Fine Arts graduate student Lidija Sijacic chose the University of Lethbridge for its Liberal Education model, and has been able to gain crucial skills, participate in new experiences and expand her learning while earning her degree.
Since starting my graduate program at ULethbridge, I have been employed in research assistant and teaching assistant positions, which have equipped me with quite a few valuable new skills. All these experiences have been incredible as they helped me integrate into the Canadian work and academic culture.
Meet Lidija. Designer. Digital artist. Perpetual learner.
Program: Master of Fine Arts - New Media
Why did you choose to pursue graduate studies in fine arts at the University of Lethbridge?
Initially, while looking at different graduate programs, I realized that the University of Lethbridge provides a unique opportunity for fine arts students to venture beyond their artistic practice and take elective courses offered by other departments.
The liberal education model that the University follows aligns with my own values and my understanding of the role that higher education has in helping students grow into engaged citizens and critical thinkers.
What is your research about?
In broad terms, my research is situated at the intersection of neurodiversity and user experience design. Speaking more narrowly, I am working on conceptualizing and prototyping a gamified emotion-logging mobile app whose intended user group will be autistic women.
What inspires your artistic/musical practice and research?
I am an avid video game lover and draw most of my inspiration from this sphere. Games can provoke me to reflect, placate my day-to-day worries, or spur me to create something new. This old/new medium has been my companion for several decades now, and its never-ending innovations never cease to surprise me. Even though video games started as relatively simple forms of entertainment, such as platformers or shooters, they have been constantly reborn and reinvented to offer us an incredibly vast array of genres, incredible visuals and narratives to explore.
What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience so far?
My most memorable experience at ULethbridge thus far was being able to take the Indigenous Thinkers course with professor Paul McKenzie-Jones. Coming from Serbia and having completed my undergraduate education in Bulgaria, this was the first time I had the opportunity to take a class concerning Indigenous topics. This experience has been invaluable on several levels. Firstly, due to the breadth and depth of the themes we covered, and secondly, because the course was set up to encourage students to think about our roles in Indigenization and how we could contribute to this practice at the University and beyond it.
How have your professors and instructors impacted your education?
I see the courses I have taken at ULethbridge as pieces of a mosaic, each very different concerning the texts covered and the professors' approach to instruction but working in unison to create a detailed and orderly illustration of the knowledge they have provided me with.
Devon Smither also left a powerful imprint on my mind during the first semester of my MFA program when I took her Theory and Methods of Art and Art History course. Her knowledge and passion for theory allowed me to build a strong foundation that helped me better understand the artistic and cultural intricacies of the society we live and create in.
This understanding is, in turn, now being supplemented by an extraordinarily engaging psychology course I am currently taking with Louise Barrett, titled Human Behaviour, Health & Social Technologies, which explores the complexity of our human condition.
Regarding my research practice, my supervisor, Christine Clark, provides me with tremendous support and guidance.
Have you received any scholarships or awards? How have they impacted your education?
I am grateful and fortunate to have received the U of L Graduate Research Award and the Alberta Graduate Excellence Scholarship. These two scholarships offset the expenses of starting anew in a new country and allow me to focus on my studies.
Tell us about your experiential or work-integrated learning opportunities at ULethbridge and how these have enhanced your education?
Since starting my graduate program at ULethbridge, I have been employed in research assistant and teaching assistant positions, which have equipped me with quite a few valuable new skills. While working as a teaching assistant for Christine Clark and Michelle Sylvestre, I had the opportunity to prepare and deliver several lectures, help students troubleshoot various design problems and create, assign and grade one of their assignments.
I have also been involved with the Mootookakio'ssin (Distant Awareness) project under Christine Clark, where I worked on user experience and graphic design tasks and as support during community events.
All these experiences have been incredible as they helped me integrate into the Canadian work and academic culture.
What are your hopes/plans for the future?
I plan to continue my research and further develop sound user experience practices that I can apply to projects that bring about social good.
What piece of advice would you give to future students?
Understand that graduate school will be equal parts challenging and rewarding. You will face many unique trials specific to this particular period of your academic career. Ask all the questions that come to your mind, and then some more. Ask for help when you need it; more often than not, you will be met with understanding and grace. And always be inquisitive.
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