Shauna Oddleifson

Communications and Marketing Specialist

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


Faculty promotion and development of promotional material.
Working toward increasing the faculty profile and increasing student enrolment and retention.
Student Recruitment.
Promotional Support for Events in FCCS
FCCS websites, social media.


VISA 460 Mural

VISA 460 mural in progress as of July 22

Students from our BFA program are once again working to create a mural in downtown Kelowna. Last summer, 18 students enrolled in VISA 460 worked with instructor David Doody to create a mural on the outside of the CTQ building on St. Paul Street downtown.

And they are doing it again right around the corner from that location.

This year we have ten students ranging from years two to four working again with instructor David Doody and teaching assistant Jorden Doody to create a new mural on the side of the building at 1358 St. Paul Street.

Throughout the course, that started in early July and runs to mid August, students are being led through all of the steps necessary to plan, pitch and paint a public mural. Students will gain experience with projectors, mechanical lifts and a variety of paint applications and techniques common to painting murals.

Support for this project is made possible with the generous donations from Sunbelt Rentals, CTQ Consultants Ltd., Opus Framing and Art Supplies and Fresh West Official.

See below for in-progress shots of the mural painting. During the course of the summer, we will continue to update this post with  more images of the mural.

David Doody is currently a Lecturer in the Visual Arts program, and a BFA alumni from 2008. Jorden Doody is also a BFA alumni from 2008, and recently completed her MFA here at UBC Okanagan. Together they run Fresh West Official and coordinate the Uptown Mural Project in Rutland. 

Sakiru AdebayoThe Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies is pleased to welcome Sakiru Adebayo as the newest member of the Department of English and Cultural Studies. Born in a small town in Southwestern Nigeria, Sakiru moved to Ibadan to study at the University for Ibadan, Nigeria’s premier university. He later moved to Johannesburg, South Africa for his Ph.D. at the University of the Witwatersrand. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research (WISER) for a year.

Dr. Adebayo’s research is in the area of African and African diaspora literature, postcolonial studies, and trauma and memory studies. He will be teaching English courses in African and African Diaspora Literature in the coming year.

“I come from a very large Yoruba family in Southwestern Nigeria. My grandmother is the greatest storyteller I know. My fascination with fiction began with the moonlight stories she used to tell us when we were young. It was also partly why I went to study literature at university.”

We met up with Dr. Adebayo to find out a bit more about him, his research and his teaching practices.

Why did you choose to come to UBC Okanagan?

It is very important for me to work in a space that is progressive and to be among people who are genuinely kind and collegial. I think the Department of English and Cultural Studies at UBCO has all of that and more. When you are job hunting, you tend to apply for everything and anything. But that was not my story. I was very intentional about where to and where not to send applications. When I saw UBCO’s job call, I was fully persuaded that the position was written for me (even though I did not know anyone in the Department at that time). I thought my training and expertise in African and African diasporic literatures would be a welcome addition to the already impressive teaching and research portfolio of the Department. In addition, I chose UBCO because I assumed that living in Okanagan will provide me the opportunity to learn more about Canada’s history, especially with regards to the lives, languages and systems of knowledge of its indigenous people. Finally, because I was born and raised in a small town, I kind of prefer a small university town life.

Tell us about your teaching philosophy.

Teaching, for me, has never been an afterthought or a Plan B. I have always wanted to teach for as long as I can remember. Teaching is fun and should always be intentional. My philosophy of teaching is that all students are unique and must be given a stimulating intellectual space where they can grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. I am always very intentional about creating this kind of atmosphere for my students so that they may meet their full potential.  Teaching, for me, is also an unending process of learning from my students, colleagues as well as the intellectual community I find myself. This lifelong process of learning new strategies, new ideas, and new philosophies is what I hope to bring to the UBCO. I believe I owe it to my students, as well as the community, to bring consistency, diligence, and warmth to my job in the hope that I can ultimately inspire and encourage such traits in my students as well. I believe the teacher’s role is to act as a guide; therefore, I am not one of those teachers who foist their ideas on their students. Rather, I let students be driven by their impulses, I create an atmosphere where they are able to have choices and let their curiosity direct their learning. This is why my classes are always interactive and participatory. I think this style is particularly necessary for every literature class because, from my experience, not making the texts interactive will bore students and eventually stifle creativity. My goal is to always ensure that my students are actively involved in knowledge making within and outside the classroom. I do all of this with an awareness that the best curriculum is usually the one which incorporates different learning styles with a content that is relevant to students’ lives.

