25366 Mike Shewfelt recently had the chance to sit down with Dr. Laura Robinson, Associate Professor in RMCC’s Department of English and soon to be Department Head.
Dr. Laura Robinson: I began teaching at RMC in 1997, just before I finished my PhD at Queen’s. In addition to teaching first year English, I also developed and taught an on-site and distance course in Gender and Literature, my specialization. I taught courses at both universities until 2002, when I got a fulltime job at Nipissing University in Children’s Literature. In 2004/5, the head of the English Department at RMC let me know that a fulltime job was available. I was thrilled; I applied and was the successful candidate.
I feel very strongly about RMC and its mandate because I grew up in the military. My father was a LCol in the Air Force, and we moved every two years most of my life. I’ve lived in the States, Germany, and in various locations in central and eastern Canada. The military is my extended family in many ways.
I am probably the only gender and children’s literature professor in the world with the ejection seat from a CF 101 Voodoo in my office! They presented it to my father when he retired. While he was not an RMC grad, I’m sure he would have been tickled to know that it wound up on this campus.
e-Veritas: What have been the highlights of your time at the College, both good and bad…?
Dr. Laura Robinson: Oh, the highlights are far too many to mention, but I will say that our students and the professor-student ratio is one of the real joys of teaching here. Rather than trying to teach 500 students crammed into a class, we have the ability to get to know our students and teach them one on one. Our students are known to us. The English department is very lucky as we have an annual pub crawl every year, replete with t-shirts, in addition to speakers, plays, and trips to Stratford that we partake in. One of the big highlights for me at RMC was going on the Battlefield Tour.
Another highlight for me was teaching a bilingual course with Mark Benson from the French Studies dept this past year. It was called Bridging the Two Solitudes: French and English Canadian Literature. I taught English Canadian Lit in English and Dr. Benson taught French Canadian Lit in French!
One of the lowlights might be the present shaky time as the campus proceeds through workforce adjustment.
e-Veritas: What do you like about working with the Cadets…?
Dr. Laura Robinson: Our cadets are simply amazing. Almost all of them them manage to balance all the various pressures that come to bear and most often they do so with a wonderful sense of humour. I have often joked that the fifth pillar at RMC, in addition to academics, athletics, bilingualism, and military leadership, is irony. The cadets are really funny–they see the absurdity in almost everything. I appreciate the fact that they generally always tell me if they are unhappy with something. They are true leaders in that way. I love watching for the various skylarks. Brucie in a porta-potty was brilliant. The glider in the mess, while troublesome for the staff, was sheer genius.
e-Veritas: You are the incoming Head of the English Department. Speak to that a little. How did you receive the position, and how do you feel about it…?
Dr. Laura Robinson: I am delighted to be the incoming Head. The Dean established a search committee of five faculty members from various departments on campus, including two from English. While I was the only individual who put my name forward for the position, the committee met with each faculty member in English and the admin assistant. Mine was the last interview. I was pleased to find out that everyone supported my candidacy. We have a most excellent, collegial department, thanks in large part to the work of the former head, Steve Lukits. We are a fairly young, vibrant group of faculty with innovative approaches in the classroom, cutting-edge research programs, and energy for service to our institution and profession. It won’t all be an easy ride, as we negotiate the waters of workforce adjustment, but I feel that the department has my back; we will be working as a team. I’m also looking forward to improving my French.
e-Veritas: Is there any advice that you would give to the Cadets…?
Dr. Laura Robinson: Always remember that the reputation you build for yourself at RMC is one that you will carry with you throughout your military career.