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Profiles of the Writers

Name: Madison Danford (Editor)

Program: PhD School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Year 3

About Me: Originally from the small town of Madoc ON, I moved to Toronto to attend the University of Toronto, where I studied Concurrent Physical Education, bound and bent I was going to be a high school physical education teacher. Sport and physical activity has always played a prominent role in my life, either as an athlete, official, coach or coordinator; the world of sports fascinated me. 

During my undergrad, I had an opportunity to work on a research project that completely changed my career path. After completing my Bachelor of Education at OISE, I stayed at U of T for my Master’s, where I researched the gender relations of women ice hockey officials in Canada. During my Master’s, I had the opportunity to work on some remarkable research projects that cultivated my passion for critical research in sport, and the rest is history! My Ph.D. work focuses on hockey culture in rural Canada and the nostalgic connection between rurality, hockey and Canadianness. When I’m away from my laptop, I like to spend time outside hiking, jogging, curling and making a fool of myself on the golf course. I can be found visiting breweries and wineries and petting as many dogs as I can!

Why I chose Queen’s: I chose Queen’s because I wanted to work with and learn from my supervisor, Dr. Szto, in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, specifically in the socio-cultural stream. Aside from wanting to work with Dr. Szto, my partner and I were ready to leave Toronto and live in a smaller city closer to both of our families, and Kingston is a great fit. 

What I’m here to blog about: I would like to help other graduate students feel less lonely or isolated in their experiences at graduate school. I often feel like I have no idea what I’m doing or don’t know if I’m alone in feeling certain ways. By providing some commentary around these experiences, I hope others will feel less alone or isolated in their graduate school experience. 



Name: Victoria Seta Cosby (Editor)

Program: PhD History, Year 5

About Me: I am very interested in studying people in the past whose voices have been overlooked by traditional historical research. I specialize in Women, Gender, Sexuality and Queer history. For my PhD I am utilizing the personal correspondence of one particular woman, Harriet Dobbs Cartwright, to examine the world from her perspective. In my spare time I also try to engage in equity and diversity related topics, and l am very passionate about contributing positively to the Queen’s and Kingston community. I am also a cat mom to three spoiled cats, who have been central to helping me survive the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Why I chose Queen’s: I was originally born in Kingston, at KGH, when both of my parents were graduate students at the university. We moved away when I was young, but Kingston has always held a special place in my heart. When I was researching where I wanted to do my PhD, I was hesitant to apply to Queen’s because I was daunted by the university’s reputation – but my family encouraged me to apply. I am so glad that I applied, because I have a wonderful supervisor and so many amazing colleagues in my department.

What I’m here to blog about: My specific interests centre around mental health in graduate school and dealing with the extra struggles that the pandemic presents. By being open about my own struggles, I hope to encourage other people to share, and to not feel alone in their experiences. I am also interested in equity and diversity on campus and highlighting the variety of experiences and perspectives that we have on campus.

Name: Daphne Brouwer

Program: PhD in Cultural Studies, Year 4

About Me: I am an international student from the Netherlands, who is very straightforward and sometimes a bit too honest. Together with my service dog Jay, I have completed my master’s degree in Cultural Studies, and am now working on my PhD dissertation in the same department. My research looks at the stigmatization of liminal animals and how to create a society in which humans and animals can co-exist.

When procrastinating from academic work, I will be outside as much as I can, preferably in a beaver pond or on a hiking trail. I am also a big advocate for talking about mental and physical health and enjoy a good boardgame night to get rid of some pent-up emotions

Why I chose Queen’s: The main reason for me to choose Queen’s for my PhD was (and is) my supervisor and the opportunity it gave me to stay in Kingston. My initial arrival at Queen’s was as an exchange student during my undergraduate degree, and I really enjoyed both the city and the university. Being able to come back to complete my master’s and PhD degree here has been a wonderful chance to grow academically and personally.

