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Irene Gammel, English

When Irene Gammel first received word in 2005 that her idea for a Modern Literature and Culture (MLC) Centre had received funding support through the Canada Research Chairs program, she was excited to be heading up the first university research centre of its kind in Canada. Today, with word that funding for the Centre has been extended to 2019, she is proof-positive that truly innovative ideas pay off.

The MLC Centre is many things to many people. For students, it’s an opportunity to study with a leading expert in communication and culture. A chance for experiential learning, where they are taught the basics of research, receive valuable peer feedback and collaborate on the planning of research-driven events such as conferences and curated gallery events at the MLC Gallery at Ryerson. For employers, it represents a training ground that turns out highly skilled researchers who may go on to pursue careers in everything from publishing to digital archives management to public relations to fundraising.

“People are surprised to discover that a degree in English can be useful. It’s become somewhat counter-intuitive in our society,” says Prof. Gammel. “The Centre’s role is to provide hands-on experience in all aspects of research, from initial inception through to development and publication. But there’s more to it than that. We’re taking students in English, in fashion, in art, in history and we’re professionalizing them, meaning that we’re training them in best practices so that they’re ready for careers, whether that’s as top-notch academics or as non-academic professionals.”

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Photo credit: Mark Blinch.