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GLS alumnus Eileen Barrett receives Ewan Clark Memorial Endowment award
Eileen Barrett is an actor, a drama educator and an alumnus of the Graduate Liberal Studies (GLS) program who received the Ewan Clark Memorial Endowment award in 2019. This award recognizes and provides financial assistance to an artist, musician, writer or actor enrolled full-time in the GLS program.
“It really does feel like it was terrific privilege for me to receive this award. It enabled me to not have to take a term off,” says Barrett. “It was enough of a bridge that, with some other scholarship money I got from the Union of BC Performers, I was able to continue my studies. I hope other people get the opportunity.”
Barrett and some of her GLS cohort graduated in May. Hers was the last group that met live for seminars and social gatherings before SFU went online.
Barrett entered the program in 2016 with the thought that it would help her to teach drama at a higher level in postsecondary institutions. She received a diploma from Studio 58, one of Canada’s most respected conservatory theatre training programs, but at the time she attended, it did not grant a degree. Her life and career experience was valued enough by the GLS faculty that she was allowed to enter the program without an undergraduate degree.
Due to the pandemic, all of Barrett’s usual teaching engagements were cancelled, although she has been doing some coaching online with Studio 58 students from Langara College. She also learned how to use audio editing software, to “pivot” her work as an Audio Describer for blind and low vision theatre patrons, to be compatible with online streaming.
Memories of Spain
Barrett holds fond memories of her GLS trip to Spain to study the medieval cultural confluence of Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
“Cordova was very special because that's where I first learned about the women scholars that I ended up writing a play about,” says Barrett. “So to really get a chance to immerse oneself in the day-to-day lives of long dead people was a gift. On a sublime level, that was really fantastic to get the chance to be so immersed in the smell of jasmine and oranges everywhere and the winds coming off the Mediterranean.”
Looking back, Barrett says that her time in GLS has been hugely awakening in terms of social consciousness.
“I’ve had the good fortune to study great minds that have pondered the state of the world, how we got here, what do we do now, how do we do our part to leave it a better world?” she says. “I think it’s given me a sense of responsibility for getting a degree, for using the degree, of doing something in some small way, in some small corner, to leave the world a kinder place.”