Shauna Oddleifson, BFA

(She, Her, Hers)

Communications and Marketing Strategist

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


Dr. Alex Berry

Dr. Alex Berry is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at UBCO’s FEELed Lab, where she is supervised by Dr. Astrida Neimanis. Alex’s research is titled, ‘Uncommoning sense: Feeling a changed climate in early childhood teacher education’.

Alex’s postdoctoral research seeks to knot early childhood pedagogies with the feminist environmental humanities, toward new ways of ‘sensing’ uneven, everyday climate realities in the early years. Centering the FEELed Lab’s commitment to climate and social justice as deeply entangled pursuits, her project engages early childhood education students in attuning to how particular bodies sense and feel climate change in particular places. In response to the expansive overwhelm of climate catastrophe discourse in BC, Alex’s project uses small, artistic experiments to question the ‘common sense’ ways we think children experience nature.

“As many early years scholars have argued before me, early childhood education has been characterized by colonial and neoliberal ideas of humans as bodies that sense the world in rational and autonomous ways. Early childhood’s persistent pedagogical reliance on visual ways of knowing, and a dependency on developmental psychology’s ‘5 senses’ (as individual, intrinsic, and divided) are a few examples of this. Children with magnifying glasses in hand setting out to discover the wild unknown, and the ‘freedom’ of children’s sensorial fun getting messy outdoors are all-too-familiar images that reinscribe a settler colonial view of the world.”

Alex suggests that these prevailing understandings of the senses in early childhood produce educational practices that separate children from the damaged worlds they inherit. She hopes that her research might make a modest contribution to the ongoing efforts of early childhood scholars who are trying to shift these conditions – specifically, Alex’s work is interested in thinking alongside early childhood education students in re-imagining the senses for times of pressing environmental precarity. Through artistic and embodied methods, she is exploring how early childhood pedagogies might approach human sensoria as intercorporeal, and embedded with non-human networks.

A central focus of Alex’s project has been the creation of an experimental, online and place-based course for pre- and in-service educators across BC, titled ‘Sensing a changed climate in early childhood’. The course is curated around a series of ‘micro’-workshops, invited speakers, and on-the-ground experiments for ‘uncommoning’ the senses. Alex shares how curation of the course experiences has involved many rich ‘behind the scenes’ collaborations; “The course itself has emerged from a deeply collective and cross-disciplinary labour with researchers, community-members, and artists at UBCO’s FEELed Lab, the Faculty of Critical and Creative Studies, the Faculty of English and Cultural Studies, and Capilano University’s Centre for Research in Childhood Studies. Envisioning and creating the course alongside people from fields beyond my own has generated an incredibly hospitable ground for pushing early childhood’s disciplinary framings beyond its status quo. I am extremely inspired by (and grateful for!) the generous intellectual spaces these dialogues have afforded.”

The course launches this May, and will be followed by a virtual exhibition of student processes and an open-access archive of anti-colonial, arts- and place-based teaching resources.

About Alex Berry

Alex obtained her Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies with the Faculty of Education at Western University on Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak and Chonnonton Nations lands. Within postqualitative framings, Alex’s research puts into conversation research-creation and pedagogical inquiry toward anti-colonial early childhood pedagogies that respond to 21st century ecological crises. This orientation has energized her pedagogical work in early childhood spaces in North and Latin American contexts, as well as her curatorial work in two international exhibits, Disorientating the early childhood sensorium: Micro-interruptions for alternative climate futures and Plastic childhoods: Noticing toxic intra-dependencies in Andean early childhood.

26th annual short story contest winners

Left to right: Maylyn Tarves, Tyler Finley, Elenna Hope, Debbra Mikaelsen, Dania Wilson, and Shelley Wood.

The finalists of the 26th annual Okanagan Short Story Contest were announced at a public event by local author Shelley Wood. The event was held on March 27th at the Alternator for Contemporary Art with each of the writers reading a part of their story.

“Each of the shortlisted stories had something special about them and I had a very difficult time whittling my choices down to three. Many submerged me in new predicaments or uncomfortable scenarios and made me feel them deeply, which is what the best fiction does for us—makes us connect,” shays Wood. “I hope every single writer who made this list will keep writing, and keep honing their work.”

