PROFile – Dr. Tracy Whalen

Associate professor in the Rhetoric, Writing and Communications department

Photo By Alana Trachenko

Dr. Tracy Whalen is, according to, one of University of Winnipeg’s (U of W’s) top instructors. She’s tagged as giving good feedback, hilarious and caring. Speaking to Whalen, it’s easy to see she’s just as enthusiastic about her students as they are about her.

“Without a doubt it’s the teaching of the students here,” Whalen says when asked why she has been teaching at the U of W for 15 years.

All of those years have been spent in the rhetoric department, which was known as the Centre for Academic Writing when Whalen first arrived.

“I find the students here very engaged,” she says. “They’re very connected to social issues, to political discourses, so when we’re talking about issues of rhetoric, social texts, writing for different institutions, writing in the public sphere, they always have something extraordinarily relevant to say about the power of symbols to effect change.”

Whalen’s enthusiasm for rhetorical analysis has her students looking at modern-day examples of patterns that have existed for hundreds of years.

In her research, Whalen is focused on rhetoric and identity, specifically Newfoundlander identity. She was born and raised in St. John’s and her PhD dissertation looked at literary and non-literary texts Newfoundlanders identify with.

Number of peer-reviewed articles published: Around 15, and I’ve also guest-edited three peer-reviewed journals. In 2015, I co-edited a book with two colleagues (Jaqueline McLeod Rogers and Catherine Taylor): Finding McLuhan: The Mind / The Man / The Message.

Lowest grade in university: I got a C in math, and I was very happy about that. That was a cliffhanger, and Newfoundland has cliffs.

What’s your superpower: I have the power of extemporaneous speech – it’s the ability to speak off the cuff without notes once you’ve thought a little bit about what you want to say … I have to hide it a little bit. I’m still working on the costume.

What’s the best thing about your work: Without a doubt, it’s teaching … the classroom is a place of connection and I’ve always found the energy of my work comes from moments of connection and sparks.

What’s the latest book you read: Bring Up the Bodies. Spoiler alert: Anne Boleyn dies. 

Published in Volume 71, Number 8 of The Uniter (October 27, 2016)

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