How did you know you wanted to be a professor?

I had this vague obsession with professor Wole Soyinka (the first black and African person to win the Nobel Prize in Literature) when I was very young. I wanted to master the English language the way he did –and, yes, people used to tease me by calling me “the Wole Soyinka of our time”. One of the reasons I went to the University of Ibadan to study English was because Soyinka was, at some point, a student in the same Department (Chinua Achebe was a student there too). However, it was in my third year that things started to become clear to me. That was when we were introduced to literary theory and criticism which completely blew my mind. I was enthralled by the ability to understand the world through different theoretical lenses and to read anything as a text. That was when it dawned on me that being a professor is my calling. I just felt so enraptured by the thought of creating, receiving and imparting knowledge for the rest of my life. Many of my lecturers also encouraged me to enroll for a graduate degree because they thought I had an inquisitive mind and a critical thinking skill. I have neither looked back nor considered any other career since then.

Tell us about your research.

My research is situated broadly in the field of postcolonial studies, but specifically in African and African diaspora literature. I am interested in memory, trauma and melancholy studies in African and African diaspora literature and culture. I have published a few academic papers that address some of these questions. And I am currently finishing a manuscript that is titled, Frictions of Memory in the Postcolony. The manuscript basically looks at how fiction represents –or sometimes causes–memory frictions in  post-conflict situations in the postcolony. I am already thinking of a second book project on the new African diaspora. I am interested in the stories of African immigrants in North America especially. What does home mean to them? How do they deal with hyphenated identities and how do they mix or switch cultural codes? I am also trying to think about what it means to immigrate into a country’s past. For example, as I migrate to Canada, what kind of relationship do I have with Canada’s historical injustice toward indigenous communities? Do I bear any responsibility for some of the violence meted out on the indigenous populace? These are some questions I am starting to think of as a research interest.

What most excites you about your field of work? 

What I love most about my field is the ability to inhabit stories. Human beings are storied beings and as a literary scholar, I am constantly encountering different stories which help me to understand the world better. Literature allows me to imagine other people’s world and, as a result, become more empathetic toward an/Other. What also excites me about my field is that it is not formulaic, it gives you the freedom to think outside the box. Literature gives room for interdisciplinary thinking, so I can drive my train of thoughts to whichever direction I want. There is something incredibly liberating about that. Also, literature is basically a field of words and sentences. And, you know, a well-written sentence is like music to the soul; a well-punctuated sentence is all it takes for you to have a great day. Being in literature means that I am– more than others– constantly coming across well-structured phrases and deliciously cooked sentences.

On July 10th, playwright and Woodhaven Writer-in-Residence Chantal Bilodeau hosted an in-person workshop at the Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre, called Envisioning a Better World Together.

Bilodeau led participants through an envisioning exercise by facilitating group discussions to think about ways to move beyond the frustrations people may be feeling in the world today and to articulate what they hope to bring into existence for themselves and others. Participants then worked together to create a large art mandala made out of natural items found around the property.

Below are images from the workshop.

Envisioning exercise and group discussions













Envisioning a Better World mandala

Participants at the Envisioning a Better World workshop with the final nature mandala

About the 2021 Woodhaven Artist-in-Residence Program

The Woodhaven Artist in Residence Program is run by UBCO’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies. Woodhaven provides a paid residency opportunity for a diverse variety of visiting artists each year, including writers, visual artists, digital media artists and performance artists. For the 2021 season, applications were sought from writers of all genres.

Chantal Bilodeau was chosen as the inaugural Woodhaven Artist in Residence. Bilodeau is a Montreal-born, New York-based playwright and translator whose work focuses on the intersection of science, policy, art and climate change. In her capacity as artistic director of The Arctic Cycle, she has been instrumental in getting the theatre and academic communities — as well as audiences in the US and abroad — to engage in climate action through programming that includes live events, talks, publications, workshops, national and international convenings, and a worldwide distributed theatre festival.

Astrida Neimanis

Astrida Neimanis, Aunty Rhonda Dixon Grovenor and Clare Britton, “The River Ends as the Ocean” (performance walk for the Shanghai Biennale), Sydney, Australia 2021. Photo: Lucy Parakhina

Astrida Neimanis is an interdisciplinary scholar in the field of feminist environmental studies. She is an Associate Professor cross-appointed in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies (FCCS) and the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS). She comes to UBC Okanagan after teaching at the University of Sydney for the last five years.

