My Intellectual Autobiography

My academic history is tightly intertwined with a personal journey of exploration and discovery. As a relative latecomer to post-secondary education (I was 29 years old when I started my undergraduate degree), my goal in this endeavor was personal development, though my ambitions were tempered by great fear and anxiety.

As a musician since early childhood, I began my studies in music believing that to be my greatest strength and best chance for success. After completing a two-year diploma in classical piano at Keyano College, I successfully auditioned for the Bachelor of Arts in Music program (Jazz Studies) at St. Francis Xavier University. I completed all the required music courses for this program. When I began to delve into the elective courses in other disciplines, however, I quickly became enamored with a world of concepts and theories that emerged from different disciplinary contexts. After stumbling onto a book entitled The Web of Life by Fritjof Capra, I chose to focus my honors thesis on a theory of biological development known as complexity theory. In the BA Music program, I was the first student in more than fifteen years to select the honors thesis option in lieu of a final performance. My honors thesis, entitled “Sustaining Master Musicians: Complexity and the Jazz Tradition, Implications for Music Education and Performance,” combined complexity theory and music pedagogy, and it required me to seek expertise and resources not just beyond my home discipline, but beyond my home institution. I found an expert in complexity theory in the geology department of a nearby university, and together with guidance from my departmental chair, I successfully completed this project.

During my undergraduate degree, I took several courses in Gender and Women’s studies which exposed me to a whole new realm of knowledge and inquiry. This discovery inspired me to pursue a Master’s degree in the joint program at Mount Saint Vincent and St. Mary’s Universities in Women and Gender Studies. In this program, I looked critically at complexity theory in conjunction with ecofeminism and feminist science studies to argue for a dynamic bifocal vision of issues that pit traditional science against constraints of normative feminist epistemological objectives.

I continued my academic journey in the Interdisciplinary Studies PhD Program at Dalhousie University. I selected this program because it allowed me the widest possible range to pursue my research interests, and it offered high-quality supervision and resources for my doctoral work. Officially, my work in this program was situated in philosophy and religious studies, but I have adopted a much more expansive approach that I call “strategic interdisciplinarity.” This approach formalized the research strategy that emerged in my undergraduate experience in which, guided by my research question(s), the resources available (including supervisors, colleagues, and other learners), and my ability to utilize the resources I encountered, I explored from a wide range of perspectives and drew on disciplinary tools as necessary to articulate emergent insights. In this approach, the self is method and the quality of the research is located in the diversity of perspectives brought to bear on the object of inquiry. My doctoral dissertation examined the connections between the theory of intelligent design, science, and sexual politics. In this project I drew largely on science studies, feminist epistemology, philosophy of science, and religious studies to facilitate a discourse analysis in both a historical and contemporary context.

Despite my initial fears and anxieties, I now feel at home in the academic community. I have been involved with several research projects, including an examination of conceptual metaphors in narratives of close personal relationships and an examination of multi-media authoring tools for young children. I have excelled in my work, winning the Duffy Award for Interdisciplinarity (twice), the Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal, the Senate Award of Distinction, and the Merit Scholarship in Women’s Studies.

In addition to my program of study, I have focused on developing my teaching competencies. I have completed the Certificate for University Teaching and Learning offered by the Center for Learning and Teaching at Dalhousie University. This program included a graduate course on university teaching, several teaching evaluations, extensive written reflection, and twenty hours of professional development workshops and seminars. I have attended workshops and seminars focused on interdisciplinary teaching in the humanities, and I continue to research on interdisciplinary methodologies. I also work to learn about and incorporate multi-media and learning technologies in the classroom in order to meet the needs of contemporary learners.

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