Leader in the Spotlight: Sarah Bray, Criminology Expert, Arctic Survivor and Incredible Volunteer Coordinator

For our August Leader in the Spotlight feature, we are pleased to present Sarah Bray. Sarah has a diverse portfolio of experiences, including studying Criminology and General Contemporary Studies in Ontario, and working in Nunavut. She is presently pursuing her MA at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. In the interview below, Sarah shares her thoughts on career prospects for arts graduates, her  most memorable Arctic experience, and the contents of her zombie attack survival kit (based on research from her Master’s thesis!) .

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Jessie (JW): You worked in Iqaluit for a year after graduation from Wilfrid Laurier University – this must have been quite the remarkable experience. What was the biggest challenge you faced while you were there? And would you return and live in the Arctic? 

Sarah (SB): The biggest challenge I faced when I was living in Iqaluit was the isolation. With the job I was working, I wasn’t granted vacation time until I fulfilled my contract (which was a year in length). I  began experiencing cabin fever after a few weeks because there really wasn’t anywhere to go. The only way to leave Iqaluit is by plane and flights are VERY expensive. Internet, cable, and home phone service is also extremely pricey, so that also limited the contact I had with my family and friends back home. However, a month into my job, I ended up getting my partner a job in Iqualuit. So he came up there to live and work with me. This definitely made things a lot easier. I also made a lot of friends really quickly because there isn’t much else to do in your downtime. However, despite the isolation, I would definitely consider going back up there and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting experience! Iqaluit is a beautiful place, full of wonderful people and interesting culture.

JW: Still on Iqaluit – What’s the single most memorable experience you had while living there?

SB: My most memorable experience was definitely going dog sledding on Frobisher Bay. I went in April and the temperature was still about -18 degrees. I had to get bundled up from head to toe (much like every day) but I was provided special boots by the woman who was running the tour. I got to meet the sled dog team and helped hook up all of the dogs into their harnesses. We went sledding for most of the day and stopped to have lunch about halfway. This was really interesting because we were eating our lunch on the ocean (the ice freezes a good 6-7 feet down)! I took so many beautiful pictures. I even got the chance to drive the sled, which was a lot more work then it seems! Those dogs can run really fast and it was exhausting to run alongside the sled and jump on with so many layers of clothing on. I definitely slept well that night!

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JW: Moving away from Iqaluit now and onto the arts. For those students pursuing arts degrees, how do you feel about the current job market?

SB: Throughout my degrees, I have always had a lot of anxiety about the job market. In Nova Scotia, I often hear people say that there aren’t any jobs and a lot of young people are heading out West to try and find work. However, I don’t necessarily believe that this is true. I feel that throughout our academic lives (especially during elementary and secondary school) we are told that your job/career has to fall into very limited categories, such as teacher, doctor, police officer, lawyer, etc. But no one tells you that there are literally thousands of jobs that fall into the cracks all around those careers. For instance, I was recently hired at a non-profit organization as their volunteer coordinator. Now if you asked me what my future work would be, when I was in high school or even throughout my undergrad, I never would have suggested that.

Although there is a lot of negativity around the job market today (at least in Atlantic Canada), I try to remain positive. I believe that we have to be willing to consider different avenues and put ourselves out there a little more. Then, things will work out. This is why I feel that volunteer work is so vital in our world today! Employers are looking for working or practical experience, yet it can be difficult to obtain that while you are a student in college or university. Volunteer work can help to fill that gap and allow you to expand your skills and experience in many different aspects. I wouldn’t have my current job if I hadn’t been a volunteer with the same organization throughout the past couple of years. Therefore, I highly encourage students pursuing an Arts degree to take advantage of their time as a student and get out and volunteer. Try something new, put yourself out there, and meet new people! These actions will help you learn new and valuable skills employers are looking for;  you will make new contacts and create networks, and you may even discover types of positions you are or aren’t interested in.

JW: Your Masters’ thesis analyzes the television series The Walking Dead in the context of criminological and sociological theory in combination with media studies research. How did you come across such an interesting topic? Could you summarize what your research has shown?

SB: It was almost by mistake that I came up with the topic of my Master’s thesis. I originally began with some ideas about mental illness in film. I kept trying to make my initial research questions and proposal work, but it just never developed past the first stage. One day I was sitting in my supervisor’s office and I said I was jealous of her because she wrote her dissertation on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I said I wish I could do something like that. My supervisor looked at me across the desk and said “Why not! It’s your thesis.” After that, everything fell into place.  Two and a half months later, I was defending my proposal in front of my thesis committee. At my proposal, I successfully gained their approval to move into the data collection phase.

My research examines AMC’s The Walking Dead, and offers a qualitative critical analysis of different and competing discourses of power, authority, gender, race, class, the law, governance, risk, and the body in the first two seasons of the series. I critically examine and analyze these discourses to demonstrate how the power and authority to govern, the management of risk, and the control of the body are brought into being in the text. As well, I examined how these discourses produce régimes of truth in the series. In particular, I argue that the power and authority to govern are gendered, raced, and classed, overwhelmingly falling in the purview of those who are male, white, middle-class, and heterosexual; I also argue that the able, clean, and living body is privileged as normal in the text and that the body is governed through the management of risk, more so than through overt physical violence or force. I drew upon Jacques Derrida’s vocabulary of deconstruction, Michel Foucault’s concepts of discourse, knowledge, power, truth, governance, normalization, resistance, and the body, and Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection to compile the conceptual tools and language I needed to deconstruct, critically analyze, and speak about this text.

JW: You deal a little with zombies in your research. What’s in your zombie attack survival kit?

SB: Here are the top five things I would include in my zombie survival kit (which I have probably given way too much thought to!):

  1. Purified drinking water.
  2. Food (such as energy bars, dry goods, etc.)
  3. First aid kit (bandages, gauze, alcohol pads, wet naps, topical antibiotic ointment, aspirin, Benadryl) because you wouldn’t want to survive the zombie apocalypse just to die of an infection from a little cut or from the common cold!
  4. A good melee weapon (I would choose a katana like Michonne from the Walking Dead uses). It’s a lot quieter than a gun and you don’t need to reload!
  5. Warmth (box of waterproof matches and a waterproof blanket and jacket).

JW: Thank you for a great chat Sarah!

 

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