Shauna Oddleifson, BFA

(She, Her, Hers)

Communications and Marketing Specialist

Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies
Office: CCS 177
Phone: 250.807.9864


Faculty research promotion
Development of promotional material for recruitment purposes
Writing content for faculty, student and alumni profiles
Undergraduate and Graduate program promotion
Student Recruitment, graduate and undergraduate
Alumni Relations
Support for events in FCCS departments (promotions, logistics, planning)
Faculty wide event planning
FCCS websites updates and content creation
Social media content management


John LeBlanc at his retirement party saying his farewell

John LeBlanc, associate professor emeritus of English and Cultural Studies, died suddenly on October 30 at his home in Vancouver, a city he adored.

Born Armand John LeBlanc in 1952 in North Sydney, NS, he was educated at St. Francis Xavier and U Calgary where he completed a PhD in English in 1990. He came “down the road” to Alberta in 1977. He worked in postcolonial studies, on writers from the Caribbean (Jean Rhys, Derek Walcott). He was hired at OUC (now UBCO) in 1993 and retired in 2013. He was a dedicated colleague and teacher, and was one of the founders of UBCO’s Cultural Studies program. He had a wonderful retirement, creating a film discussion group for the UBCO Emeritus College over Covid, contributing to Vancouver’s International Film Society, leading walks for the Canadian Company of Pilgrims on the southern Gulf Islands. He had just returned from an 800 km trek on the Camino at the end of September, his third Camino, and was planning Mount Blanc in France next year. A Maritimer to the core, where his Scots and French roots are deep, his ashes will be interred next summer back home with his people.

Brianne Christensen

Brianne Christensen at UBC Okanagan after he thesis defiance, November 2023

Brianne Christensen completed her BA in English (Hons) at UBCO before joining the MA in English graduate program in 2021. She defended her thesis in November 2023, “Hospitality in Crisis: New Sincerity and Receiving the Stranger in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet.” She was supervised by Dr. Jennifer Gustar, with committee members, Dr. George Grinnell and Dr. Margaret Reeves.

We asked Brianne to discuss her experience at UBCO as a master’s student.

Why did you choose to apply to the MA in English program here at UBCO?

When I applied to the MA in English program, I was in the final stages of writing my Honour’s thesis, which explored Ali Smith’s disruptive narrative style in Spring (2019) and There but for the (2011). At the time, I was thinking about the ways in which Smith’s modes of writing engage with experiences of hospitality, especially in the context of unexpected arrivals, and I was beginning to develop an understanding of the intersections in her work between socio-political and literary concerns. Yet I felt that I wasn’t quite finished with Smith––more accurately, she wasn’t finished with me!

As I became increasingly invested in the discourses surrounding Brexit and immigration in the UK­––issues central to Smith’s thinking on hospitality in the Seasonal Quartet––it felt urgent that I pursue further research on what her novels, modes of writing, and particular ethics as an author might offer for thinking about the social role and responsibility of the novel form in times of multiple crises related to hospitality and its refusal.

I decided to undertake this research at UBCO because I learned so much from working with Dr. Jennifer Gustar––my Honour’s thesis supervisor––and I knew that I wanted to keep thinking with her while writing my Master’s thesis. I had the excellent luck to meet Dr. Gustar as a second-year undergraduate student and, from then on, I took every one of her courses that I could. In fact, it was in one of these courses that I first encountered Ali Smith’s fiction. Over the years, working with Dr. Gustar has itself been a study in hospitality; her constant encouragement, generosity, and sheer brilliance will continue to inspire me both in life and in my future academic endeavours.

Tell us about the road to earning your UBC degree.

The road to earning my Master’s degree was full of unexpected opportunities that enabled me to grow as a student, researcher, and thinker. I’m incredibly thankful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their generosity in the form of a CGS-M award as well as the Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement, which allowed me to undertake site research abroad in the UK hosted by the University of Exeter. While in England, I studied post-Brexit UK migration narratives in multiple forms, including museum exhibitions, art installations, and hybrid literary genres combining prose, poetry, and creative non-fiction. This interdisciplinary research enriched my work immensely and provided me with valuable context with which to theorize Smith’s rhetoric of hospitality.

I’m incredibly fortunate to be a part of the supportive and motivating community that is the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies at UBCO. I particularly enjoyed participating in the FCCS Research Series, both as a presenter and a listener. My own presentations in 2022 and 2023 helped me to clarify my thinking and facilitated connections with peers and professors whose scholarly interests productively overlap with my own. As a result of my first Research Series presentation, I was invited to contribute to the inaugural issue of RESPECT: UBC’s Equity Magazine––an opportunity I’m especially grateful for! I also presented a work-in-progress paper alongside other graduate students at the Critical Relations Symposium in April 2023, a truly special event organized by members of my fantastic cohort.

Tell us about your thesis.

My thesis is an effort to theorize Ali Smith’s particular rhetoric of hospitality––as she expresses it in the four novels of the Seasonal Quartet and in public paratexts––as well as to explore the potential of her modes of writing for thinking about hospitality and sincere welcome, two urgent geopolitical concerns that we must understand better as we move forward. I argue that, while Smith’s Quartet draws always on the context of immigration and post-Brexit Britain to address the pressing need of hospitality in social life as well as in art and literature, she is also developing sincere modes of writing that are themselves attuned to hospitality.

How did your professors support you throughout your degree?

