'You don't have to stick to what you know,' new grad says

November 12, 2021 by Michael McKinnon - A&S News

Georgia Maxwell’s Arts & Science education wasn’t limited to the classroom. She gained valuable communication skills while earning her master’s degree in English literature with a collaborative specialization in book history and print culture, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. She also organized events for grad students and helped improve mental health services at U of T as a senior research assistant at the Innovation Hub. She created art from undergrad research, met grad students outside her program — and even made paper snowflakes.

Book history and print culture seems like a really interesting focus.

In my undergrad, I had taken a class on the history of the book and I just loved it. One of the things that really interested me about U of T’s master's program was that I could do a collaborative specialization. I was intrigued by the book history and print culture program because it provides a hands-on side to English you don't usually get. I learned how to bind books and about material artifacts. Making books is now one of my favourite things to do; I've gotten quite a hobby out of it, which I really enjoy. I've made notebooks for all my friends — I'm running out of people to give notebooks to!

A collage of images on a blue bristol board.
Georgia Maxwell created mixed-media collages from her undergrad research for U of T’s “research revealed initiative.”

Please tell us about the Research Revealed initiative. You created artwork for that project?

U of T’s Research Revealed initiative involved creating artwork from research. I like to paint and do collages, so I created two mixed-media collages based on my undergraduate thesis. I incorporated notes I had written, and I ripped them up and pasted and glued them and painted them into my photos, and then submitted digital copies. It was a fun way to tie off my undergrad thesis; otherwise, I probably would have just thrown my notes out.

As a Gradlife ambassador for student life, you wrote a blog post about five things you wish you’d known about graduate school. What is the one thing you most wish you’d known?

I wish I had known there's so much room to explore and try new things. When I started my master’s degree, it was intimidating because U of T is an impressive school. I thought I needed to really focus on the things I already knew how to do well, but I realized halfway through that there's so much room to try new things. Just because you're doing your master’s doesn't mean you have to hone in on what you've already sectioned off as your interests. I ended up taking really cool courses in the second half of my master’s — courses I had never really taken before during undergrad. I was scared because I didn't think I had any of the background knowledge, but I enjoyed those classes the most because I was learning about so many new topics.

You don't have to stick to what you know and, in many ways, it's more rewarding when you don't.

A group of people on video call showing paper snowflakes.
Georgia Maxwell, top left, makes snowflakes with other grad students

You helped facilitate workshops and virtual events for grad students as a Gradlife ambassador too. What was that like?

Facilitating virtual events as the Gradlife ambassador was the highlight of my year by far. It was such a fun and rewarding experience. Gradlife hosts a ton of great events, some educational but a lot just for fun, like recipe shares, virtual games nights, arts and craft nights and snowflake-making around the holidays.

Because last year was all online, a lot of people had difficulty meeting people and feeling like they were really getting into that social aspect of school, especially grad students. These events were for grad students just to get to know each other, and I got to meet so many interesting people — even beyond my program.

What’s next for you and how will U of T fit into that world?

Earning my master’s degree has been amazing and I've learned so much that I can take with me in my career. It's been challenging, but in a really great way. I've gained a wide variety of experiences past my academic studies, like hands-on work experience through my work-study position as the Gradlife ambassador, and now working at the Innovation Hub. These experiences have allowed me to really help design and be a part of important initiatives. I think what's unique about U of T is that, because it's such a wide-reaching institution, I've been able to contribute to some really interesting projects that made my time at U of T more meaningful and gave me unique skills and experience that I can bring to my future endeavours.

Congratulations to U of T's Class of 2021!

Celebrate Fall Convocation 2021 with us and on social media by using the hashtag #UofTGrad21 and tagging @UofTArtSci in your posts.