“As I don’t have a strong disciplinary home, the opportunity to work in both FCCS and FASS and cover all of the areas I work in was unique and appealing,” Neimanis says.

She explains that while Gender and Women Studies is where she has done most of her teaching, a lot of her work bridges creative and critical aspects. She works with artists, researching their work and participating in the creation of artistic works.

“My work is both engaged in researching artistic perspectives on water and climate change and environmental solutions and also committed to building that new language.”

In addition to writing for academic publications, Neimanis also works with artists on publications for galleries and museums, as well as public festivals and events. Her research looks at how science and arts and humanities come together to address ecological questions and issues in new ways.

“I am interested in how artistic works can give us a different language for addressing questions of environmental degradation and climate change,” she says.

Neimanis notes that it is clear that the use of policy and scientific language is not doing enough to motivate people to make the kinds of changes we need to do to protect our environment. She feels strongly that that the language of the arts is a really valuable in amplifying the necessity of change to a wider audience.

“I look for ways to talk about climate change related issues using a different kind of communication that can speak to people through languages of feeling, or emotion, esthetic, connection, empathy, obligation, values, or ethics,” she says. “The sorts of things that the language used in policy and science does not always quite get to.”

Her main objective as a researcher is to draw attention to the ways in which we as humans understand our own relationship to the more than human world.

“My research is rooted in the belief that how we imagine and understand the world is directly related to how we treat it and behave in the world.”

Most of Neimanis’ work is about water and watery sites, including oceans, lakes and rivers, and even sewage and postindustrial cesspools of toxic sludge. In all of these cases, she is interested in trying to open up an understanding of how our bodies being made up of water connects us to the bodies we drink from, or extract from, fish from, dump garbage into.

“I’m curious about the material connections between our own bodies and environmental bodies, and how acknowledging those that might change how we imagine our relationship to “nature,” as something we have an intimate connection to.”

She works to tease these things bout by writing research-based stories. Her writing is quite lyrical and takes on a narrative tone even though it is based on academic research.

“In my writing I weave together theory and experiential description with historical and scientific facts. I tell stories about these bodies of water so we might reimagine our relationship to them and think differently about how we treat them and what our obligation is to our environment.”

The Pull of Academia

Neimanis went in and out of academia for about 10 years from her undergrad, to her masters and finally her PhD before settling in a career as a university professor.

She spent six years working for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in gender issues and sexual health issues in Central and Eastern Europe, but she craved a more of a creative outlet for the kinds of social justice questions she was interested in pursuing. This idea drew her back to Canada to complete her PhD at York University in Social and Political Thought.

“The policy work I was doing at the UNDP was valuable, but I wanted to think deeply and creatively about some of the questions I was grappling with,” she notes. “I considered other ways to continue my career, but I wanted that unique combination of things you can do as an academic.”

Neimanis says she is a writer at heart, and also loves teaching and being in a classroom.

“I want to be a part of that amazing discovery process when students are learning and finding out about things for the first time, or bringing their experience to the classroom and teaching us as professors.”

Here at UBC Okanagan, Neimanis will be teaching an upper level Gender and Women Studies course in FASS, as well as a graduate level Critical Theory course in FCCS.

The undergraduate course, entitled Gender and Environment, is a version of a course she taught in Sydney. The course will use the tools of feminism and feminist theory and gender studies and apply them to how we address and think about environmental problems.

“I am trying to expand how we understand power, as traditionally something among humans, and look at what those theories teach us about the relationships between humans and non-humans.” The course will offer students the opportunity to build an individual connection to community or global-scale issues.

The graduate level unit in critical theory will focus on the question of “the human” – who or what counts as human, and who or what is excluded. It will draw heavily from feminist theory, environmental theory, critical race theory and decolonial theory. The course will also ask students to step back and consider what is theory, and what is the point of theory.

“In a scholarly context it is one thing to become fluent in talking about academic theories and how to explain concepts, but I am interested in what theory does in the world. What use is it to us as students and educators who want to make a change in the world?”

The English Honours program is an advanced directed studies program that is designed as an intensive course of study for a select number of students who have chosen English as their major. Students who apply to this program have demonstrated exceptional creative, critical, and communicative abilities in their second-year coursework in English.

