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Alumni Profile: Kate Cornell (ComCult PhD '08)

Kate graduated with a PhD in Communication and Culture in 2008. She is the executive director for the Canadian Dance Assembly, and the co-chair of the Canadian Arts Coalition.
By: Hannah Warkentin
January 10, 2019

My advice for students in ComCult is to enjoy your time in the program, and to use that time to diversify your skillset and prepare for work in the 21st century, which is precarious and creative.

Current Work

I am the executive director of the Canadian Dance Assembly, external link, a registered charity and a national arts service organization (NASO) that works to support the dance community in Canada. Our work centers on advocacy and networking, and so I talk to politicians at all levels of government about the importance of funding the arts, particularly funding dance. Because we are a charity and a non-profit, my work also involves grant writing and creating proposals. I am also the co-chair of the Canadian Arts Coalition, external link, a national volunteer group that advocates for the economic and social impact of the arts to the federal government. In October, we hosted Arts Day on the Hill, the biggest arts and lobby day in Ottawa.

In addition to advocacy, my work with the Canadian Dance Assembly also involves working with and supporting dance communities across Canada. One of our current initiatives is called “Decolonizing Canadian Dance, external link,” and the form that it’s taking right now is a review of the policies, procedures, and staffing of the organization itself, to make sure that we are taking into consideration equity, diversity, and inclusion in everything that we do.

Reflections on ComCult

My initial goal when I entered the PhD program was to become a professor. I worked as a sessional instructor for ten years and while I loved teaching and the work was incredibly satisfying, there was a lack of tenure track positions for young scholars, particularly young female scholars. When teaching didn’t become a full time position, I left academia and worked as a freelance consultant for a few years before taking this position with the Canadian Dance Assembly.

My degree absolutely influences the work that I do now. As the national spokesperson for dance and advocate for cultural policy, my time in the program gave me a great foundation in understanding the government’s position on funding the arts. That experience helps me in my work on a day to day basis. The flexibility that is encouraged in ComCult is also something that I see in the working world, as you can build in to your time in the program an incredible way to move through fields in an interdisciplinary fashion, which can be applied to your working life when you’re done.

My advice for students in ComCult is to enjoy your time in the program, and to use that time to diversify your skillset and prepare for work in the 21st century, which is precarious and creative. I would also encourage students to take courses outside of your comfort zone, as there are so many amazing opportunities available to you. The professors who ended up being on my advisory committee for my dissertation were not the usual suspects and I loved that. They provoked me and asked really great questions because they weren’t coming from my field, and I would encourage students to go out there and find professors who will similarly challenge your assumptions and the way that you work.

Recommended Creative Content

I absolutely adore Canadaland and all of their subsidiary podcasts. I think Jesse Brown is brilliant and I am often reminded of my work in ComCult when I listen to Canadaland. The questions that he asks and the way he frames conversations take into account both government and policy, but also the current events and controversies that are in the public eye. Canadaland sheds a light on some really fascinating subjects.

Kate Cornell (ComCult PhD '08). Photo by Dahlia Katz.
Kate Cornell (ComCult PhD '08). Photo by Dahlia Katz.