As a PhD Candidate in English Literature and Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto, I’ve worked hard to ensure that my classrooms are dynamic spaces for learning and growth where we can admit when we mess up, be gentle with ourselves when we do, and leave feeling excited about the road of learning that lies ahead of us. In 2015 my passion for teaching and community building resulted in being named an Outstanding Teaching Assistant in the Department of English.
During my time at U of T I’ve sought out every opportunity I can to create spaces where we can learn and grow. This past year I worked with artist, curator, and writer Lauren Fournier on “Sick Theories: A Trans-Disciplinary Conference on Sickness and Sexuality.” The idea for this gathering was born out of my recent diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Understanding the ways in which illness and disability can lead to isolation, I wanted to craft a space where other sick and disabled folks could share their experiences through art, writing, academic talks, and workshops.
But the university isn't the only space where we can learn. During my time in grad school, I've continually asked myself: How can I take my knowledge and training and impact those outside of the university's walls?
To help answer that question, I completed a Certificate in Community-Engaged Learning in 2013 and I used that training to develop workshops for non-profits, business entrepreneurs, and members of the community. Recognizing that conflict is one of the key reasons that relationships and communities fall apart, I underwent training in conflict resolution, and spent three years helping graduate students at U of T navigate the murky waters of conflict. Pairing this training with my belief in the power of community accountability and healing justice, I now offer training on conflict resolution for folks who’re unsure how to move forward in the face of conflict.
And because I can’t get enough of collaborating with others, I partnered with independent publisher With/Out Pretend to create “Unruly Bodies: A Night of Storytelling.” As an English Literature student and a creative writer, I believe in that stories have the power to change the world. In curating this event, I hope to create a space where those living in unruly bodies that are sick, disabled, and mad can share their stories with others — and those in the audience can come to a space where they no longer feel as alone.
Clearly this is something that others want too. Our first event sold out days before the big night, and Unruly Bodies #2, happening January 26th, sold out in less than 5 days! I continue to feel so honoured by the affirmative response this event receives and can’t wait to continue to see what the future brings!