This is a program for students who are looking for a degree that will distinguish them as successful and highly motivated students who have achieved a high degree of competency in the discipline and who are prepared for the rigours of more advanced scholarship.

We spoke to two of our English Honours students to get their perspectives and insights as to how they chose their supervisors, their research projects, and why they wanted to pursue and English Honours degree at UBC Okanagan.

Brianne Christensen is a 4th year student graduating this spring and will be starting her Masters of Arts in English here at UBC Okanagan in the fall.

Brianne Christensen

Brianne Christensen

Why did you decide to go into the English Honours program?

I decided to go into the Honours program because one of my profs, Sean Lawrence, introduced me to the program and encouraged me to apply. I credit his support for giving me the confidence to embark on this project.

How did you go about selecting and approaching a faculty supervisor?

Anyone who has had the pleasure of taking a course with Jennifer Gustar will tell you how brilliant, funny, and passionate she is. As her student, I always left class inspired by Jennifer’s strong, feminist perspective as well as her chosen lecture material. I approached her about my proposed topic because she had introduced me to Ali Smith’s work. Her support throughout this process has been invaluable. I have immense gratitude to the FCCS faculty for encouraging and inspiring me over the last four years.

How did you decide on a research topic?

I decided on my research topic because of my interest in the relationship between fiction and history. I believe that fiction, although by definition is “untrue” or “imaginary,” reveals quite a lot about the social issues of the moment in time in which it was written and I was interested in uncovering what contemporary fiction would reveal about our current moment in history.

What aspect of the process research and writing most surprised you?

One aspect of the process that surprised me was how passionate I became about my research topic. I found myself reading and writing about aspects of Smith’s work that I did not end up including in this project, simply out of interest.

What advice would you give to another student about completing an Honours degree? 

The advice I would give to an aspiring Honours student would be to focus on finding your voice as a writer through the thesis process; know that you have something unique to contribute and embrace your individuality.

Carolina Leyton is a 4th year student graduating this spring. She plans to start her  Master’s in Children’s Literature at UBC Vancouver this coming fall.

Carolina Layton

Carolina Leyton

Why did you decide to go into the English Honours program?

I knew I wanted to continue in Academia in the future, so I thought the best way to go about that was to complete an Honour’s Program. Additionally, I found that there were things I wanted to write about and research that were not fitting in any of my classes, so the Honours program would give me the liberty to pursue the novels and ideas I wanted to pursue.

How did you go about selecting and approaching a faculty supervisor?

I met Dr. Reeves in a second year Children’s Literature course. Her passion about Harry Potter in particular was what first drew me to her because I did not think anyone in Academia really took Rowling’s work seriously. I started producing some of my best work in her class because she showed me that children’s and YA literature is worth theorizing about. Dr. Reeves was the first scholar with whom I was unafraid to talk about what I read during my free time. I have to admit it was Dr. Reeves who first introduced me to the idea of doing the English Honours program. It was her support and encouragement which led me to make the decision, and it was also probably her kindness and belief in me which kept me going until the very end.

Once I made the decision to pursue an Honours degree, I just went to her office hours and asked if she would be my supervisor. I knew our interests aligned so whatever novels or topics I chose were going to be within the realm of children’s literature.

How did you decide on a research topic?

I was actually watching the movie one of my books is based on, My Sister’s Keeper, and I felt myself getting riled up about the way the movie represented Anna and Kate, the two main girls in the story. It was astounding to me that Henry Jenkins’s ideas about childhood  were so eerily present in the way these girls’ stories and lives unfolded. The idea that a child, especially a sick one or one constantly getting medical procedures done, have to go to court to have their voice heard and affirmed was something I wanted to question.  So, I started making connections between the girls’ representations and the childhood theories I had learnt in class and a thesis started to gestate.

What aspect of the process research and writing most surprised you?

The most surprising part of the process was discovering that research and writing are like putting together a puzzle. You have all these pieces of your thoughts, book quotes, other scholars’ thoughts, and it all feels very overwhelming to put together; but, like with a puzzle, you can start with the edges and work your way in. So getting started and figuring out what I wanted the edges of my puzzle to be was challenging. I think for me I had multiple body arguments I knew I wanted to address so those were easier to write, whereas the thesis statement ended up being the center of the puzzle–last to be placed.

What advice would you give to another student about completing an Honours degree? 

