Although Sarah Devon’s four-years at Algoma University are coming to an end this June, she will always have close ties to the Sault Ste. Marie University. For Devon, Algoma U has provided her with the opportunity to explore her love for History and English, but also allowed her to examine how the two are related.
Originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Devon moved to Richards Landing, Ontario, a small community on St. Joseph Island, located just 45 minutes away from her birthplace. Although she currently resides in Richards Landing, she still considers the Sault her home. Sault Ste. Marie is home to not only her family, but also the post-secondary institution that she has grown to love over the past four years. “The Sault is a special place for me and I’m really going to miss it this year when I have to finally move away. I’m going to miss this school, my friends, and my professors,” she says, sitting on a chair in the Wishart Library. “There’s something to be said about a small school where everyone knows each other. It’s like a family in many ways, and I really don’t think I’m ready to say goodbye just yet.”
Devon applied to Algoma U directly from high school. The small size of the University appealed to her then just as much as it does now. “It was close to home and it was small. I really liked the size. I liked the idea of being able to sit in class and talk to my peers instead of just being lectured to. That was a big appeal to me.” But what she found even more enticing was the ability to talk to her professors. “I knew I would be able to talk to my professors on a one-on-one basis and that was crucial for me. When you’re studying in programs where you’re constantly writing – like English and history – you need to be able to have conversations with the people marking you to ensure you’re on the right track. Being able to have open conversations with my professors these past four years has helped my writing tremendously. I get feedback on all my assignments, and I can use that feedback to get ahead and better my grades.”
Plus, she’s also able to pursue topics of interest. “I’ve always had a love of history and English and my professors now know that. In many of my courses, they let me examine how the two are related. I think it makes for a better education when you can relate your courses to each other and you can pursue something that is meaningful to you.” Her favourite course so far has been her second-year John Milton course, which amalgamated both history and English. The first of its kind at Algoma U, the course was jointly taught by history faculty member Dr. Warren Johnston and English professor Margaret Wallace. “It was a great course. I learned the theory behind Milton as well as the history of Milton and the era in which he lived. I wish there were more interdisciplinary courses of this nature.” Her Milton course had such an impact on her that when applying to graduate school, she wrote her applications on Milton. “I would really like to study Milton some more. I’m definitely not done with him just yet,” she says with a laugh.
Devon has also been able to further explore her love for interdisciplinary studies in her work placement on campus. “I work for Dr. Michael DiSanto and I am working on his George Whalley project as Research Assistant – which I am loving! It doesn’t even feel like work. It’s actually what I do in my spare time because I am a geek and love reading and history,” she continues laughing. “I get to spend hours reading Whalley’s letters and thinking that this is a real person, this really happened. It’s incredible.” Devon has been working as a Research Assistant since October, and has found the experience extremely rewarding. “It has helped my research abilities but also my writing. I’ve also found parallels in the work I’m doing for Dr. DiSanto with other course work. It’s a cool experience to be working on this project that has so much to do with my actual studies. I think the work I’m doing here on campus has had a big impact on why I was accepted into graduate school. How many other students can say they’ve been a Research Assistant in their undergrad years?”
Devon’s Research Assistantship ends this month. She encourages other students to apply for this unique position. “It’s a great opportunity. It looks great on a resume but also builds upon your academic studies. We have so many great opportunities like this at Algoma, including those outside of the disciplines of history and English, and more people need to get involved and take advantage.”
Next year, the Central Algoma Secondary School (CASS) graduate will be taking her undergraduate studies to the next level, when she attends Queen’s University for her Master of Arts in English. Having her heart set on Queen’s University, Devon only applied to the one graduate school, noting that the Kingston-based school heavily favours interdisciplinary studies in the early modern era, her favourite period to study. In Kingston, Devon will complete two full semesters of course work, followed by a summer of either thesis writing or a placement in her field of study. She’s been awarded with $12,200 from Queen’s University to help offset the cost of tuition, residence, and books, and will also be working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, mentoring students in the study of English.