Kathryn Alexander

"As a bonus, they will acquire amazing life-long friends and colleagues, as one of the most fantastic aspects of graduate life are the mentors and peers one meets along the way."

Year Graduated: 2000
Program/Degree: 
Educational Theory and Practice: Curriculum and Pedagogy Stream PhD 

Year Graduated: 1993
Program/Degree:
Individual Program MA

I often think of myself as an accidental academic. I came to SFU in the mid-80’s after a decade of working in the ‘pink collar’ ghetto of clerical work in advertising and corporate communications. I thought I might be able to support myself as a freelance copywriter and pursued a BA in English in 1985. In 1988, I stumbled across an independent MA program in the Faculty of Education where I could develop my own studies just as the field of critical literacy studies was being launched. This was what I had always been looking for – a degree that combined philosophy, feminist and critical theory, explorations of language and writing in the world, as well as research that was founded on principles of social justice and community empowerment. 

For lack of a better term, I now recognise my research as belonging to an emergent field now known as as writing studies which encompasses literacy studies, composition and academic writing, ethnographies of literacy, and social cultural studies of genre, writing and rhetoric.  By the time I took up my appointment as an assistant professor in Writing, Rhetoric and Professional Communications at the University of Western Ontario in 2008, I had achieved personal and professional goals that I could have only dreamed of as a young woman.  I had achieved a PhD and I had the privilege of working at SFU as a limited term lecturer developing writing strategies for students across the university curriculum.

What attracted you to come to SFU?

I knew I wanted to come to SFU because it was known as the ‘radical’ university and it had a good reputation for accepting non-traditional, mature students like myself. I encountered so many amazing scholars and academics in my studies and work at SFU, but I have to say working with Dr. Suzanne de Castell and Dr. Janet Giltrow (English) literally changed my life because of their profound critical brilliance, support of their students and commitment to change the university culture.

What would you say to prospective students who are considering graduate school at SFU?

Any graduate student contemplating coming to SFU should be prepared to be challenged and have their world-view expanded in ways they cannot anticipate, even if they view grad school as a hoop for gaining a higher pay scale.  If they authentically engage with their studies they will be rewarded with an expanded repertoire of life altering experiences and critical frameworks that they will carry with them their entire lives.  As a bonus, they will acquire amazing life-long friends and colleagues, as one of the most fantastic aspects of graduate life are the mentors and peers one meets along the way.  

Thesis: Hearing voices in textual spaces : a genre study of the wandering books