Passion, passion, passion. Even though an Honours thesis is for school, becoming part of the program is exclusively a personal choice. It is a lot of hard work and the only way to get through that is to be be truly passionate about what you are about to write for an entire year. I do not know if anyone else will agree with me, but when there is so much work involved, I always think there has to be an emotional component to drive you. Do you love or are excited by a particular book, a genre of literature, an era in literature? It does not have to be love, you could also be so opposed to an idea that you just have to write about; but I guess my advice is to find that emotional connection, that deeper reason to write a 30-page essay, and constantly remind yourself through the process of writing the thesis why you wanted to start in the first place.

Now that she has completed her undergraduate degree, Carolina plans to start a blog where she reviews different books, shares some opinions about her interests, and maybe even share the odd short story.

Find out more about the English Honours Program.

This year’s convocation ceremony on June 2nd was a special event, held in a virtual environment. 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 2021.

This year we have ten masters students, one doctoral student, fifty-four Bachelor of Arts students, twenty Bachelor of Fine Arts students, and six Bachelor of Media Studies students who are graduating and who participated in the UBC Okanagan Virtual Ceremony.

“It is a pleasure for me to be here with all of you virtually to congratulate you all on the occasion of your graduation. It has been an honour and privilege for us to have worked with you over the past four years, and I wish all of our graduates the best in their futures.” Says Bryce Traister, Dean of FCCS.

This is a huge accomplishment especially with the challenges over the last year. Our students have worked hard to complete their degrees in the context of a global pandemic.

“I have been impressed by all of our student’s perseverance to get through it all. We are especially excited to congratulate the students from our first graduating class of our Bachelor of Media Studies program. Well done everyone!” Says Jordan Stouck, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies in FCCS.

We are happy to celebrate the achievements of all of our students at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

“I want to commend the qualities our graduate students have shown in the past year with their patience, courage and generosity. I am proud of your achievements.” Says Greg Garrard, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies in FCCS.

The 2021 Virtual Graduation celebration can be viewed here.

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:

  • Mackenzie Beeman, Asper Scholarship
  • Sydney Bezner, BMS Head of Class
  • Cole Blakely, English Scholarship
  • Sage Cannon, Interdisciplinary Performance Scholarship
  • Brianne Christensen, Dr. Shelley Martin Memorial Scholarship
  • Ella Cottier, Jack and Lorna Hambleton Memorial Award
  • Nils Donnelly, Creative Writing Transfer Prize
  • Aster Mamo Dryden, Norma and Jack Aitken Prize in Visual Arts
  • Makeena Hartmann, Frances HARRIS Prize in Fine Arts; Visual Arts Scholarship
  • Saki Irie, Asper Scholarship
  • Amanda Kelly, Creative Writing Prize; Creative Writing Scholarship
  • Molly Korol, French and Spanish Scholarship
  • Camila Labarta-Garcia International Student Faculty Award
  • Carolina Leyton, International Student Faculty Award
  • Jordan MacDonald, Murray Johnson Memorial Award in Visual Arts
  • Ayisha Malik, French Scholarship
  • Nikkala Ann Niro, Jill Douglas Entrance Award
  • Gabrielle Oi Yiu, Art History and Visual Culture Scholarship
  • Melissa Plisic, BA Head of Class
  • Mikayla Podmorow, Kelly Curtis Memorial Scholarship in English
  • Alexandra Przychodzki, French Essay Prize
  • Ari Sparks, Elinor Yandel Memorial Award in Fine Arts
  • Karen Takahashi, International Student Faculty Award
  • Stephanie Tennert, Doug Biden Memorial Scholarship in Visual Arts
  • Carrie Terbasket, Cultural Studies Scholarship
  • Danielle Tompkins, Jessie Ravnsborg Memorial Award
  • Arianne Tubman, Visual Arts Scholarship
  • Angela Wood, Craig Hall Memorial Visual Arts Scholarship in Printmaking
  • Jade Zitko, BFA Head of Class