The winning author, Debbra Mikaelsen of Penticton, took first place for her short story “Saving Bees from Drowning”.

“I loved the story-ness of this story—it took me somewhere, with someone believable, and did so using all of the options open to the form: simple, striking images, real—and often funny—dialogue, characters that came off the page with just the right, precise details, and deft use of an intimate and self-deprecating third-person point of view. I turn to fiction to be startled and moved and jolted into other lives and perspectives, but I realize I must also turn to it for hope. This story was sweet and sad but ultimately hopeful: I fell for its characters and was rooting for them,” explains Wood.

Tyler Finley placed second with “The Trick to Holding Your Breath for Years”.

Wood says about Finley’s story, “The Trick to Holding Your Breath for Years pulls off several tricks, chief among them its mastery of second-person format that manages to invite readers into the deepest folds of a relationship, while still holding them at a distance. The repetition of the ‘you’ which launches almost every paragraph creates an intimacy that becomes the story’s heartbeat. The glimpse the reader is given here serves as a reminder that loving anyone deeply is its own airless dive, carrying the near constant risk of pain and drowning.

Third place went to Elenna Hope from Nelson for her story, “My Date With a Cowboy”.

My Date With a Cowboy won me over with the confidence of the voice, so increasingly at odds with the narrator’s own flagging sense of self. I laughed and I cringed. We can feel the hot pulse of desire in this writing even as the night starts to turn from bling to blurry. The writing is sharp and funny and visceral, with a tender underbelly. I left this story sweaty and aching with blisters on my heels, and my heart,” says Wood.

Wood noted that she really struggled with choosing among the high school submissions decisions because so many have a powerful story working on multiple levels, “And I love plot, I love motion, even in a short story. Many of the stories, to me, had the makings of novels and my hope is that all of the writers who submitted here will give some thought to spinning some of these action-packed stories into longer pieces, even novel-length works.”

Honourable mention went to Dania Wilson from West Kelowna for her story, “Bradford”.

“This story resonated with me on the level of keen observation and plotting. I enjoyed the scene breaks and the subject matter was close to my eco-cynical heart. What stood out for me here was the great ending, which is hard to pull off–this elevated this story above the other great contenders.”

And finally, the winner of the high school category went to Maylyn Tarves from Nelson BC for her story, “Philosopher King of Clusterf**k Mountain”.

“Ultimately, for the winning story, I went against a lot of what I just said and story, motion, and plot. This was the story that, to me, had the most original images, that painted a mood and an emotion so forcefully that while part of me wanted more to ‘happen’ I also felt I was in the hands of someone who knew how to use words to travel while holding completely still.”

The annual contest, organized by the Creative Writing program in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies (FCCS), is a writing competition open to fiction writers in British Columbia’s Southern Interior. Writers submit their stories, which are then read, anonymously, by faculty, and the shortlisted stories are sent to a guest judge to choose the winners in the adult and high school categories.

The first-place writer received $1,000 plus a one-week retreat at The Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre in Kelowna; second-place winner received $400 and third-place received $200. The top high school student received a $200 prize. Co-sponsors of the contest are FCCS and the Central Okanagan Foundation.

View the full short list for this year’s contest.

Samantha Carron receiving her PhD , University of Calgary

Samantha Carron is a Postdoctoral Fellow working with Dr. Marianne Legault, Department of Languages and World Literatures, here at UBC Okanagan. She is an alumna from UBC Okanagan with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in French and Spanish (2014), she has a Master of Arts (MA) in 17th century French Literature from the University of Calgary (2017) and a PhD in 17th century Women’s Literature from the University of Calgary (2023).

Her research is titled « L’Autre, c’est moi » : la fluidité du je travesti dans le discours romanesque du XVIIe siècle

Samantha shared with us some information about her research and affiliation with UBC Okanagan.

How is your postdoc connected to UBCO?

The Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies is home to many talented and motivated researchers and students who are committed toward greater inclusion, diversity and equity, and who support the growth of quality research in Gender, Queer and Feminist Studies. It is a humbling opportunity for me to play a role in the work currently done by FCCS’ students, professors and researchers in the real world – challenging conventions, questioning heteronormativity, redefining our visions and our ways of living in community. With the support of Dr. Legault, I hope to be able to participate alongside these numerous researchers, who make up the strength of UBCO, in the advancement of innovations and research, and to contribute to the literary and inclusive understanding of the diversity of personal identities in our communities today.

Most importantly, my postdoctoral research is connected to Dr. Legault directly, as she is the only specialist in Early Modern Feminist and Queer Studies in Canada. When I first met her during my BA in 2010-2014, little did I know that she would not only become my mentor but she would also become a solid example of what it means to be a woman in Academia and that our daily fight for greater inclusion, diversity and equity is deeply rooted in the work that we do. I hope that someday I can be an example like her.

Explain your research and how will you be able to conduct this research at UBCO.

My research project carries out a comparative study of the characteristics attributed to man-woman vs. woman-man cross-dressing in two 17th century novels, L’Astrée by Honoré d’Urfé (1607-1627) and Mémoires de la vie de Henriette-Sylvie de Molière by Madame de Villedieu (1672-1674), in order to bring out the discursive construction of the subject in relation to his or her other self, the “travesti”.  The main objective of my research is to observe cross-dressing as a privileged place of identity reflection in relation to cultural perceptions of identities, especially the discursive role of gender in the formation of identificatory practices. With this project, I hope to show that “travestissement” is a phenomenon of reflection, fluidity and authority that crosses and redefines the gendered boundaries institutionally codified in the 17th century.

Literary studies in 17th century France have always been separated from other disciplines, confined within the integrity of literary history. Barthes once wrote that the 17th century is “autre et nôtre” (“others and ours”). However, many 17th century experts still believe that it is more “autre” rather than “nôtre” and that a modern gendered and political approach is simply anachronistic and would make this “great” century loose its particular mentality, its perception of the world and its understanding of hierarchies in its nuances.

One day, while discussing my research project with Dr. Legault, I admitted having an impostor feeling, which came from the many comments I received throughout my doctoral journey from other 17th century experts who denied publication of some of my work, because it was “anachronistic”. Dr. Legault then told me that challenging the norms is a pretty scary ride, but if it bothers some people, it means that we are going in the right direction. And she was right. My passion for 17th century literature was born on the wish to challenge this conservative thinking, and I am proud to make my project part of the contemporary movement in Gender and Queer Studies.

Why did you choose that topic, and what difference do you hope your research will make?

I first chose this topic of research because “travestissement” is a subject that is still very new in the context of 17th century France, and I eagerly want to be part of this new evolution of research in my field. Also, my postdoctoral research follows my doctoral dissertation in some ways. Indeed, while my dissertation focused on the representation of the religious woman in her autobiographical and epistolary discourse, I am now interested in knowing what we can learn from the representation of the “travesti” subject in the context of the 17th century. I chose two novels, one written by a man and one written by a woman, in order to conduct a more inclusive research that reflects the identity diversity of yesterday and today.

I hope that my research will make a difference on two different levels:

First, I hope that it will contribute to raising two major historical issues: the role of literary discourse in understanding the realities of gender diversity, and the self-determination of the “travesti” subject which calls into question the cultural practices as well as the preconceptions that “travesti” subject gives rise to.

Second, the current research has studied “travestissement” as a marginal phenomenon that expressed class and gender irregularity in the 17th century, primarily associated with the popular baroque rhetoric and aesthetics of the “world upside down”. Therefore, I hope that my research will contribute to demonstrating that “travestissement”, in the context of 17th century literature, is a problem of mentality on the part of society which refuses the idea of gender diversity in favor of conformity. At this level, I hope that my research will help us better understand the historical ramifications of this gendered violence that we still witness today.

What are your plans after you complete the postdoc?

