By Sharday Mosurinjohn
Elias Da Silva-Powell entered graduate school with the intention of studying P.G. Wodehouse, a British author whose writing is often overlooked by literary scholars due to its lighthearted content. But like the prolific Wodehouse, Elias’ interests and writerly talents have turned out to be far wider ranging than the work of a single author.
One of these dimensions is a flair for the comedic. While completing his undergraduate degree in English at Queen’s, Elias got involved as a cast member in Queen's Players (which he describes, wryly, but accurately, as “a riotous charity fundraising variety show”) and mentored incoming writers as a Senior Staff Writer at Queen’s weekly humour publication Golden Words (where he remains “the host of their rowdy annual Science Fair”).
On the more serious side of writing opportunities, Elias also served as the Editorials Editor of the Queen's Journal, volunteered as a Peer Tutor with The Writing Centre, and won a departmental prize for writing about poetry as well as other awards for academic excellence. Nonetheless, he maintains a sense of humour about his chosen discipline: “there are some misconceptions about English students – that you’re a perfect writer, or that you’ve read everything. You get obscure questions from people, like ‘There was this book from my childhood with a talking fork…you must know it, you’re an English major!’”
In addition to trying to get involved in just about all areas of the Queen’s community, in between Elias’ third and fourth year at Queen's he secured a summer student position working at the Ontario Disability Support Program. Working outside of his academic wheelhouse broadened Elias’ ideas about what kinds of work his schooling might lead into. After a late-summer promotion, he found himself working in the same provincial government program as an Income Support Clerk and arranged to stay in Kingston after graduating.
When the plan to continue in his summer job fell through, Elias spent a year doing a variety of odd jobs (including bartending, serving, catering, cooking, and exercising his sartorial skills at a high-end menswear shop), before landing an internship at TalentEgg, a career website started by Queen’s alumna Lauren Friese. TalentEgg offered “a great crash course in the world of online writing, editing and layout.” Working at TalentEgg also brought Elias into contact with “a passionate and highly motivated group of people,” as well as “two delightful office dogs I did my best to befriend over the course of the summer.”
Some of the articles Elias authored during this time have been republished in the Metro chain of newspapers. One, a guide to navigating social networking events, offers the sage advice “don’t do shots.” During this time, Elias also co-authored an article on employment paths for arts grads with his workplace supervisor--an article which was later published in the Globe and Mail. “Most recently,” recalls the up-and-coming writer, “a piece I wrote about bow-ties was a big hit with a US based bow-tie company, who have offered me a free bow-tie from their catalogue!” The bow-tie sporting student was, in fact, recently featured in a Macleans spread on campus fashion.
Now, as Elias completes his coursework MA, he’s involved in a second internship through the English MA program's pilot internship project, with GreenCentre Canada. This green chemistry organization aids in research and development of green technologies “for example, finding a researcher who’s doing work in the academy that could be profitable and functional in industry and then helping them get that to market.” In this position, Elias has used his new roles to reinforce existing connections, drafting a job-focused article on green chemistry for TalentEgg, as well as arranging for an expert on green chemistry to give a community talk through Serendipity Hall, a grassroots speakers’ series founded by a friend of his.
Reflecting back on his trajectory so far, Elias remarks that he’s “developed a number of skills and workforce connections I hadn't dreamed of having when I graduated from Queen's in 2011.” The past year of “whirlwind changes” has helped him recognize that while he’s not quite sure what he’d like to do next, he’s confident “that a great deal of opportunity lies in any direction.” He owes a large part of his confidence to the support of his family, who have encouraged an attitude of perseverance and resolve in defining his own goals, whatever they may be.
Elias has also recognized a truth about the relationship between school and work that is a valuable one for any arts grad: “a degree in English is as viable a pathway to employment as any other. Like any level of education, its just a first step into unfamiliar territory: a means, not an end.”
Whatever path Elias chooses, he’s sure it will involve writing in one capacity or another. He’s also looking forward to meeting and working with new people. “I love talking to and learning about other people almost as much as I love writing” affirms the enterprising grad student. Envisioning the end of his graduate studies, Elias hopes that future experiences give him “the opportunity to be both a team-member and leader, working with and learning from others.”