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


  • Mackenzie Blackwood
  • Makayla Boback
  • Alexander Bourassa
  • Brianne Christensen
  • Marcey Costello
  • Neil Donnelly
  • Dessa Douglas
  • Mustapha Elfarse
  • Kaitlyn Forth
  • Mackenzie Griffin
  • Chloe Griffiths
  • Rachel Hackler
  • Wanling He
  • Hannah Hinter
  • Rachel Iserhoff
  • Zaria Jenkins
  • Tatyjania Khounviseth
  • Molly Korol
  • Camila Labarta-Garcia
  • Sara Larsen
  • Eun Jee Lee
  • OPayton Lynch
  • Rachel Macarie
  • Elizabeth Macdonald
  • Ayisha Malik
  • Annika Naciuk
  • Chanel Orr
  • Melissa Plisic
  • Mikayla Podmorow
  • Laavanya Prakash
  • Alexandra Przychodzki
  • Karleen Rutter
  • Cassidy Schneider
  • Brooklyn Schroeder
  • Anna Shaffer
  • Robyn Solland
  • Kianna Sposato
  • Danielle Symons
  • Carrie Terbasket
  • Courtney Thomas
  • Danielle Tompkins
  • Gabrielle Oi Yiu
  • Anna Vitko
  • Kysa Wadsworth
  • Abigail Wiens
  • Margaret Wileman
  • Janel Wilkins


  • Mackenzie Beeman
  • Maritza Botha
  • Taylor Carpenter
  • Ella Cottier
  • Amelia Ford
  • Angelique Goh
  • Makeena Hartmann
  • Mei Henderson
  • Josie Hillman
  • Candice Hughes
  • Chloe Jenkins
  • Yilan Ji
  • Lauren Johnson
  • Sofie Lovelady
  • Jordan MacDonald
  • Aster Mamo Dryden
  • Danya Mayne
  • Lareina McElroy
  • Arthur Pielecki
  • Ari Sparks
  • Maura Tamez
  • Stephanie Tennert
  • Ziyang Wei
  • Angela Wood
  • Lucheng Xie
  • Jade Zitko


  • Sydney Bezenar
  • Wing Hei Chang
  • Liam Davidson
  • Duan Buwell
  • Fiona Firby
  • Kai Hagen
  • Bowen He
  • Nicholas Hemingway
  • Bethany Hiebert
  • Jaine Hillier
  • Marcus Hobkirk
  • Sarah McNeil
  • Anjali Menezes
  • Julia Petrie
  • Jordan Pike
  • Jenita Poodwan

As part of the Asian Heritage Month events at UBC Okanagan, students and faculty from the Department of Creative Studies have created a video showcasing some of their work. Working in performance, creative writing, and media and visual arts, these talented artists negotiate the complexities of Asian experience, identity and heritage.


A virtual public event was held on May 26th that was organized by Art Historian, Hussein Keshani and hosted by visual arts professor Renay Egami. The video compellation was shown, and a Q & A was facilitated with the artist talking about their work.

Artists include:

  • Chloe Chang, 4th year Bachelor of Media Studies student, FCCS
  • Huiyu Chen, 2nd year Masters of Fine Arts student, FCCS
  • Kevin Chong, Assistant Professor, Creative Studies, FCCS
  • Renay Egami, Associate Professor, Visual Arts, Creative Studies, FCCS
  • Aleks Dulic, Associate Professor, Creative Studies, FCCS
    • in collaboration with Lan Tung, Music Composer
  • Miles Thorogood, Assistant Professor, Creative Studies, FCCS
  • Jayko Buwell Duan, 3rd year Bachelor of Media Studies student, FCCS
  • Gao Yujie, 3rd year Ph.D. Interdisciplinary Studies student, FCCS
  • Xiao Xuan Huang, 1st year Masters of Fine Arts student, FCCS
  • Manjinder Sidhu, 2nd year Masters of Fine Arts, student, FCCS
  • Meg Yamamoto, 2nd year Doctoral Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies student, FCCS
  • Tony Yu, 4th year Interdisciplinary Performing Arts student, FCCS
Sarah Connery

Sarah Connery, Critical Animal Studies Book Prize winner

Congratulations to Sarah Connery as the recipient of the first ever Critical Animal Studies Book Prize for her essay, “Modern Christianity and Human Exceptionalism: What Does it Mean to Be ‘Made in the Image of God’?”

Students in English 457 class were asked to submit their essay for consideration, and the top prize was chosen by the course instructor Jodey Castricano along with PhD student Eve Kasprzycka who is the GTA for the course. Dr. Castricano crated this prize as a way to encourage student engagement in the course and an interest in developing their writing.

Readers of the essay agree that the essay cogently takes on a complex topic and demonstrates a sincere attempt to engage in a discussion regarding the link between historical anthropocentrism and theological debates regarding Imago Dei.

