What prompted you into wanting to be a Research Assistant (RAships) at Ryerson? How did you get involved?
I first heard about research assistant positions from a fellow English student in my first year but had never given it any serious thought. I was really involved with the English Course Union and the Ryerson Liberal Arts Society during my first two years at Ryerson, by my third year I wanted to take a step back and find more academic opportunities. Being involved with student groups was rewarding but ultimately balancing it with a full course load was getting to be too much. Since February of last year, I've been working on Dr. Naomi Hamer and Dr. Ann Marie Murnaghan's project "Curating The Story Museum." I had been taught by Dr. Hamer in my second year practicum course and then again in ENG 224: Children's Literature the following year. I was struck by her energy, insight, passion and knowledge of a genre often undervalued in literary academia, though her work in children's literature and cultures has most certainly helped to change that perception. I chatted with her during class and even interviewed her for a piece I was trying to put together for the Ryerson Liberal Arts Society newsletter. When the RA posting came up, she encouraged me to apply for it. I was lucky enough to be brought on board!
What kind of archival material do you collect and why?
Throughout my time on the research project, I've collected primarily children's texts that feature cities or urban life as the main theme. A good example would be "Sidewalk Flowers" by Sydney Smith! I also collected pictures, short films and online links to children's story exhibits. I was collecting the materials for both our reference and utilization in the physical story museum, in which we bring in kids from a local elementary school to select what they would like to see on display in their museum. I also had the opportunity to play with applications having to do with children's museums and create content for the project's , external linkofficial YouTube channel, external link.
What are you hoping to take away from this experience? Are you interested in continuing in graduate studies after you graduate?
I'm hoping to take away whatever I can from the experience. Often, I don't realize what I've learned from an experience until after it has passed. I get so overwhelmed yet so excited about the work that it's like I don't have the capacity to derive meaning from it right away. But I think that what I've taken from it so far is a deeper respect for academics, insights into what it takes to get a project approved, an improvement of my own research skills and just expanding what I thought I was capable of. I never dreamt that I would be working on an academic research project, especially a really cool one like this! I am interested in pursuing graduate studies. In fact, this experience with Dr. Hamer inspired me to look at the representations of maladaptive perfectionism in children's picture books as an independent research paper this semester. She's even supervising the paper as well! When I pursue a graduate degree, I want to study how mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression, are represented in cultural texts and how these cultural texts may be beneficial in treatment along with standard psychological interventions like therapy or meditation. I've struggled with anxiety all my life and exposure to stories has never failed to help me along the way. I'd love to help other people suffering from these conditions through narrative interventions. But I have too many things I'm interested in!
How has this job been beneficial to you in your studies as a Ryerson English student?
The position has definitely enhanced my research skills. I learned the protocol on how to request materials from the City of Toronto Archives, how to use the book scanner in the Digital Humanities Lab on the fourth floor of the library, the importance of being specific in your online archival searches, how to critique the utility of a source and most importantly: the importance of staying organized when doing research across multiple domains. I would go from visiting the Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books to scrolling through a public domain archive to finding a YouTube video about Toronto; it could get confusing very quickly if I didn't stay organized! Now when I'm assigned a research paper in one of my classes, I feel more self assured because I'm applying the RA skills to my job as an undergraduate. I highly recommend an RA position to any student looking to learn more about academia, enhance their research skills or simply to try something new.