As the winter semester comes to an end and students prepare to enter graduate programs in September, I have thought a lot about the students who turned to me as a mentor and the ways in which professors helped students from lower socioeconomic groups, like me, navigate academia. In the current academic market, mentors should prepare their students for a non-academic career, and this is increasingly important for lower class students who rely on loans to fund their education.
As my SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship came to an end in November 2017, I reflected on the professors who shaped me as a scholar. I remember the day my professor, Deanne Schultz from Vancouver Island University, planted the kernel that I could strive for a graduate level education. Coming from a working class background, obtaining an undergraduate education was my goal and I had not considered teaching beyond secondary schools. Although I always wanted to be a modern-day Anne Shirley, I never considered a career in university teaching.
Fortunately, my history professors at Vancouver Island University informed me of the SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships Program Master’s Scholarships, which paved the way for my graduate education. Unlike many graduate students from working class backgrounds, I received sufficient financial support throughout my graduate education to conduct my research and complete my theses. However, where I attended school was always determined by financial support. Rather than attending universities in major cities where the cost of living was higher, I always looked to smaller universities that had lower rent and tuition. Because of significant advice from mentors and my good fortune of receiving SSHRC funding, I avoided having to take out loans to complete my graduate education, unlike many graduate students from working and lower class backgrounds.
In addition to financial considerations, where I attended school was also largely influenced by the reputation of the supervisor. Continue reading