Upon receiving the award, Sarah said: “I am very honored to have won. I really enjoyed researching and working on this essay. It’s been incredibly eye-opening to see the breadth of work currently being done in the field of Critical Animal studies in relation to Christianity I was honestly blown away by how much was already out there. I look forward to continuing my studies and passion in this field in the future.”

Dr. Castricano notes that Sarah’s essay takes up in a meaningful way one of the many premises of the course, which is “to think seriously about animals’ subjectivities and to ask what ethical responsibilities, if any, these subjectivities might inspire.”

About the course, Sarah adds: “This course proved to be invaluable in my learning journey, challenging even the most deep-seated beliefs about the rights and roles of humans and other animals. I appreciate the viewpoints brought forward by this course and will carry what I learned with me and continue to expand my knowledge.”

The book prize is a first edition of the international award-winning HIDDEN: Animals and The Anthropocene: (2020), which is described WeAnimals Media (and award-winning photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur, the co-editor and contributor to the book) as being:

“An unflinching book of photography about our conflict with non-human animals around the globe, as depicted through the lenses of thirty award-winning photojournalists including Aitor Garmendia, Jo-Anne McArthur, and Andrew Skowron. Through the lenses of thirty photojournalists, this book shines a light on the invisible animals in our lives; those with whom we have a close relationship and yet fail to see. The stories within its pages are revelatory and brutal. They are proof of the emergency confronting animals globally, from industrial farming to climate change, and provide valuable insight into the relevance of animal suffering to human health. HIDDEN: Animals in the Anthropocene is a historical document, a memorial, and an indictment of what is and should never again be.”

Maura Tamez

Maura Tamez with her artwork in Storytellers, at the Kelowna Art Gallery

Maura Tamez always knew she wanted to pursue a practice in the visual arts. She recently completed her third year of studies in the BFA program at UBC Okanagan. She is an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache Band, Texas (of the broader Dene peoples in Canada, U.S., Mexico), and is currently living along N’sis’oolwx (Dry Creek) on the Okanagan Indian Band #1 reserve near Vernon, BC in unceded Syilx territory.

“Visual Arts has always been an area that I saw myself thriving in.”

This year, Maura was awarded an inaugural Indigenous Arts Scholarship offered by the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and made  possible with funding from the BC Arts Council. This scholarship supports the development of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit artists in BC with funding for education or mentorship.

“It is encouraging and affirming to have been awarded this scholarship based on the recognition of my strong work ethic, high academic achievements, and on the merit of my portfolio of artistic work” Maura says.

She learned about the scholarship opportunity through the network of her faculty mentors in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies. She applied for the scholarship as she sought an opportunity to attend university full-time without the distractions of working two or more jobs required to support her studies. This scholarship has provided her with the ability to apply herself fully for the first time in her undergraduate education.

“It is an honor and deeply encouraging to know that the jury believes in me, the strength of my ideas, and the value of my artistic practice.” She adds, “I am thankful to the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and the BC Arts Council for their continued support to young Indigenous artists who are pursuing post-secondary education.”

Renay Egami, professor of Visual Arts, was one of the people who encouraged Maura to apply for this award.

“I believe that Maura is among a new generation of Indigenous artists who holds promise and has a bright future ahead of her” says Egami.

Maura says that professor Egami has been a vital mentor, teacher, and role model since her first year in university.

“Renay has always encouraged me to explore new methods in my sculpture practice and to refine my skills, critical thinking, and knowledge. As a racialized Indigenous woman, the significance of the professional mentorship and support received from a strong woman of colour cannot be understated. She has given me the confidence to apply decolonization in all my approaches and this makes a tremendous difference in the results I am able to achieve,” she says.

Currently in her art practice, Maura has been working with ‘hadntn’ (cattail), an important medicine to her family and Ndé peoples. She is learning more about hadntn and looking at the plant as something not only used for its medicinal qualities and ceremony, but as well as a material for artmaking and ultimately weaving this into her practice.

“My art is about place, Ndé history, and my own experiences as a Ndé woman. By working with hadntn in different ways is to honour all of its roles.”

Maura has been busy with her courses as well as working on art projects outside of her schoolwork. She recently had her work shown at the Kelowna Art Gallery as part of Storytellers, an exhibition organized by the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan. Her work in the exhibition are self-portraits and sculptures using corn husks to re-create her traditional regalia.

