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Alt-ac Panel

January 21, 2016

Last Friday we were joined by former SFU Graduate Students Haida Antolick, Mariner Janes, Dr. Jennifer Scott, Sam Wiebe, and Dr. Anna Miegon who all discussed their experiences within the program and how that assisted them in their careers.

The Alt-ac Panel (Alternatives to Academic Careers) was a way to discuss careers outside of the academy after completing a Ph.D. or M.A. in our department. All our panelists are thriving examples of the many career possibilities outside of the academy and all spoke to how their degrees assisted them and how current graduate students can present and use their degree on the job market.

This panel is part of a larger conversation always going on within the academy and online, for example following #altac reveals the larger conversation and helpful links provided by professionals and former graduate students to help current graduate students see all the possibilities after completing their degrees.

All panelists pointed to the importance of volunteering and getting involved in your graduate and university community; the relationships and experiences developed there were seen as invaluable by all and also a way to officially communicate your experience to possible employers. Critical thinking was also central to all our panelists, who saw the critical skills they developed in their degrees as an integral strength they carried forward in their careers.

Dr. Jennifer Scott, whose work focused on the influence of the corporate sector in transatlantic literature between 1807 and 1840, reminded us of the many resources available to recent and current graduate students including the APEX professional development program. Scott also revealed the many skills some graduate students may not know they have, for example, giving a conference paper gives you public speaking experience, communication skills, and experience of thinking quickly on your feet. She also revealed the importance to future employers of the excellent writing skills developed by graduate students throughout their degrees. Scott spoke to her experience of applying for jobs before finding the job she now loves as the Member Services Officer in the Faculty Association of SFU; she also pointed to the research and publishing she continues to do in academia, encouraging graduate students to be flexible and open to the possibilities after the completion of your degree.

Mariner Janes, whose M.A. focused on the Downtown Eastside poet Bud Osborn, now works with the Portland Housing Society‚Äôs Community Services managing a mobile needle exchange. Janes explained his work in harm reduction and how his degree from SFU English helped, not only with his critical thinking, but also allowed him to explore his social justice interests. Janes continued to write after his degree and has a poetry collection out now, The Monument Cycles. He spoke to the importance of the transferable skills he gained in his degree in allowing him to pursue his passions and ready him for the job market.

Haida Antolick, whose M.A. focused on contemporary diasporic fiction and racialized affective labour, recommended that graduate students get the most out of the experience of a graduate degree. She spoke to her active involvement within the SFU community, encouraging graduate students to get involved so they can see what type of work they do and do not enjoy. Antolick also pointed to the communication, writing, teaching, and research skills graduate students develop over their degree. She spoke to harnessing and presenting these strengths to possible employers and believing that those skills required for a graduate degree are indeed unique and important strengths for which employers will be searching.

Sam Wiebe, author of The Last of the Independents, now works as an instructor at Coquitlam College. Wiebe spoke to how his M.A. allowed him to work on a lengthy self-directed project and achieve. He highlighted the importance of learning how to tackle individual, sustained, and creative work. Wiebe pointed to the invaluable writing and critical close reading skills his degree allowed him to develop. He also spoke to the ways social justice can be produced and analyzed within a creative work.

Dr. Anna Miegon, whose work focused on the eighteenth-century, now works as a Research Grants Facilitator in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at SFU. Miegon highlighted the importance of understanding and developing both a CV and resume, and making sure either your CV or resume is tailored for the job for which you are applying. She also pointed out the importance of the relationships you form within your graduate degree, especially with your supervising professors. These relationships can assist and guide you both in and out of your degree. The research and composition skills gained in her degree were seen as central to moving into the job market for Miegon. The organizational and communicative skills graduate students can develop throughout the completion of their projects were also key skills Miegon revealed to bring into the job market.

The Alt-ac panel was an engaging and exciting event with excellent questions and discussion. Thank you to the organizers of the event and a huge thank you to all our panelists for taking the time to come and speak with us about their careers and their degrees.