Manolescu close with fellow Concordians like Cristina Perissinotto, a former Concordia professor of Italian studies. In 2001, the two co-founded an informal organization called the Invisible Cities Network, which promoted the work of independent artists of all stripes.

“We started off as four people around the table, and the venture became much bigger than we could have imagined,” Manolescu recalls, with activities including conferences, poetry readings, musical performances and more during its glory days. The recession of 2008 proved to be a setback for the Invisible Cities Network, but despite its diminished presence, the website carries on 23 years later, advertising arts events, mostly around Montreal, for any artists who want to send Manolescu a note.

Cover of the book Baglady by Christina Manolescu, illustrated by Mary Fitzpatrick. Manolescu is grateful for her Concordia education that led her to a career as a writer of numerous works including Baglady.

Self-publishing has also led to the founding of Manolescu’s Prince Chameleon Press. She and Mary Fitzpatrick, a longstanding friend and former Concordia student, went on to study computer graphics at Rosemount Technology Centre. Fitzpatrick has provided many illustrations for projects that Manolescu has written over the years, including some soon-to-be-published: The Ghost Guard, a fantasy novel for nine- and 10-year-olds, and not one but three sequels to Baglady (2006), a darkly humorous adult novel.

“She’s a truly fine artist,” says Manolescu. “She’s been tremendously helpful to me in my journey, and I hope I’ve been helpful to her as well.”

‘The making of me’

As Concordia turns 50 this year, Manolescu says she’s impressed by how ambitious her alma mater has become, blossoming in a way that is both surprising and logical. She hopes the university continues in its philosophy of making education accessible to all, as it has always been for her.

“Both my degree and certificate courses at Concordia helped me earn a living over these many years,” she says. “I couldn’t possibly be more grateful — Concordia was the making of me.”

50 years: Forever Forward marks Concordia University’s gold and garnet anniversary. From June 2024 to June 2025, our milestone will rally our community of more than 45,000 students, 7,000 staff and faculty as well as 260,000 alumni. We take pride in Concordia’s history and imagine our future as we culminate our university’s historic fundraising effort, the Campaign for Concordia: Next-Gen Now.

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