She was also recently awarded one of the FCCS Undergraduate Reseach Awards to work on a project over the summer months. With this award, Maura will create an experimental film based on her own perspectives of Indigenous life, experiences, and creation stories.

When asked what she would say to her first-year self, Maura says that she would tell herself to rest. A critical understanding of holistic well-being, balance, and pacing is a necessary formula for success in strenuous environments, such as the university. “I try to take time for reflection and self-care, especially as I approach the final year of my degree.”

“It is easy to get caught up in perfectionism. I am just now learning that ‘excellence’ is a form of colonial oppression imposed upon Indigenous peoples as a part of ongoing colonization.”

After she graduates in 2022, she says she is planning to take a year off from school before looking at opportunities to pursue her Master of Fine Arts degree.

“During this time, I will be applying to artist residencies. The Banff Centre for the Arts is on my mind!”


About the Indigenous Art Scholarship

The Indigenous Art Scholarship supports the development of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit artists and arts practitioners residing in B.C. with funding for education or mentorship.

The Indigenous Arts Scholarship provides up to $20,000 in funding to students in full-time mentorship training and up to $10,000 for students enrolled in post-secondary education. The scholarship is made possible with funding from the BC Arts Council.

Find out more:

Neil Cadger

Neil Cadger at the Black Box Theatre

Neil Cadger is a performer, director and Associate Professor, who teaches performance creation in the Department of Creative Studies at UBC Okanagan. This spring, he was recognized for his contributions to the performing arts as a recipient of the Somerset Award for Performance Development in the Visual and Performing Arts.

Cadger’s current research focuses on two aspects of live performances: curatorial practices interrogating audience/performer interactivity, and non-verbal storytelling employing the human body, masks, puppets, and other objects, including musical instruments.

“In my art practice as a creator and performer, I frequently source mythic narratives and seek a language which resonates at a non-verbal level.”

As the curator and Artistic Director of the Living Things International Arts Festival, he explores the diverse genres of live performance: the theatre world and its use of theatrical objects, the languages inherent to the dance world, the conceptual potential of performance art, music or sound as an active agent, and of course digital technology and how we live with it.

Of the nomination, Guy Cools from the University of Ghent says: “I fully support the nomination of Neil Cadger for this award for his outstanding career as a performer and creator, and for his excellence as an educator and more specifically for his successful curating of the Living Things international Arts Festival, which is an exemplary role model for how artistic practice, vision and community building can support each other.”

Neil graduated from l’école Jacques Lecoq in Paris, France in 1984. He founded Wissel Theatre in Gent, Belgium in 1984 and created theatre performances which toured extensively in Europe; he then worked as an independent artist with various dance and theatre companies until beginning his university career at the University of Saskatchewan in 2000. In 2010, he co-founded Inner Fish Performance Company with Denise Kenney to provide an infrastructure for producing and touring devised performances.  In 2017 he founded the Living Things International Arts Festival which presents local, regional, national and international performances.

“In our current climate of social unrest, mired with uncertain economic forecasts, it is more important than ever that art and creative living be accessible to all – Neil’s contributions are forwarding that possibility.” Says Peter Balkwill, a theatre artist ( Old Trout Puppet Workshop) and Assistant Professor of Acting and Drama in the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary.

“ I am most excited about the uplifting moments of public art that remind us of our common humanity with all its beauty and tragedy.”

Cadger notes that his teaching changed ‘dramatically’ with online course delivery. “In these pandemic days I have been teaching classical dramaturgy for proscenium theatres through the use of toy theatres.”

He explains that the rules remain functionally the same; stage left/right, up/down, stage areas, timing, the use of illusion. Each student built their own cardboard theatre and used a laptop, and the results were interesting, including a charming, naïve use of scale. This shift in course delivery offered the opportunity to examine how stories are composed and importantly, which story to choose.

“Given that live theatre online cannot physically unite the audience, one of the primary components of the theatre transformation – the ‘us’ or ‘we’ who respond as a physical group in different ways – is impossible.” He says. “This introduces the potential for failure as a unifying condition.  We cannot be a real audience but we can laugh at attempts to convince us that we are.”

In this context he explored European theatre clown which is grounded in human frailty and ultimately in failure – despite our attempts to the contrary, we die. He says the results were interesting, and will contribute to his teaching when we are back in the studio.