Alyson Brickey teaches English courses on a wide variety of topics at the University of Winnipeg (U of W). But even as someone with many diverse areas of expertise in the field, it was never a given that she would end up as a professor.
“I did my undergrad here at the U of W,” Brickey says. “I started off as an English major, but I had a very rocky start. I was like, ‘Well, these are the courses I seem to be okay at, so I’ll declare this as my major.’ But I didn’t really know what I was doing in university and kind of fumbled around for a bit ... I found university really challenging and overwhelming.”
After taking a year off to work in a call centre and figure out her path forward, Brickey returned to the U of W to finish her undergrad. That’s when she says she “really got the bug for English.”
“I took some upper-year courses with Debbie Schnitzer and Keith Fulton. I sort of saw that there was this next level that I could see, murkily, before me. I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I want to go to grad school.’”
After finishing her MA at the University of Manitoba and her PhD at the University of Toronto (U of T), Brickey taught for a time at the latter school. But she happily greeted the opportunity to return to Winnipeg and the U of W.
“I feel truly lucky to have ended up back here,” she says. “U of T’s very big ... it’s a huge difference when you get to teach smaller class sizes. There’s a real sense of community here and a great sense of political activism, with the students especially.
“But it was so weird coming back as a prof, because you get these flashbacks from when you were an undergrad. Everything kind of smells the same.”
Brickey teaches the 2000-level course called Field of Literary and Textual Studies. A requirement for students pursuing an English degree with honours, Brickey says she’s “super excited” to be teaching it.
“It’s kind of like a gateway honours course,” she says. “It’s a great challenge to try to account for the entirety of what our discipline is and expose students to what can be some really challenging but important theory and history of the field, intellectually.”
What was your worst grade in university?
“I have a couple Fs on my transcript. One was a Shakespeare course with Paul DePasquale, one was a history course ... I just stopped showing up. I didn’t withdraw. I always tell students that, for a few reasons. Sometimes students think that the trajectory of profs is, ‘Good from the beginning, excels, knows what they want to do, doesn’t fumble.’ It’s important to remember that you can mess up, and you can go back and try again. Also, just withdraw before the deadline! It’s difficult to get your GPA back up.”
What’s your favourite thing about yourself?
“My curiosity. I think I’m still quite a curious person, and that brings me a lot of joy. I think it’s important for life.”
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
“Be able to get 10 hours of sleep every night. Or just feel like I had.”
Published in Volume 74, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 21, 2019)