My professors supported me with dedication and enthusiasm that exceeded all possible expectations. Working and thinking with my supervisor Dr. Jennifer Gustar was a major highlight of my experience at UBCO. Dr. Gustar went above and beyond to support me; she flew across the country to watch me present at my first conference in Montreal, spent hours reading my work, and always knew exactly what to say when I hit a wall in my thinking. Put simply, Dr. Gustar was the best supervisor any student could hope to work with.

I cannot put into words how thankful I am for the support of my committee members, the “dream team”: Dr. George Grinnell and Dr. Margaret Reeves. Their careful and attentive close reading, intellectual rigour, and generous feedback helped shape my thesis project into all that I hoped it might become. Dr. Grinnell and Dr. Reeves each challenged me to think deeply and to strive for excellence, while always encouraging me to pursue my passions, interests, and instincts.

Dr. Emily Murphy was also a wonderful and supportive professor whom I was lucky to meet. Her encouragement, keen editorial eye, and invaluable suggestions significantly contributed to my successful SSHRC application and helped frame my thinking for the project.

Throughout my years as both an undergraduate and graduate student at UBCO, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of also encountering Dr. Gustar, Dr. Grinnell, Dr. Reeves, and Dr. Murphy as a student in their courses. Their dedication to their students, passion for the material, and thoughtfulness are qualities I will aspire to in my own teaching in the future.

What are your plans now that you have completed your master’s degree?

My plan for the immediate future is to work, read widely, and prepare applications for PhD programs. I also have a substantial archive of research that didn’t quite make it into my thesis; I plan to produce at least one scholarly article with this material. In the long term, I aspire to teach at the university level, and I’m passionate about continuing to pursue my research interests, which are increasingly concerned with the relationships between politics and aesthetics, law and literature, and hospitality and authorship.

Tom Leveen

Tom Leveen

In the second grade, Tom Leveen discovered his passion for storytelling. Students were given a task to write a short story, an exercise in honing handwriting skills. The teacher called him up, asking him to rewrite this story, making it longer, and Tom was told he was going to read it to the first graders.

“I thought I was being punished for something. I had no idea what I had done wrong,” Tom remembers. “This was one of those scary teachers, so I followed her instructions. And the next day, I was sent over to the first-grade classroom, terrified, because who loves public speaking, especially when you’re 8.”

He looked out at those wide-eyed first graders, and the world seemed to change.

“At that moment, I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I want to be up in front of people and I want to tell them stories.” A spark ignited within him, setting him on a path to pursue storytelling and creativity.

Leveen published his first novel with Random House in 2010, followed by eight more young-adult fiction novels. His second published work was actually a project he undertook in his first year in college in the early 90’s.

He dedicated over two decades to promoting and nurturing the arts, operating two theatre and mixed-use art venues in Phoenix, making films, and working as an actor, all while doing school visits, conferences, and conventions to promote his published young-adult fiction novels.

When his book, Random (2015), came out in the US, they sold the German language translation rights.

“And much to my surprise, I was contacted by somebody at the US Embassy in Berlin, and was asked to come to Germany for a book tour in eight different German schools, all English language speaking.”

That trip changed how Leveen saw the world. “My wife and I had both been overseas before when we were very young, and didn’t really appreciate all the differences from those cultures compared to growing up in the US,” he remembers. “As adults, and I think also as parents, coming back over from that long trip, we really started to realize the differences.”

He noted that there are so many vastly different cultures in such close proximity in Europe. Germany had opened his eyes to the incredible possibilities of life outside his homeland, “And we started talking relatively frequently about what other ways there could be to do life.”

That led him to look for a place to complete his master’s degree with the goal to teach at the university level.

Leveen cast a wide net, searching internationally for suitable programs, including in Germany. He had been accepted into several programs including the library program at UBC Vancouver, the interdisciplinary program at Simon Fraser, and the MFA program here at UBC Okanagan, all of which were very tempting he says.

It was a visit to Kelowna that ultimately led him to the decision to come here. “My wife and I came up a few months before I had to make my decision and after the three nights we spent here, I knew that Kelowna was where me and my family were meant to be.”

“As a published author, I have experience in writing and publishing, but it was exciting to read about the creative writing faculty in Creative and Critical Studies,” he says. “They’re working on stuff that I don’t know about, and that was a big draw for me.”

The program has given him the opportunity to delve into poetry and nonfiction, subjects he notes he has had very little experience with. “The variety in teaching styles and approaches has broadened my understanding of these genres.”

Leveen notes that this program has turned out to be an invigorating experience. “It has given me fresh perspectives on writing, and I’ve learned about other unique viewpoints and motivations in ways I hadn’t encountered in my professional publishing experience. I’m learning a new vocabulary, a new way of talking about storytelling and about art and creation.”

He has found that his professors in the MFA program have a deep understanding of both the creative and the business aspects of writing. They don’t lose sight of the art’s value and purpose, making sure to prioritize these discussions alongside the business aspects.

“After over a decade in the industry, this approach is not just refreshing but also motivating. It has reignited my passion for my own creative practice. The emphasis on the artistic aspect of my field has made me appreciate my practice in a whole new light. I’m excited about what the future holds, and I’m grateful for the journey of rediscovery that UBC Okanagan has provided me.”

Leveen is in the second year of his program, and will be teaching a third-year creative writing class, Writing for Children, in the winter of 2024.

Tom Leveen reading

Tom Leveen at a storytime event for Arizona Humanities

About Tom Leveen

Apropos of absolutely nothing, Tom has also: finished a marathon, two Spartan Sprints and a Super, completed a grueling 13-and-a-half hour crucible event coached by retired Navy SEALs, played guitar in three bands (but only in public once), earned a blue belt in tae kwon do, studied fencing, kenpo, and aikido, co-hosted a public access television show, been the artistic director of a theatre company and of a mixed-use arts venue, been an early literacy specialist, spent twenty years earning a four-year degree, did a ten-day book tour in Germany for his novel Random, and spent a total of nearly nine years in public library work, including being a Teen Programmer and Early Literacy Specialist.

