The academic journey for Ryley Gelinas (BA '20) may continue in the same space she completed her undergraduate degree, but it has changed to reflect where she is going. While Ryley began her studies as an English major, she fell in love with history in her second year and decided to double major in English and history. The rest is ‘history,’ so to speak, as she is completing a master’s of history at ULethbridge.

My research looks at the American Hotel in Fort Macleod, Alberta, as a space in which social, racial, and cultural differences and similarities were constructed and reinforced through the second half of the 20th century in southern Alberta.

Meet Ryley | Cooperative. Observant. Detail-orientated.
Program: Master of Arts | Major: History

Did you know what you wanted to study before you came to ULethbridge? Has your academic plan changed since you began your studies?

When I first started my undergrad degree, I was majoring in English. I loved to read and, at the time, wanted to go into publishing. I took an introductory-level history course in my second year and fell in love with it. I decided to add history as a minor, and by the end of my third year, I had decided to double major in history and English. Shortly after that, I took an art history class and really enjoyed it. I had been thinking about a career in museums, either curatorial work or collections and took a few more art history and museum studies classes. Ultimately, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and history with a minor in art history and museum studies, a far cry from my English major beginnings. Now in my graduate studies, I am focusing on history, but my research also has museum influences.

What is your research based on? What unique opportunities do you get by taking part in this research?

My research looks at the American Hotel in Fort Macleod, Alberta, as a space in which social, racial, and cultural differences and similarities were constructed and reinforced through the second half of the 20th century in southern Alberta. I have experienced many opportunities doing this research, from speaking to a Blackfoot Elder one-on-one for the first time to organizing and curating a museum exhibition that will be opening next Spring at the Galt Museum and Archives and everything in between. It has been a great experience to get outside of my comfort zone and engage in the research more publicly.

What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience?

I have so many memorable experiences from my undergrad and graduate studies at ULethbridge. If I had to pick just one, I would say helping to organize a symposium for the Institute of Child and Youth Studies (I-CYS) and getting to talk with the visiting speakers and museum professionals from across Canada, as well as other ULethbridge student speakers. It was my first significant public speaking experience, which was terrifying, but it was so gratifying to see it all come together in the end.

How have your professors impacted your education?

So many professors have impacted my education and changed the way I view the world and my studies, from helping guide my academic path to broadening my horizons and asking me to challenge what I know about the world. Dr. Maureen Hawkins (English) nurtured a love of theatre and drama in me (I haven't missed a ULethbridge play since 2016) but also pushed me how to question why things are the way they are and why they don't have to be that way. Dr. Suzanne Lenon (Women & Gender Studies) recognized my ability to examine the world with sensitivity and has shown me great kindness in the short time we have known each other. And Dr. Kristine Alexander (History), now my MA supervisor, took me under her proverbial wing after I took a course with her in my second year and forever changed the trajectory of my studies and career through her support and guidance.

Ryley Gelinas is a voracious reader and a self-reflexive, critical thinker who is dedicated to making new insights about the history of southern Alberta available to the wider public. – Dr. Kristine Alexander, Department of History, nominated Ryley as a Shining Student.

What are your hopes/plans for the future?

My hopes for the future include finishing my graduate studies and then, after that, either working in a museum or as a researcher; this work has shown me I have a passion for historical research.

What advice would you like to give those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?

I know it sounds cliche, and I am definitely not an outgoing person most of the time, but just get out and try new things! In my second or third year, my professor told us about an event happening that weekend on the city's Southside, and she said, "There's more to Lethbridge than the Westside!" And that really is true. For me, it was finding a group of friends to watch a play with or just last year, I took a pottery class at CASA by myself, and it was a blast. Getting your readings done and studying is important; trust me, I have an English degree. But don't forget to take time to have fun and enjoy yourself. It's an important balance.

Quick Answers

Top things to do in or around Lethbridge:

1. Going to plays at the University and local productions at the Yates Theatre

2. Hanging out at the Galt Museum with friends

3. Grabbing a bite to eat at Mocha Cabana

Favourite class: Critical Issues in Contemporary Indigenous Art History

Favourite social activity at ULethbridge: Going to plays

Favourite place to study: Group study room L1034

About Shining Students

Shining Students engage inside and outside of the classroom. What makes a student shine may differ from person to person, but they all share a passion for learning. They may be top students, involved in an innovative project, participating in ground-breaking research, playing Pronghorn athletics, fighting for social issues or all of the above! When students find something they enjoy and combine it with what they are good at, they shine.

Each year, the Faculty of Arts & Science's faculty and staff nominate students who exemplify the ULethbridge student spirit. Congratulations Ryley!