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Autobiographical comic book thesis an SFU first

June 08, 2018

Written by Allen M. Quinn 

North Vancouver secondary school art teacher Meghan Parker is graduating this month from SFU with an MA in education and a special distinction. She is the first Canadian to complete a comic book thesis in an autobiographical form at SFU.

The 236-page thesis is an autobiographical comic exploring Parker’s personal experiences and reflections as a new teacher in the public-school system.

“It is a humorous, playful and empathetic portrayal of my lived experiences but also explains why the arts matter, arguing that through the arts we can connect with one another, finding our common humanity,” says Parker.

This process began through course work in Dr. Lynn Fels' performance inquiry class. “We were invited to share weekly reflections on readings, lived experiences and classroom practices in a verbal-visual form. The comics emerged through this assignment and quickly became my language both to learn through and communicate with.”

These weekly assignments caught Fels' attention. “Meghan’s cartoons arrived as an unexpected delight in my performative inquiry class, and weekly, became Meghan’s action site of inquiry and documentation of moments, issues, concerns that she encountered daily in her life, and as an art teacher in a high school,” says Fels. As a result, Fels, along with Dr. Michael Ling, encouraged Parker to take the leap and create a comic thesis.

The process was fun, yet time consuming for Parker. “I carried a sketchbook with me everywhere and documented my daily practices, experiences, lessons, challenges and questions. They were created in no particular order and I was making about 2-3 comics a week over a two-year period.” Parker worked closely with Fels and Ling in this period, discussing, stacking, sorting and rearranging the work into its final form.

Since its successful public defense, Parker’s thesis has received the 2017 Arts Researchers Teachers Graduate Research Award and is the first thesis of its kind at SFU.

“I am honoured and grateful to have created the first Master’s thesis at SFU in a comic form,” says Parker. “I feel as through this form I was able to create a scholarly work that was artful, insightful, and deeply personal, and it has been the most meaningful learning experience I have ever undertaken. I wish that experience upon everyone.”