PhD graduate Toby Lawrence (centre) with supervisors Ashok Mathur and Tania Willard after convocation, June 2022. 

In 2021, Toby Lawrence completed a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies at UBCO in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, working with supervisors Tania Willard & Dr. Ashok Mathur (OCAD U). Her doctoral research critically examines contemporary initiatives reshaping curation that move beyond dominant western parameters of curation to offer something else. This research is supported by a deep dive into feminist and decolonial methodologies, which she employs throughout her own curatorial practice, including her current jobs. Lawrence also holds an MA in Art History from the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at UBC in Vancouver.

She shared some insights on her time here at UBCO and what she is doing now.

What is your current profession? 

I have been working as a curator for the past 15 years. Since 2020, I have been working as a curator at Open Space, an artist-run centre in Victoria. This October, I will be returning to Vancouver to take on the role of Curator of Outdoor Art with UBC’s Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. I am also co-developing an educational platform called Moss Project: Curatorial Research + Learning Program, as an alternative space for discourse and pedagogy within curation that supports historically underrepresented and racialized curators alongside allied practitioners through peer-to-peer learning, inquiry and mentorship.

What inspires you about your work? 

The potential of art as a catalyst towards learning, engagement, conversations and understanding, and the opportunity to bring people together through incredible and endless examples of creativity and innovation.

What made you decide, or influenced you to come to UBCO for your graduate degree?

I was looking for professors that could offer mentorship in specific modes of arts organization and creative practice. I was introduced to Dr. Ashok Mathur, who was the Creative Studies chair at the time, through work colleagues and I reached out to see if he was accepting students.

How do you think your degree set you up for your current position?

Timing played a large role in the success of my degree. The practices of my supervisors, committee members and cohort offered opportunities to experience and participate in projects that were foundational to my research and growth as a curator in significant and meaningful ways. These experiences, including participation in BUSH Gallery activities, sharing studio space with Samuel Roy-Bois and co-organizing the Indigenous Art Intensive alongside current and past FCCS faculty Ashok Mathur, Stephen Foster and Tania Willard, continue to influence the ways in which I work in my current position.

Tell us about people who have influenced you or helped you in your academic journey and current career.

I don’t have an official mentor; however, there are a handful of folks, including my UBC co-supervisors Ashok Mathur and Tania Willard and previous managers Julie Bevan (now Museum London) and Michelle Jacques (now Remai Modern and Moss Project collaborator), who continue to offer support and advice towards my professional trajectory. Each also demonstrate leadership qualities in their own practices that I value.

The FCCS Brown Bag Research Series, supported by the Associate Dean of Research, is a chance to hear from our faculty and graduate students to learn what’s happening in each department. We’re looking forward to hearing presentations on research, scholarship and creative output from any and all of our colleagues in the coming months.

All speaking events will be held on Fridays from 12:00 to 1:00 pm and will be hybrid – location for in-person attendance is FIP 140, Zoom for virtual attendance. Registration is required for both, we will provide free lunch to all those who wish to attend in person (vegetarian sandwiches and juice).

Register Now

Please note, the deadline to register if you want lunch included is Tuesday noon prior to the talk. 


Friday, October 13

  • Dr. Daniel Keyes, Associate Professor, English & Cultural Studies
    The Centre for Indigenous Media Arts: What Happens to Born-Digital Research when the Director Departs? Born-digital media involves loss. The following is a story of the loss of Indigenous media. In 2012 Stephen Foster, a media artist and faculty member at the University of British Columbia Okanagan [UBCO] of Haida and settler ancestry (UBCO Senate 6), creates the Centre for Indigenous Media Arts [CIMA] that includes a website. On 1 January 2020, Foster joins Ontario College of Art & Design University as the Dean of its Faculty of Arts (OCAD University). In August 2022, a search for CIMA’s homepage indicates the page is inaccessible. A search for the CIMA’s website files by the UBCO campus IT services indicates these files and files associated with CIMA were all deleted as is customary when scholars leave the institution. Today traces of CIMA can be located on Internet Archives’ Wayback Machine offering 39 captures between September 20, 2015 and April 12, 2021. The only remaining physical remnant of CIMA is a small sign perched high outside the former Centre. Yet digital traces of CIMA’s existence persist as dead links: In 2022 a webpage designed to recruit Indigenous students to UBC continues to mention CIMA and provide a link to the dead site (UBC, “Indigenous.”). Various high-level planning documents like the 2020 UBC Indigenous Strategic Plan mention CIMA as part of the institution’s steps towards reconciliation. Moreover, CIMA’s deletion is puzzling in the context of UBC Okanagan’s 2019 Declaration of Truth and Reconciliation (UBC Indigenous Strategy Plan 11) that might insist the preservation of CIMA’s digital face needs to be preserved. The 2020 UBC Indigenous Strategic Plan notes UBC has been incremental in its approach reconciliation and that “the University needs to undertake to lay an enduring foundation for the future relationship with Indigenous peoples on our campuses and beyond” (11). I assume enduring might involve a commitment to “archiving” or “preserving” Indigenous research but these terms are absent from the plan. This story of loss gives rise to many questions beyond the four below: • How can media researchers best prepare for archival loss? • Is media art performative and as such is such loss therefore acceptable? • Should UBC and by extension other research universities have a duty of care (Care Manifesto) for such material beyond the Wayback machine as a default repository? • Is there an ideal “death kit” model for flattening born-digital media when the funding runs out or personal retire or depart that see the University as perpetual custodian?

