PROFile: Joan Grace

Professor, Department of Political Science, U of W

Joan Grace is a political science professor at the University of Winnipeg (U of W). Her love for politics, governance and public policy comes from early interactions she had with her parents.

“I grew up with parents who love to read and question. My mom and dad instilled in us a real sense of public service,” she says.

The political discussions she had with her parents at the dinner table turned her into a person whose curious nature and drive kept her connected to academia. 

“I remember in high school, I was inquisitive, specifically around government issues like what the local parliament and city councillor were doing. I came with an inquisitive nature in life,” she says.

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“I just think being inquisitive and questioning helps you understand yourself better. You come to know yourself more completely and fully. Ultimately, that is the aspect which pushed me towards being an academic.”

Despite her love for education, Grace had to take a break from her studies and work instead.

“My parents worked really hard to support us and take care of us. They couldn’t afford to send me to university. So, at 17, I went to work as an administrative assistant in Toronto.”

Grace soon realized something was missing from her life and decided to enroll in night school.

“Eventually, I left my job, which was a big decision for me, and I went to school full-time at the University of Victoria.

“I made that decision and haven’t looked back since.”

Her yearning and love for education brought her to U of W, where she’s taught for the past 18 years. She advises her students to continue to learn and question.

“Learning is one of the most important things. Learning doesn’t have to be at university alone. It’s in college, in your family, in your church or in your synagogue. Learning is everywhere around us as long as you’re open to it.”

What was your worst grade in university?

“I know exactly what my worst grade was in university. I got a C at the University of Toronto (for) a course (about) the Canadian Constitution, and I never got over it. My students would laugh about it now, because in my courses, I teach the Constitution.”

What do you like to do in your spare time?

“I read a lot. (I) love reading and love going to yoga. I work on puzzles, and right now, I’m working on an epic puzzle, which is a painting that Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter, did of herself.”

Which book is one of your recent favourites?

“I’m reading a great book called Sarum. It’s by Edward Rutherfurd. It’s 800 pages and is a historical journey of a city in England.”

What is your favourite thing about yourself?

“I’m a person who sees life in a positive way. I see the glass half-full. Life is about joy and gratitude.”

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to your students?

“If you choose to be a student, be open to ideas and engage yourself in ideas you don’t necessarily agree with, because that will only sharpen your own ideas or what you believe.”

Published in Volume 74, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 24, 2019)

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