Community and Student Supervision

During the month of December I am participating in #reverb14 as a means of getting my writing habits back on track. I will be altering the prompts as needed to fit within the scope of this blog. Today’s prompt: Victory Laps: What was your biggest accomplishment this year? 

I was fortunate to be part of many great projects this year.  Being part of the effort to bring Walking With Our Sisters (WWOS) to Sault Ste Marie was a humbling and amazing experience.  WWOS is a commemorative art installation honoring missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada and the United States.  The project is community and ceremony driven.  It was inspiring to see so many people in Sault Ste Marie work together on the project and so many people visit the installation.  I learned a lot during this project and had the privilege of working with a great group of community volunteers.

This past year I also had the opportunity to supervise a fourth year undergraduate history thesis.  The student’s thesis focused on the early years of the Shingwauk Residential School.  Acting as a supervisor was an extremely rewarding experience.  The sense of community amongst the supervisors and thesis students was inspiring and allowed for many a good historical debate. 

Being able to see a student work their way through an idea, background research, archival research, and the writing of a thesis was a unique experience that I am glad I had the opportunity to be part of. Having the chance to talk about writing strategies, research methods, and archival research with people who are just as enthusiastic about history is always a great thing. 

Places of Conversation

This week my work is hosting a number of visiting artists and scholars who specialize in work relating to apology, denial, reconciliation, and Indigenous issues more broadly.  It’s been great to have the opportunity to listen to and talk with individuals who are passionate about their work and who approach historical and contemporary issues in creative ways.

Many of the events being held this week focus on the interaction of students with established practitioners and professionals.  For example, one event involved a print making class having the opportunity to speak with artists who have experience working with historical sources, addressing difficult topics, and Indigenous art practice. The students had the opportunity to participate in discussion in a relaxed, informal environment and interact with people who are well known in their respective artistic fields. 

This event reminded me of the importance of spaces which facilitate open discussion and the joy of having many points of view in one room. In this instance the discussion was help in an archival space and part of the discussion focused on the ethics behind using archival material in artistic, research and curatorial practice. I like the idea of archives being places of conversation, places of educational development and safe spaces for new and established scholars to interact.

Seeing a well known scholar or artist speak at a conference is one thing.  As a young scholar or student asking a question during the presentation might be intimidating, as might approaching the speaker without an introduction.  Having opportunities for students to interact with established professionals in a low pressure environment can be a huge boon in terms of networking, confidence building, and professional growth.

I also think it’s important for academic institutions to open their doors to people outside of the academy.  Some of the visiting scholars this week are from other universities, but some also have their own studio practices or focus on community based work.  Broad community engagement and remembering that there is a big world outside of your own institution (academic or otherwise) have the potential to open new avenues of collaboration.

What type of spaces do you think best encourage conversation amongst new and established professionals?