What is your occupation?
My official title is communications strategist with the University of Alberta’s Office of Advancement and Strategic Communications. I’m the staff writer for New Trail, the university’s alumni magazine, and I also write for Thought Box, the alumni online publication. I write for other communications projects, but New Trail is my main focus.
What steps did you take to become a communications strategist at the U of A?
My love of writing began when I was in elementary school. My best friend and I would write newscasts and record them using an old tape recorder and a little microphone. In high school, I was lucky enough to have the most wonderful and endearingly eccentric English teacher for all three grades. It was then I decided to major in English in university. When I started classes at Concordia, Dr. Querengesser was a powerful influence. I loved all of his classes. Dr. Q was a supportive and positive professor, and I have always said he is one of the reasons I earned my English degrees. I worked at the school newspaper while at Concordia, and this, combined with my degree, helped me get a job at a newspaper in Yellowknife (sometimes you have to start small to get experience). I moved there in January – what was I thinking? It was a transformative experience, personally and professionally, but after four years it was time to move back to balmy Edmonton. I then started freelance writing for the Edmonton Journal’s special features department, and this turned into a full-time job with the Advertising department’s special features division. It was nearly 10 years later that I applied to the U of A, and now here I am with a dream job. I get to interview researchers, professors and alumni and learn about all the amazing things they do – from climate change and neutrinos to the TRC and helping feed hungry refugees.
How did your English degree help you get to where you are today?
Where do I begin? My English courses helped me learn how to learn, analyze what I am reading, and communicate my thoughts in lucid and hopefully interesting ways. I’m not sure if it’s Einstein who said this, but it’s a great quote: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” When you’re pitching a story idea to a sharp-minded editor, this quote becomes quite poignant.
Philosophy taught me how to think, while psychology and sociology helped me read and interact with people I work with and interview. My university education as a whole fed my natural curiosity and taught me time management, responsibility, and that hard work brings a sense of pride. Looking back, I can clearly see the path that brought me where I am today, and standing alongside it are my English teachers, my extracurricular activities that set me apart from others, a supportive family, and my own tenacity to prove to myself that I could succeed.