Over the past few years, Mount Allison has introduced a number of new academic programs and offerings, including formal studies in Visual and Material Culture. The interdisciplinary program includes degree minor options, an embedded certificate program, and recently welcomed its first student major, Amy Walker.
Walker, a fifth-year student from Pointe-du-Chêne, NB, will graduate in 2021 as the first Visual and Material Culture Studies (VMCS) degree major with a minor in French and a certificate in visual literacy and culture.
“My interest in cultural studies was really sparked when I went on exchange to Strasbourg during my third year,” says Walker. “I travelled around Europe and to Egypt during my exchange. Learning about these different cultures was a really eye-opening experience.”
Throughout her degree, Walker has been working with Dr. Christina Ionescu, professor in Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, and program director for VMCS. Studying throughout the establishment of the program, Walker says Ionescu has been a supportive mentor throughout her degree.
“Customisation is at the very core of the new programs we designed in the Visual and Material Culture Studies Program and what liberal arts universities like Mount Allison can do really well because we as faculty are in close contact with our students,” says Ionescu. “Our VMCS faculty are eager to support students like Amy who seek to create their own learning pathways and to pursue interests across disciplines in independent studies and experiential learning opportunities.”
Walker was able to use credits from her Strasbourg courses to help create the self-designed major. This past year she has also been working on an independent study project, looking at Korean television drama series in comparison to Western series through both visual and material culture lenses.
Outside her studies, Walker is co-editor of the Allisonian Yearbook, and volunteers on the executives for both The Rose Campaign and Relay for Life committees. She is also a teacher’s assistant in VMCS and French courses and works as the social media and marketing manager for Metafy, a business dedicated to cultural studies founded by Mount Allison professor and Canada Research Chair in Intercultural Encounter, Dr. Lauren Beck.
Walker plans to take some time off after graduation and is considering a career in marketing. She says her studies at Mount Allison have helped prepare her for the next step, whatever that may be.
“My major very much focuses on the visual aspect of how to communicate with people. Definitely the best part of pursuing a self-designed major is being able to design something that is best fitting for you,” she says. “Learning about and understanding different cultures is useful in any degree, job, or field. Visual communication is also important. The biggest thing I’ve found with my degree is having the freedom and ability to choose your focus. The material covered is very much relevant to daily life.”
Learn more about the Visual and Material Culture Studies program at: mta.ca/programs
Photo caption: Amy Walker, Mount Allison's first student to major in Visual and Material Culture Studies during her exchange in Strasbourg