Friday, October 27

  • Dr. Greg Garrard, Professor, English & Cultural Studies
    Reading Canada’s Species at Risk Act (2002) as Bio-cultural Nationalism: The American Endangered Species Act (1973) is often described as the most effective conservation law ever passed. As Ursula Heise explains in Imagining Extinction, though, if one compares the ESA alongside conservation laws from other countries, one finds that they embody quite distinct senses of ‘why and how … communities see the fate of nonhuman species as part of their own identity and history.’ ‘Effectiveness’ cannot be determined without reference to these enculturated ideas about what is valued and conserved. We adopt Heise’s approach in a close reading of Canada’s Species at Risk Act (2002), and go on to show how bio-cultural nationalism, as much as scientifically-ascertained conservation status, affects SARA species listings.

Friday, November 10

  • Zach DeWitt, MA in English student
    Reading Indigenous literature confronts the non-Indigenous reader with many challenges, not the least of which is the epistemological difference between Western perspectives and Indigenous worldviews. While many explanations of this challenge exist in Indigenous studies, I turn to the specific relationship between story and theory in various Indigenous cosmologies to engage with the relationship between the non-Indigenous reader and the Indigenous text. Haisla and Heiltsuk author Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach offers this turn, as Robinson’s novel provokes the reader to take up epistemological considerations in their reading by explicitly directing them to consider certain aspects of Haisla thought and cosmology. My exploration of this “epistemological turn” will not only engage with Robinson’s exploration of nusa — the Haisla word for teaching traditional protocols — but also more general considerations of the coexistence of story and theory. I believe that such considerations might offer an approach for the reader to engage with the challenges of epistemological difference.

Friday, November 24

  • Miriam Cummings, MFA Interdisciplinary Studies
    Live, solo, participatory thesis performance: Drawing back the curtains to reveal an ongoing research-creation process. Miriam’s thesis performance engages the audience in techniques that build tangible, repeatable skills that they can take away into their lives, such as somatic listening and physical imagination. The performance is currently being built over a series of six invited development sessions during October-December 2023. The project asks: Can the explicit facilitation of guided somatic practices in theatrical performance enact a collective heightened presence that leads to embodied learning?

Friday, December 8

  • Tara Nicholson, PhD IGS student, Digital Art & Humanities theme
    Work-in-Progress: “Documenting Mammoths, EcoXombies & Other Arctic Extinctions: Designed to access a contemporary understanding of an active and non-static Arctic, my work documents ‘rock-star’ climatologists engaged in unravelling the effects of permafrost melt and ice sheet collapse. Spending time at remote science stations, I have become fascinated by the connections between art and science methodologies. The scientists I have spoken with employ vast forms of experimentation and nonlinear ways of working. Equally, I have also been drawn to understand the more speculative forms of climatology including large-scale techno-fixes and the increasing fascination to (de)extinction, and trophic rewilding. During the summer of 2023, I visited the University Centre (UNIS), the Svalbard Seed Bank and several permafrost monitoring sites in Longyearbyen, Norway. Part of the Norwegian archipelago, Longyearbyen is the world’s largest, most northern, continuously populated town that is attracting a growing number of tourists, researchers, and seasonal workers as it transitions from a coal mining town into an international sightseeing and research destination. Due to its location, adjacent to a warming oceanic jet stream, polar ice melt and permafrost erosion have been reported at a rate of four to six times faster than other landmasses on Earth leading to difficult challenges for the community. This intensified warming, often defined as Arctic amplification, is linked to erratic weather and the disappearance of permafrost landscape- causing landslides, infrastructure destruction and the vanishing of habitat for nonhuman animals. Amongst these catastrophic changes, Svalbard has been positioned as a ‘warming experiment,’ and the future-reality of climate crisis, as its extraordinary effects on human and more-than-human ways of life are already playing out in real-time.

Friday, January 12

  • Annie Furman, MFA Interdisciplinary Studies
    Presenting on writing, designing, and producing short performances to engage audiences with tangible, local climate solutions by looking at the Climate Change Theatre Action performances I am producing with Prof. Denise Kenney in December 2023 as a case study.

Friday, January 26

  • TBC

Friday, February 9

  • TBC

Friday, February 23

  • TBC

Friday, March 8

  • Victoria Verge, MFA Visual Arts
    In my presentation, I will share a condensed version of my thesis research, which delves into the fragility of homes and the profound impact of frequent relocation on families, explored primarily through sculpture and installation. Supported by the Audain Travel Award, I will conduct field research in November, visiting military bases in Southern Ontario. This expedition aims to gather essential resources and materials for my sculptures, as well as to conduct interviews with current military families. Through this exploration I aim to shed light on the intricate experiences of these families coping with frequent relocations.

Friday, March 22

  • Amira Ahmed, PhD IGS student, Digital Art & Humanities theme
    Presentation of PhD study on digital heritage and its implications for global citizenship education. My research investigates the use of immersive media technologies in promoting intercultural dialogue through heritage edu-communication.

Friday, April 5

  • TBC
Brianna Ferguson

Brianna Ferguson

Brianna Ferguson completed her MFA in Creative Writing in 2022 at UBC Okanagan. In 2021, Mansfield Press published her first book of poetry, A Nihilist Walks into a Bar.