I hope to stay in Academia and have the opportunity to continue challenging the norms, making a difference, and above all, continuing to “make noise”! I once read that “écrire c’est révéler, révéler c’est faire connaître, et faire connaître, c’est engager” (to write is to reveal, to reveal is to let others know, and to let others know is to engage them as well). If I had to define what I love most about being a researcher, this would be it, and I hope to continue doing just that, wherever the next chapter will take me. And of course, I will be bringing my cats along!

About Samantha Carron

I am a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at UBC-Okanagan. My research focuses mainly on Early Modern French literature, with a particular interest in discursive representations of the female and “travesti” subject (le sujet travesti), in the critical and political scope of this image of the subject, and in the way in which these representations negotiate the logic of the sex/gender system which maintains the hierarchical attributes and power dynamics in place in 17th century France.

I have published several works, including an article in the Journal of Canadian Studies entitled “Marie Guyart de l’Incarnation: Une femme d’action en Nouvelle-France” (2020), an article published in the Cahiers du dix-septième entitled “Se taire pour mieux plaire? Le paradoxe genré du silence dans la Correspondance de Marie Guyart de l’Incarnation” (2023) and an upcoming chapter contributing to a collective work at McGill-Queen’s University Press entitled “Marie avant l’Incarnation (1621-1631) : une sainte « en devenir » dans la Relation de 1633” (2024).

Victoria Verge Audain Award photo

Victoria Verge (centre) with Karen Fry, Fire Chief of Vancouver Fire Rescue Services (left) and Lieutenant Governor of BC, Janet Austin (right), who presented the awards on behalf of the Audain Foundation

Victoria Verge, a second year Masters of Fine Arts student, was awarded the Audain Foundation Travel Award in the fall of 2023. The Audain Foundation supports the visual arts in British Columbia, offering awards to arts organizations, galleries and to individual artists.

Verge’s art practice is centred around the emotional impact of relocation on military dependents.

“As someone who has moved frequently throughout my childhood due to my father’s military service, I am intimately familiar with the feelings of displacement and longing for stability that can arise from such experiences, she explains.

With this funding, Verge travelled to Southern Ontario to explore military housing by taking source images of the houses, meeting with current military families, and sourcing housing blueprints and historical documentation from the archives at the Canadian Forces Housing Agency. The findings will be used to inform the creation of her thesis project.

During her trip, she worked to gather insights into the emotional experiences of military dependants and their relationship with housing and community in this often-transient lifestyle.

“I plan to use the research I gathered during my trip to fuel my current research-creation project which is the development of a series of mixed-media kinetic sculptures that will be scaled-down replicas of military housing units that will perpetually collapse and rebuild themselves in unison.”

Verge will offer a public talk on March 5 about this project and her findings, giving her the opportunity to share her research and artistic practice with the academic and artistic community, inviting them to connect with their own experiences of displacement, longing, and the search for stability and belonging.

“Overall, I hope to contribute to a deeper understanding of the experiences of military families through work that will be both engaging and emotionally resonant,” says Verge.

The Audain Foundation Travel Award was established in 2019 for BFA or MFA students at five major institutions in the province, University of British Columbia Okanagan, University of British Columbia Vancouver, Emily Carr University or Art and Design, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Victoria.

The award is for $7500 to one student per university to allow them to travel to destinations of their choice to view artworks and projects that will foster their practice and research.

Public Talk

Date:: Tuesday March 5, 2024
Time: 2:30 pm
Where: CCS 123 (Creative and Critical Studies building, UBC Okanagan)

These weekly writing sessions are an opportunity for FCCS and FASS early-stage faculty to sign up for weekly writing sessions. The idea is, quite simply, to get together and write! Good company, coffee and snacks will be provided. A maximum of 10 participants will be welcomed, given space constraints + so as to keep the atmosphere relaxed and intimate.

Dates: Fridays, 1-4 pm from Feb. 2 to April 19
Location: CCS 322 (boardroom)

If you are interested in signing up for this weekly writing session, please fill out the following form:

Weekly Writing Session Sign-up 


Applications from historically under-represented groups in academia (e.g. indigenous, racialized, LGBTQ+ etc) will be prioritized.


