When Amy Smith (MLC Alumni, Communications Fellow with Pen Canada) was in her first year of her Communication and Culture MA program, she found that her cohort was brought closer together as they worked on applications and research papers. But when their first year ended, it became apparent that they needed a way to maintain that intellectual bond and support system. “We were afraid we would lose that feeling of solidarity and structure that is so important when facing a big project or paper, so we decided to hold ourselves accountable to each other with a weekly meeting,” Amy says. The ComCult Peer Support Group was established at the MLC Gallery in 2013 to do just that. As she describes, “The MLC Gallery is a beautiful workspace, the atmosphere is calm, and the art-deco boardroom table made us feel like we were always working together even when we had our own projects.”
Now in its second full year, the ComCult Peer Support group has become a mainstay in the joint program at Ryerson University and York University, and continues to propel students beyond the classroom and through their studies. Chatter mixes with the subtle tapping of keyboards as the half dozen students sketch outlines for major research projects and conference papers, test new arguments on each other, and, as Amy points out, “use the hive-mind to find words that are on the tips of our tongues.”
Nick White, a second-year student in the program, is now the head of the group. He has used his time in their regular meetings to prepare a paper with fellow student Karl Petschke that considers touchscreens through the metaphor of the surface tension of water, which they co-presented at a conference in Vancouver. Others have analyzed the Canadian used-clothing industry, online celebrity culture as a contemporary iteration of monsters in the folklore tradition, and society’s increasing reliance on cloud storage.
“We are delighted and proud to host the Communication and Culture students,” says Irene Gammel, the MLC Director and Canada Research Chair. “Our mandate is to support graduate students and this is a great initiative – entirely student bred and run.”
“ComCult’s biggest resource is students’ support of each other,” notes Ryerson Program Director, Paul Moore, “and this is a perfect example. Workshops, courses, and supervisors each provide guidance, but things often cohere into practice with peers. The effort needs space, of course, and the MLC helps sustain the initiative.”
Nick explains, “Having a space to find peer support during the major research paper and thesis writing period of the Communication and Culture program is an invaluable resource, as it is easy to feel isolated and overwhelmed during independent research and writing.” Amy concludes, “We feel at home here.”
The Communication and Culture students meet at the MLC Gallery biweekly on Fridays at the MLC Gallery. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Nick White (email@example.com). For more updates, follow us on Twitter @MLC_Research and like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MLCRC/. The MLC Gallery is funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.