She is a writer and educator from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. She holds a Master of Fine Arts, a Bachelor of Education, and a Bachelor of Arts from UBC. Her poems and stories have appeared in various publications across North America and the U.K.

We met with Brianna to discuss her book and to get some insight on her writing process.

Tell us about your collection of poetry.

Several of the poems did come from a creative partnership with one of my colleagues in the MFA program, Andisha Sabri Carey. During the program, we started up a Twitter hashtag, PoToGo (Poetry to go) and challenged each other to tweet a new poem every alternating day for a month. Several of the poems I wrote during that time made it into the book. Another poem in the collection even came from a writing prompt created by a few of my colleagues in one of their classroom presentations. They had this beautiful presentation about water and how it factors into various works they were interested in. They prompted us to write about water, so of course I wrote about the playground conversations my friends and I used to have about how water is only ever recycled, so at one point all the water in our bodies was probably dinosaur urine.

What was your process in writing the book?

This collection, like so many other first collections, took shape over nearly a decade of writing and publishing and struggling along. Eventually, after years of writing, I realized a lot of my work tended to meditate on mortality and beer. There’s a book, I thought to myself, and here we are.

What was your experience working with an editor and publisher?

Working with Stuart Ross was a dream. As an editor, he who wasn’t afraid to tell me if he hated something or to cut whole sequences, and it was exactly the experience I always craved as a writer. Honestly, it was probably the most rewarding creative experience I’ve ever had. Nothing motivates me like tough love.

In terms of publication, I got really lucky. I sent my manuscript out to several publishers in January 2021, as part of my New Year’s resolutions, and by late February I had an acceptance from Mansfield. I only found Mansfield after seeing Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things and falling in love with the poem “Bonedog” which featured in it. I looked up the poem, found the author, found her publisher, and the rest is history.

Tell us about your time at UBCO as a student.

Being an undergrad at UBCO was easily one of the happiest times of my life. I spent six years after high school desperately wanting to go to school and worrying my high school grades wouldn’t allow me to without a bunch of upgrading. High school was the worst time of my life, and it showed in my grades. I finally applied, though, and managed to squeak in.

Right off the bat, I had Creative Writing 160 with Michael V. Smith, who immediately gave me the perfect blend of academia and friendship. I’m indebted to him for really honing my writing and cheering me on from day one. He’s a rare gem among human beings. Anderson Araujo was another prof whose classes I’d have given an arm to attend. He knows his stuff so completely, and he’s got so much passion for his material; I could listen to him for hours, probably even without a coffee on hand. Jennifer Gustar, Lisa Grekul, Matt Rader, I mean good lord – there are so many amazing people here.

You are teaching a first-year creative writing class here at UBCO this fall. How did you know you wanted to teach?

Loving UBCO as much as I do, professor-poet is the only job I’ve ever really wanted. I got my Bachelor of Education when I was living in Vancouver a few years back, so I could start to understand the profession – and of course, so I’d always have something to fall back on. I never dreamed I’d actually get to teach at UBCO, because why should I get exactly what I want? But then Matt Rader called me up one day and asked me to teach CRWR 160. If it weren’t for that call, I’d still be fretting away like I did before I applied to my BA. I only hope, now that I’m here, that I can do for my students what Michael and so many other profs did for me. Michael always let me write what I wanted while showing me how I could tweak it to appeal to a larger audience, or to hone the language. Never more than that. He let me splash around and learn things for myself, and it’s that teaching style that I want to bring to my own students. I don’t want to stifle anyone or try to make them into versions of my own creative self. I just want to create a space where people can be comfortable sharing ideas and having fun with writing. Writing is life, of course, but it’s also just writing. Nothing good ever came from taking things too seriously.

Brianna Ferguson book launch

Brianna Ferguson at her book launch, April 2022, at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art

Michelle Grahame

Michelle Grahame

After doing a few tours of campuses in the pacific north west and Vancouver Island, Michelle Grahame decided that the Okanagan was the place for her at the time. With her sights set on a university where she could pursue a program in creative writing, she chose UBC Okanagan to complete her undergraduate degree.

“When I was looking at places to study and where I might be living, the campus in Kelowna just appealed to me a little bit more than others I had been to,” she says.

Coming from North Vancouver, she was looking for somewhere that was not so close to home. “As a first-year student, you’re spending pretty much all your time on campus, the Okanagan and the UBCO campus was somewhere I could picture myself.”

Grahame started her degree in 2010, and was on a fast track to complete by 2013. To do so, she took advantage of the classes over the summer, allowing her to earn her degree within three years.

“I think school had always kind of been my safe place, so I didn’t really know what it was like to be working or out in the world.” Grahame explains that she was eager to work on her courses throughout the summer to keep her engaged in her studies.

Realizing that everyone’s path is a little bit different, after graduation, she decided that she needed to go a different direction, took a working-holiday in Australia, came back and became a certified personal trainer before eventually undertaking a graduate diploma in business administration.

“One of the biggest pieces of advice that I often give people is take your time. There’s so much you can get out of things when you’re not rushing through them.”

“When I went into my undergraduate degree, I knew I wanted to do creative writing and was considering a double major, but without having much experience outside school never found the right fit.”

Grahame adds: “When I entered into the diploma in business administration, I thought to myself, ‘Ok, I have this creative writing degree, I’ve done all of these really random things with my career and I don’t really know what direction I’m going.’”

Deciding to gain business knowledge helped her grow and shift her thinking and begin planning for her future.  “Instead of thinking about my end destination, I started to consider what are some of the things that I enjoy doing? What motivates and drives me? How might I grow and build on the things I have studied and learned?”

