Shining Student Taylor Blais chose uLethbridge because of the focus on liberal arts education. She took classes that she would never have taken otherwise, which led her to the path she is on now.
Do not put pressure on yourself to know exactly what you're doing. Ask questions, take classes that you think are interesting, and you'll find your lane. I changed my degree three times and will have been in university for five and a half years when I graduate. Thankfully, I have had some fantastic experiences in the middle of everything that has shaped where I'm headed today.
Meet Taylor| Creative. Independent. Stubborn.
Program: Bachelor of Arts | Major: Women & Gender Studies
Why did you choose uLethbridge?
I chose the U of L because of the focus on liberal arts education. It definitely helped me realize what I wanted to do. Because of the mandatory GLERs, I took classes that I would never have taken otherwise, which led me to the path I'm on now.
Please tell us about your work-integrated learning experiences at uLethbridge?
The Applied Studies program has been a huge aspect of my undergraduate journey. I have had three applied studies placements and one independent study. I also just recently started my first co-op placement this Fall, which will continue for the rest of the school year.
My first applied study placement was in the summer of 2019, going into my third year. I participated in an internship placement in Suva, Fiji, with the Fiji Women's Rights Movement. When I returned to campus, I completed an applied study with Dr. Carol Williams from the Department of Women & Gender Studies, reflecting on this internship. I ended up giving a presentation on what I learned from my time in Fiji at SAMWAK. SAMWAK is a departmental speaker series that features interdisciplinary research relating to women and gender studies. This internship and applied study helped push me to become a women and gender studies major, which I am forever thankful for.
In Spring 2020, I participated in another applied study taking a research position with the Chinook Sexual Assault Centre in Lethbridge. Again, my faculty supervisor was Dr. Carol Williams, and my placement supervisor at the CSAC was Kristine Cassie. I created an annotated bibliography on three different topics pertaining to sexual violence—pornography, rape culture, and intersectionality (2SLGBTQ+, immigrant, Indigenous).
In the Fall of 2020, I did an independent study with Dr. Caroline Hodes titled ‘Gender, Indigenous Law, and Public Policy.’ This was a huge topic, in which I was only able to touch the surface. However, I immediately wanted to know more and keep working on it.
I worked with Dr. Suzanne Lenon on a research project over this past Summer (2021) regarding Legal Histories of Inheritance. We did this project as an applied study as well. I was able to get experience in archival research, which I never expected myself to get into.
My most recent experience with experiential learning has been with the co-op program. I have been working with Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) as a research assistant.
This has been the most challenging and eye-opening experience that I have had thus far.
I am so thankful for the experiential learning opportunities at the University of Lethbridge. I would absolutely not be where I am now without them. All these different experiences are just as valuable, if not more, than the classes that I have taken.
What has been your most memorable uLethbridge experience?
I believe that every experience has an important impact and pushes you towards the direction that you're supposed to be. If I had to choose one experience at uLethbridge, it would be either my time in Fiji at the Fiji Women's Rights Movement or my time working with Dr. Caroline Hodes on my independent study ‘Gender, Indigenous Law, and Public Policy.’ Fiji taught me so many lessons, most profoundly the issues within international human rights frameworks, and FWRM's focus on grassroots frameworks instead led me onto a more organizational and grassroots path.
My independent study was such a different experience, so it is hard to choose between them. My independent study with Dr. Caroline Hodes introduced me to a field in which I have become passionate, leading me to this co-op position. My academic reading and writing skills improved immensely, and my perspective on what I might want to do and what I might want to work towards after my undergrad. This experience helped me learn how to believe in my abilities and trust myself and what I have to say. I began to think that I might be smart enough to study something like law or pursue a master’s—something I would have never believed I would be able to take part in before this experience.
What is the most important lesson you have learned so far at uLethbridge?
The most important lesson that I have learned at uLethbridge is to always ask for help and ask questions. That may sound too simple, but I fully believe that that is the key to getting anything done. Ask your professors for help, go to office hours and ask questions. Reach out and put yourself out there. In my department, I'm lucky that every professor is amazing and willing to help, support, and/or supervise students in any ideas they would like to bring to life. You will not know the answer until you ask the question. The worst someone can say is no.
Is there someone specific who has had an important influence on your uLethbridge experience?
I would say Dr. Caroline Hodes has had the most profound impact on my experience at uLethbridge. She helped me become confident in my abilities. I was able to find a space for me, the way I think and the way I learn, to fit into an academic space in which I never imagined I would be able to be. She has such a creative way of looking at the law, and legal studies, which made me become so extremely passionate about it. It is out of the box (or at least the box that I have been taught to exist) enough to make it interesting, accessible, less daunting, profound and even simple in a way that is not easy but more down to earth than anything I've ever seen. She helped me combine my creative thought and language with that of legal frameworks for me to exist in an area that I never even knew was possible. Thanks to her, I have discovered and continue to learn so much from Indigenous law as a field and so many amazing Indigenous scholars. I would have never been on the path I am now without her.
Is there anything you wish you knew in your first semester that you know now?
I wish I knew that I did not have to know what I'm doing for the rest of my life as I was just starting university. There is such pressure to know what you want to do right out of high school, and there is not a lot of freedom given to change your mind. Do not put pressure on yourself to know exactly what you're doing. Ask questions, take classes that you think are interesting, and you'll find your lane. I changed my degree three times and will have been in university for five and a half years when I graduate. Thankfully, I have had some fantastic experiences in the middle of everything that has shaped where I'm headed today. If you have to take more time in your degree to do cool things, have interesting experiences, and meet amazing new people, I'd choose that over speeding through four years of university always stressed and not happy.
What advice would you give to those about to begin their uLethbridge journey?
The most important advice that I can give is to prioritize yourself and your mental health first. Do not feel pressured to take many classes and never have time to be a human. It will make you stand out if you're able to nurture your relationship with yourself outside of academics, just as much (if not more) as it does within academics. Academic validation will fade, but internal validation is always so powerful.
Favourite class: (Besides my independent study) Human Rights and Political Economies
Favourite social activity at uLethbridge: Different clubs and organizations including LPIRG, The Campus Collective Centre, and Q Space
Favourite place to study: The pool