This event is organized by faculty members Sakiru Adebayo, Anita Girvan and Nikhita Obeegadoo, with funding from the Public Humanities Hub-Okanagan and support from the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies.

John LeBlanc at his retirement party saying his farewell

John LeBlanc, associate professor emeritus of English and Cultural Studies, died suddenly on October 30, 2023 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 1990 and retired in 2014. 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. A burial service will take place next summer in North Sydney, Nova Scotia at the family graveyard plot.

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 ART 106, 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).

Register Now

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


Fall 2023

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.

Winter 2024

Friday, January 12

  • Nikhita Obeegadoo, Assistant Professor, Languages and World Literatures
    Ananda Devi’s Ève de ses décombres (2006) [Eve out of her ruins] is an award-winning novel that depicts the underside of the Mauritian postcard. Woven into its French prose is “krapo kriyé” [when frogs cry out] (1981), the island’s most famous example of the séga engazé (a local musical form rooted in the island’s history of plantation slavery, with lyrics in Mauritian Creole and themes of social injustice). I ask: What is the effect of such intertextuality? On one hand, I explore how any attempt to reproduce music in written format is always unsatisfactory, if not problematic. On the other, I argue that the presence of the séga engazé functions as an alternative aesthetic form that draws attention to experiences sidelined by the official Mauritian narrative. Furthermore, I propose that “krapo kriyé” acts as a both a trigger of “multidirectional memory” (Michael Rothberg) and an example of a “subversive tactic” (Françoise Lionnet and Emmanuel Bruno Jean-François) that allows Devi’s work to retain local specificities while also appealing to a global audience.

Friday, January 26

  • Emily Murphy, English and Cultural Studies
    “I will live these multiple lives”: Intermedial Narratology in Anaïs Nin: A Sea of Lies (2020): This presentation will trace the intermedial strategies of a graphic biography of twentieth-century novelist and diarist, Anaïs Nin. Léonie Bischoff’s Anaïs Nin: A Sea of Lies (2020), I argue, animates Nin, constructing an intermedial image-text at the intersection of biography and Nin’s autofictional intertexts. The comic, and the figure of Nin that it constructs, refuses to be unified at the expense of its multiplicity. This talk is early work on a chapter in my monograph on graphic or comics-form biographies. Graphic biographies have emerged as a distinct comics genre in the last twenty years, with a particular boom in the last two. In the book, I argue that these works replicate the circulation of media within their pages while engaging in the cultural memory exercise of biography.*content warning: the graphic biography explores aspects of Nin’s sexual abuse by her father, and my talk will also feature some of that material.

Friday, February 9

  • 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, March 8

  • Julie Carr, BA English student
    “Modernist Legacies in Postmodern Times”: Identifying & Situating the Graphic Biography
    Over the last twenty years, graphic biographies have emerged as a distinct genre, and the past few years in particular have seen them undergo a notable surge in popularity. In my presentation, I both attempt to determine a working definition with which to identify the graphic biography and to situate the genre within our cultural & social landscape, as to better contextualize its perception and construction by audiences; this process of attempting to situate the graphic biography includes examining the legacies of modernist thought and media categorization that have shaped the way we think about media over the past century, and that still hold a particular grasp on the medium of comics.

Friday, April 5

  • Melissa Jacques, English and Cultural Studies
    In a work in progress titled “Decomposition as Pedagogy: Towards a Practice of (Un)becoming,” Melissa Jacques will talk about the relationship between writing, subjectivity, and place. Advocating for experimental forms of life writing that include the lyric essay and autotheory, she will focus on the relationship between storytelling and risk, between the past and the present, and between oneself and others. Bringing together such disparate epistemological frameworks as psychoanalysis, new materialism, and ethology, she will make an argument for decomposition as both a theory and a pedagogical practice that works to challenge conventional understandings of the self as sovereign or autonomous. Reflecting on the ethics of care made possible when we relinquish our desire for autonomy and control, she makes a case for practices of reading and writing that attempt what Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit imagine as forms of “nonsadistic movement.” And if all of that seems too abstract, she will also tell a story about an unexpected encounter with an owl.