5Q with women’s and gender studies and sociology student Martha Kerr
1- What made you decide to come to Mount Allison?
I came to visit a friend at Mount Allison and it happened to be during an Open House. Coming here wasn’t even on my radar at that point as I was at art school, but I saw people who were very enthusiastic about the school and loved Sackville. I went on the tour and talked to the professors and students at the tables and I realized I was missing something. Sackville as whole, as a community, attracted me. There was so much going on, so much arts and culture. I remember talking to Dr. Hammond-Callaghan about the women’s and gender studies program and deciding on it right then.
2- You have been a teaching assistant for the Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies course for the past two years. Why did you want to do this?
I was a TA first with Marie [Hammond-Callaghan] and she was someone I really looked up to. I followed her work. So when she asked me to be a TA I was so honoured. It is a subject I am passionate about and teaching is something I want to do in the long run, and she knew that. It was a great opportunity. It is good to be able to develop these skills and although I have experience working with younger kids, I didn’t have experience working with students my age and teaching more complex material. I enjoyed it and so did it again this year because of that. The department has given and taught me a lot. I really want to do anything I can to give back to it.
3- You went on exchange in Sweden. What was that like?
It was really amazing. I was in a small city called Ostersund in Northern Sweden. I arrived in January and it was surprisingly quite warm. There was the darkness because the sun would rise at 9 in the morning and set at 2:30 p.m., so if you overslept then you would miss the daylight. That was an adjustment, but it was really interesting. It was also really interesting studying sociology and gender studies there because we in Canada look up to Sweden. It is funny because they look at Canada the same way — ‘Canada the promised land.’ So many students said to me ‘we want to move to Canada’ and I told them we look up to Sweden here and we think you have got it right. We lived in cottages that during the school year were rented to international students. So there were students from Germany, Italy, Holland, Switzerland, and another girl from Mount A. We all became friends and travelled together and worked together. It was a really good experience.
4- Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
The women’s and gender studies department as a whole, Tasia [Alexopoulos] and Marie have been important to me. These two have been passionate, caring, and intelligent women. They have been able to study what they have wanted to study, be successful, and be radical and passionate, and have been great role models. Marie's recent passing was so sad and a great loss to all who knew her.
Also, I had a high school teacher who was phenomenal; every high school teacher should be like her. She assigns projects that expose you to new areas that are not taught in high school — women’s issues was mine. My brother is now in religious studies thanks partly to her. That was my first introduction to feminist theory and gender issues in a more specific way. I started reading and saw it as more a contemporary issue as opposed to something that had been dealt with before. I also saw how applicable it was to so many different things.
And of course my mother, who is a passionate, caring, intelligent women.
5- What is your most memorable moment at Mount Allison?
It was in sociology professor Dr. Ardath Whynacht’s criminology class where we visited the nearby penitentiary in Dorchester. In class we were looking at different theorists who are critiquing the current system. But studying it in the classroom can only take you so far, so Ardath wanted to give us the opportunity to be in the system and see what it is like and talk to these men firsthand. When we got there we just sat in a circle and had an open discussion where we were allowed to ask questions and we spoke for about two hours. It was amazing being given that opportunity, getting past the stereotypes of seeing these people as ‘othered’ and something to study, and realizing, no these people are people. They are men, they are intelligent, and they have stories to tell. And so often they are not given the opportunity to tell these stories. Before going I thought ‘am I going to leave this really sad or upset or disturbed?’ Although it was upsetting hearing their stories, they talked about the emotional side of being in prison. I left feeling happy and hopeful and trying to look at people in a different way.