Q&A: Alexis Brown, PhD student in Language and Literacy

Alexis Brown

Tell us about your journey to your PhD program at UVic. 

Prior to starting my PhD I was a high-school teacher working with youth in the justice system. I became increasingly interested in how to support students who are “at-risk” in more meaningful ways, beyond the confines of the school walls.

What is your research about?

My research examines the complexities of creating trans-systemic spaces, through critical literacies education, with Indigenous adolescents. When space is created for both Western and Indigenous knowledges, a trans-systemic space opens up new understandings and dialogues. Critical literacy is the ability to examine, recognize or critique power structures embedded in information, and engage in social change.

What inspires you to work in this area?

I am inspired by the brilliance, creativity, and resilience of all the students I have worked with, as well as the educators out there working for our most vulnerable students. In my teaching career, I saw that honoring students’ voices and experiences was significant to their engagement; but came up against many barriers in trying to create opportunities, many of which were due to the systemic issues within the traditional education system. I wanted to learn how educators could better support and engage students.

How do you see your research making a positive impact in our world?

The 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission called to action that educators and researchers work towards more culturally responsive educational programs. I hope that my research is a small step towards moving education and curriculum developing in the direction of reconciliation.

Does the UVic research environment make a difference to your academic work? If so, how?

I am an off-campus student and live away from Victoria, which poses challenges to not having a physical research environment to connect to.  However, what has made the biggest difference to my academic work is the amazing support I have from my supervisor, Dr. Deborah Begoray.  She has been there for me from the start of my program, and has done everything a grad student could ask from a supervisor to ensure that I do feel connected to UVic, and the broader research community.  

More in the media: 
Video: Four Directions Critical Media Literacy Projects
Kamloops Indigenous students tackle media literacy
Four Directions students share stories through art