Grahame currently works at Simon Fraser University as an Associate Director in the Graduate Studies office, and is working to complete her Master’s in Business Administration (MBA).

During her undergraduate degree, Grahame focused mostly on poetry, and towards the second-half of her degree, she started doing a more nonfiction memoir writing.

“Learning to write in these different genres has really helped me as I’m working towards my MBA where there is a lot of reflective writing that is required,” she notes. “Although I’m not writing as much creatively right now, it’s having the ability to look back on your experiences and then present that to people, to be able to convey that message – that is something that I find most valuable from my degree.”

Grahame remembers that her classes at UBCO were intimate environments where you get to know both your professors and your peers quite well. The workshop experience really teaches you how to give constructive feedback but also receive and implement that constructive feedback.

“Being in the MBA program, it is team based, so having that experience at an undergraduate level made it quite an easy transition for me.”

Grahame adds that in her current career as a leader and manager, having that ability to work with your team and give that feedback is really important, and that practice with creative writing prepared her to be able to do just that.

“In those classes you are often sharing things that that are more intimate and makes you vulnerable. That experience has served me well in my workplace.”

Symposium organizer Jodey Castricano (back left) along with graduate students Annie Furman (left front), Madeline Donald (middle), and Zach DeWitt (right)

A unique collaboration is providing a research exchange between UBC Okanagan and soon-to-be visiting faculty from England’s University of Exeter, at UBC’s Okanagan campus. Entitled, Telling Stories: The Humanities in an Age of Planetary Agenda-Setting, this initiative involves collaborators Dr. Jodey Castricano (UBCO), Dr. Ina Linge (U Exeter), Dr. Paul Young (U Exeter). This event is stage two of a series of events housed at both University of Exeter and UBC Okanagan, and aims to move towards and make space for an Arts/Humanities response to climate change, mass extinction, and environmental degradation, in order to drive healthy, sustainable, and just social and environmental change.

At a time when demands for environmental sustainability and food system justice are increasingly urgent, and planetary agendas are being set by scientific and financially interested parties, this project explores how Arts and Humanities scholars and artists at both Exeter and UBC Okanagan can contribute to agenda setting and climate justice through storytelling methods. This approach is important because stories serve to naturalize certain ways of thinking about and acting in the world, and because they can invite and inspire meaningful social and cultural engagement and action.

By engaging scholars, thinkers, makers, and creatives, we aim to reframe and rewrite climate justice narratives–ie. stories–that are currently exclusive to science, technology, and economics.

This event is stage two of the collaboration and includes both a symposium (July 19th, 2023) and a Multispecies Storytelling Workshop (July 21st, 2023). Our symposium takes place at UBC Okanagan campus, while the Multispecies Storytelling Workshop is situated on the land at Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre, both of which are on the unceded and ancestral land of the Okanagan Syilx people.

Follow the link below to learn more and to register for the symposium and workshop.

Telling Stories Symposium and Workshop

This event is supported by a UBC Okanagan-Exeter Excellence Catalyst Grant entitled “Telling Stories: The Humanities in an Age of Planetary Agenda-Setting”, the Faculty of Critical and Creative Studies and is organized by the Post-Anthropocentrism and Critical Animal Studies Research Group [PACAS].

Students walking to the convocation ceremony, MFA student Umar Turaki pictured at the front

The year’s convocation ceremony was held in person on June 8th, and the faculty and staff in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies are happy to congratulate all of the students who completed their degrees in 2023.

This year we have sixteen masters students, four doctoral students, fifty-one Bachelor of Arts students, seventeen Bachelor of Fine Arts students, and four Bachelor of Media Studies students who are graduating with their degrees.

Breckin Baillie, who completed his BA degree with an Honours in English, and a member of the graduating class of 2023, was the student reader at our ceremony, and shared these words with the graduating class:

“These years of our lives, will not be idly shelved into the recesses of our brain to be forgotten. While we have been here, we have fulfilled this etymology of nourishing – we have been nourished by this institution, by the education we have received,” he said. “We have been nourished as adults, as future leaders, as pioneers in our fields, the giants whose shoulders will be stood on, we have learned to speak, to read, to think, our minds, our greatest gifts, have been challenged, corrected and expanded.”

Breckin reminded us all that these graduating students are now part of the alumni family of UBC: “Never forget the nourishment we have received here. While our time as students may be over, our relationship has just changed status. As alumni we are now part of a great family – a family of scholars, creators, world builders. We now belong to a community of changemakers and leaders.”

After the ceremony, a reception was held in the Creative and Critical Studies building for all of the FCCS graduates and their guests to continue the celebrations of the day. Bryce Traister, Dean of the faculty raised a glass to toast this year’s graduating class and their families.

“There are moments when I feel very proud to be part of an institution, and today was one of those days,” Traister said. “I always feel lucky to say I get to spend a life in schools, it has been my privilege to be able to do that. And I want to extend a welcome to each of you to come back and see us, tell us what you are doing, what you want to do, and what we need to do better. The faculty and all of the staff are full of excitement for your future.”

