Mead-Willis: “Unfinished business” leads to top graduate paper

- Vivian Kereki

UVic will surely miss Sarah Mead-Willis, this year’s winner of the Lieutenant Governor’s Silver Medal for best non-thesis graduate paper. The Edmonton-born English student will return to her home town in July to begin an unusual job as the rare book cataloguer at the University of Alberta. “I’m excited but a little nervous,” says the 27-year-old.

It was her exposure to a West Coast artist and writers’ exhibit during an internship at the same rare book library that sparked her interest to study literature in BC. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in library sciences (both from the UofA), Mead-Willis came to UVic to complete a master’s in English. “After my undergraduate degree in English, I felt there was some unfinished business, some academic work to be done,” she comments.

As for the prize-winning essay, Mead-Willis discussed the works of Canadian poet Don McKay, specifically looking at the way he represents nature in his poems and the idea of the sublime. Though Mead-Willis is a self-described “city person”, she says she has always been interested in the way non-human things are represented in literature.

Mead-Willis acknowledges her supervisors Drs. Jamie Dopp and Nicholas Bradley were extremely responsive and supportive during her studies and the countless drafts of her paper. “They were absolutely bang on with all their suggestions.… I might have had more challenges had it not been for them.” Mead-Willis thinks having fun with her topic may have helped her paper emerge more readable than some. “I didn’t use words like ‘problematize’,” she says with a chuckle.

Mead-Willis enjoyed her time in Victoria but admits she gets very focused when in school, leaving little time for serious hobbies. “I’d love to tell you I’m into urban hang-gliding.” Instead, she practices “casual enjoyment,” biking and hiking, and preparing dishes from her current favourite—the cookbook by the Bastion Square restaurant Rebar.

Though it may be sad for Victoria to lose such a bright individual, we may catch glimpses of Mead-Willis when she comes back to visit her parents, who have decided to retire in the Garden City.


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