FCCS is also pleased to recognize the achievements of the following graduating or continuing students who received awards for their outstanding academic performance this year:

  • Savanah Babij, Kelly Curtis Memorial Scholarship in English
  • Sonja Berg, Jaeger Entrance Award
  • Aditri Chatterjee, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies International Student Award
  • Ronnie Cheng, 2021 Vernon Film Society Media Prize
  • Mihai Covaser, FCCS French Essay Prize
  • Rain Doody, Jill Douglas Entrance Award
  • Katja Ewart, Asper Scholarship
  • Cady Gau, Visual Arts Scholarship; Murray Johnson Memorial Award in Visual Arts
  • Madeline Grove, FCCS International Student Award
  • Makeena Hartmann, Elinor Yandel Memorial Award in Fine Arts; Norma and Jack Aitken Prize in Visual Arts
  • Jaine Hillier, Media Studies Scholarship
  • Josie Hillman, Asper Graduating Prize
  • Chloe Jenkins, Visual Arts Prize
  • Simone King, Doug Biden Memorial Scholarship in Visual Arts
  • Peyton Lynch, Craig Hall Memorial Visual Arts Scholarship in Printmaking
  • Elizabeth MacDonald, FCCS French Scholarship
  • Emily-Jayne May Myatt, FCCS Dean’s Award for Visual Arts
  • Mariah Miguel-Juan, Visual Arts Prize
  • Claire Miller-Harder, Campbell Family Graduate Award in Fine Arts
  • Carrie Mitchell Jack and Lorna Hambleton Memorial Award
  • Alberte Patenaude, FCCS Spanish Scholarship
  • Christal Perdison, FCCS Languages Scholarship; FCCS International Student Award
  • Rachel Pickard, FCCS Cultural Studies Scholarship
  • Arthur Pielecki, Asper Scholarship
  • John Prendas, Frances Harris Prize in Fine Arts; Henderson Award in International Development
  • Calise Stankoven, Creative Studies Transfer Prize in Creative Writing
  • Marissa Thompson, Creative Writing Prize
  • Naomi Ukrainetz, Jessie Ravnsborg Memorial Award
  • Mathew Wanbon, FCCS Creative Writing Scholarship
  • He Wanling, FCCS Art History and Visual Culture Scholarship
  • Ziv Wei, FCCS International Student Award
  • Abigail Wiens, FCCS English Scholarship
  • Margaret Wileman, Dr. Shelley Martin Memorial Scholarship

The FCCS Dean’s Honour list recognizes students in all years of the BA and BFA degrees, who are at the top of their class with a GPA of 85% or better.

Bachelor of Arts Students

  • Alex Abernethy
  • Breckin Baillie
  • Carly Beckner
  • Kally Campbell
  • Lois Chan
  • Aditri Chatterjee
  • Marcey Costello
  • Mihai Covaser
  • Nils Donnelly
  • Dessa Douglas
  • Kimberly Dufaut
  • Veronica Fabian
  • Sam Grinnell
  • Madeline Grove
  • Sophie Harms
  • Mason Harrison
  • Joshryl Hernan
  • Jacob Hill
  • Samantha Hodge
  • Sophie Hogan
  • Kai Hugessen
  • Kaito Hyde
  • Chris Isaak
  • Kai Johnson
  • Mckenna King
  • Rhea Kjargaard
  • Karly Larson
  • Kyra Lear
  • Eun Jee Lee
  • Maren McIntosh
  • Dylan Mccullough
  • Eden Orr
  • Christal Perdison
  • Rachel Pickard
  • Liana Raisanen
  • Chloe Sloboda
  • Ainslie Spence
  • Calise Stankoven
  • Jaclyn Stuart
  • Skyler Summerfelt
  • Christina Sydorova
  • Carrie Terbasket
  • Muskan Thakkar
  • Marissa Thompson
  • Naomi Ukrainetz
  • Emma Unruh
  • Meghan Vandermey
  • Kysa Wadsworth
  • Mathew Wanbon
  • Jaalah Ward
  • Sabrina Warwick
  • Erica Wu
  • Virginia Yuen
  • Kelly Grace Yuste
  • Jennifer Zepeda

Bachelor of Fine Arts Students

  • Eunis Au
  • Taylor Carpenter
  • Ella Cottier
  • Olivia Cripps
  • Hyun Ehlert
  • Nadia Fracy
  • Talia Gagnon
  • Cady Gau
  • Hailey Gleboff
  • Elly Hajdu
  • Josie Hillman (Head of Class)
  • Asahna Hughes
  • Stephen Ikesaka
  • Emma Janzen
  • Chloe Jenkins
  • Hailey Johnson
  • Eric Kania
  • Mariah Miguel-Juan
  • Grace Nascimento-Laverdiere
  • Arthur Pielecki
  • Stevie Poling
  • John Prendas
  • Ains Reid
  • Anna Semenoff
  • Christine Wakal
  • Angela Wood

Bachelor of MEdia Studies Students

  • Juan Ablan
  • Mikah Assaly
  • Sonja Berg
  • Adam Carter
  • Ronnie Cheng
  • Kailee Fawcett
  • Tatum Grundy
  • Jaine Hillier
  • Brenna Lam Kennedy
  • Amanda McIvor (Head of Class)
  • Nigel Martens
  • Sarah McNeil
  • Cadence Myroniuk
  • Lauren Naidoo
  • Hunter Neufeld
  • Julia Petrie
  • Brendan Russell
  • Evelyn Wu
  • Johee Yeom

BFA students walking to the ceremony, 2023

BFA student Angela Wood walking to the ceremony

Faculty members congratulating the graduates before the ceremony

Faculty members congratulating the graduates before the ceremony

FCCS faculty members Myron Campbell, Ramine Adl, Michael V. Smith, Francis Langevin and Nina Langton before the ceremony

FCCS faculty members Myron Campbell, Ramine Adl, Michael V. Smith, Francis Langevin and Nina Langton before the ceremony

Dean Bryce Traister raising a glass to the class of 2023

Dean Bryce Traister raising a glass to the class of 2023

FCCS post-convocation reception, 2023

FCCS post-convocation reception, 2023

MFA graduate Rylan Broadbent with his partner at the FCCS reception

MFA graduate Rylan Broadbent with his partner at the FCCS reception

English Honours students with faculty members Robert Eggleston and Marie Loughlin

English Honours students Breckin Baillie, Zachary Sawchuk, Abigail Wiens, 
Maggie Wileman faculty members Robert Eggleston and Marie Loughlin

MA English graduate Dana Penney with supervisor Marie Loughlin

MA English graduate Dana Penney with supervisor Marie Loughlin


BA graduate, excited about this day!

BA graduate, excited about this day!

Eun Jee Lee (centre), Co-op student and Art History and Visual Culture graduate with co-op supervisors Shauna Oddleifson and Jessica Beck

Eun Jee Lee (centre), Co-op student and Art History and Visual Culture graduate with co-op supervisors Shauna Oddleifson and Jessica Beck

Rina Garcia Chua, PhD graduate

Rina Garcia Chua, PhD graduate

The Critical Relations Symposium was held on April 28 and 29th, 2023. Organized by the It’s Lit! Club, the symposium offered undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to share their research with the wider campus academic community.

Below is a recap of the events held in April, from the desk of co-organizer, and It’s Lit! Club Treasurer, Jess Beaudin:

The 2023 Critical Relations Symposium: Encounters was opened with song, story, and collective discussion by Anona Kampe, a knowledge keeper from the Penticton Indian Band. Anona’s requested self-introduction highlighted for us the critical role her own relations play in her interwoven understanding of self and place–she is a mother, a daughter, a teacher, a student, and she lives in mutually fruitful relation with nonhuman beings and with the land that is often called Penticton, on Syilx territory.

Anona shared a simultaneously traditional and seasonally non-traditional telling of captikʷł–a story of a boulder-carrying competition among the earth’s beings– after which we were each called to share our personal takeaway or experience of the story. Like the repetition and emphasis used throughout the story, this collective and iterative processing reinforced the multiple meanings of the story, and inscribed these meanings for those in attendance onto the non-consensual marked land to which the story refers: the now-settler-deconstructed boulder heritage site near Summerland, BC. Opening our symposium in this way drew attention to the encounters between settler and Indigenous lifeways, as well as human encounters with what we linguistically collapse, violent in its terminological simplicity, into ‘the land’.

Read about the site and its alterations.

The intimacy of this opening to our symposium and welcome to those attending perfectly framed our topic of Encounters across story, history, and forms of being.

Our first and only panel submitted as such, “Fostering Interconnectedness through Artistic Interjections” hosted Miriam Cummings, Ronan Fraser, and Annie Furman, three MFA students from UBCO working in theatre and creative writing. As a throughline, their presentations employed art as a method and mediating encounter, intervening politically, environmentally, and interpersonally through a desire to do better, be better, and make better through their work.

Our second and concluding panel of the day, “Encounters Across the Mechanical”, brought together Larissa Piva (UBCO MFA), Brianne Christensen (UBCO MA), and Nathalie Kurkjian (UBCO BA). We witnessed explorations of artificial intelligence technologies and art, the author as function set in conversation with paratexts, and epistemological liberation and limitations through language construction. These considerations for how we encounter texts–considerations of form, construction, language, and boundaries, helped shift our framing to the how of encounter, in addition to the what. 

Presenters, organizers, and faculty enjoyed dinner together the evening of April 28th, 2023 at Kelowna’s Frankie We Salute You, before returning, rested and well-caffeinated the next morning for our third panel: “Encountering Loss and Memory”. This panel hosted Bibek Sharma (MFA), Zev Tiefenbach (MFA), and Andisha Sabri (MFA), all of whose works confront geographical space and disconnection, cultural inheritances, and post-memory in exploring identity.

We were honoured to have Nancy Holmes present her work, “Place, Play, Love: Community art as ‘non-proscriptive space” as a keynote for our symposium. Dr. Holmes’ presentation came in two parts: first, she shared stunning images and information about the MANY bee species local to the Okanagan and British Columbia more broadly–an educational talk very much in line with her work as representative of Border Free Bees; second, she spoke to the value of community-based art projects and the power such projects hold for incremental ethical shifts toward nonhuman beings with whom we share this earth. Her presentation articulated a powerful message regarding how artists and academics alike can engage with and activate critical masses in the public in order to create change.

Our final panel, “Living Precariously: Embodied Encounters”, was composed of Karyann Dorn (M-IGS), Claire Miller-Harder (MFA), and Britt Mackenzie-Dale (PhD Candidate UNB) (absent). Like some of our other panels, our final panel was emotionally-laden insofar as it drew together systemic homelessness and the opioid crisis in southern Alberta and elsewhere, and Mennonite women’s embodied resistance to abuse and silencing. In both cases, the act of writing and its oration became an outcry–a site and an encounter with truths that are both repressed and ignored.

We are so grateful to all who shared their work and attended The Critical Relations Symposium: Encounters. In closing, I want to extend our collective gratitude to Dr. Nancy Holmes, whose donation back to our conference enabled us to create our first Critical Relations Symposium Student Paper Prize, awarded to two participants in this year’s symposium! To this, we also extend our heartfelt congratulations to both Brianne Christensen and Zev Tiefenbach, whose exceptional presentations are well-deserving of extra accolades. We treasure all the incredible presentations and the work that made selecting awardees so very difficult for this event. Lastly, we look forward to the next iteration of the Critical Relations Symposium, hosted by It’s Lit! Club!”

Below are some photos from the two-day symposium.