What I’m here to blog about: As an international student, I am mainly focusing on multi- and inter-cultural experiences in my blogs, talking about how to file taxes in another country (Canada), how to deal with cultural differences, how to get a job – and what comes with that – and what has helped me when I get homesick. I will also write about mental and physical health issues, navigating the medical world while doing graduate work, and just where to go when you need to forget about everything for a bit.

Name: Lisa Cicchetti

Program: Master’s in Biology, Year 1

 About Me: I grew up in the United States on beautiful Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont and moved to Canada in August 2021 to pursue my master’s in Biology with the Arnott Lab. My thesis is focused on how populations of zooplankton respond to road salt pollution in lakes across southeastern Ontario. In addition to working on my thesis, I am involved with the Queen’s Outdoor Field Experience Initiative, who’s mission is to improve accessibility to outdoor work experiences and recreation for members of the Queen’s community. I am also serving on a sub-committee for the Development of Inclusive Science Communication Training through an Anti-Racist Lens project, which is led by a group of Biology faculty members. My work is motivated by my commitment to sustainable access to freshwater resources and improving the accessibility of scientific information and outdoor experiences.

Outside of my academic pursuits, I like to spend my free time with my dog, Chessie. She loves hiking year-round, so we’ve been exploring some of the trails in, and around Kingston. When I’m at home in Vermont, I downhill ski as much as I can and I’m trying to learn to love cross-country skiing while I’m in Kingston. I love spending time on the water, paddling or boating; and I’m looking forward to collecting samples for my field work at 10+ lakes around southeastern Ontario. I hope this summer also brings me more time to play tennis and enjoy the many patios in downtown Kingston.

 What I’m here to blog about: As a blogger for Gradifying, I hope to write about the additional challenges of being an international student, tips for adjusting to life as a graduate student, and recommendations for outdoor recreation in the Kingston area.

Name: Emma Fingler

Program: PhD Political Studies, Year 2

About Me: After a couple of years working for the United Nations in Nepal, I returned to Canada to pursue a PhD based on my experiences abroad. My PhD research is at the intersection of disaster response, gender, humanitarian aid and security, and looks at experiences of aid distribution following major disasters in Southeast Asia. I’ve lived in five different cities in Canada (three provinces) and multiple countries abroad, but – when I’m not in Kingston – currently call Saint-Sauveur, Quebec home. Outside of Queen’s you can find me reading and writing fiction, hiking with my husband and our 7-year-old adopted poodle, and planning dream travel adventures.

Why I Chose Queen’s: The Department of Political Studies’ excellent reputation and opportunities for advancement pulled me to Queen’s, and I chose it specifically to work with my supervisor. Knowing that Kingston was such a liveable city, research and teaching opportunities available and generous funding support made it even more appealing.  

What I’m here to blog about: As someone who briefly left academia to work abroad and came back to school six months into the Covid-19 pandemic, I – like others – struggled with the transition. I am here to write about bridging the gap between academia and practice, making the most of the resources you have, and connecting with your cohort in pandemic times and beyond. Plus, all the moments worth celebrating as you embark on the graduate school journey!

Name: Kianna Mau

Program: PhD in Education (Special Education Concentration), Year 2

About Me: I am your typical “born and raised in Kingston” prodigy. Growing up, I tried just about every sport Kingston had to offer, sticking with hockey and baseball in my adult years. Winter Saturday nights have always been reserved for Leafs games and the summer months are best spent on a lake. I go hiking with my dog, Maggie, on weekends (yes – I take weekends off in grad school!), and camping when the warmer weather arrives. I love eating, drinking, and shopping local, and spent far too much money on concert tickets pre-pandemic.

Why I Chose Queen’s: After spending seven years in Ottawa for my undergrad (Neuroscience and Mental Health, Carleton University) and Master’s (Biochemistry, University of Ottawa), I needed to reunite myself with the slower pace of this small city I’ve always called home. I missed the waterfront, the smiles from strangers on the sidewalk, the slow drivers, and most of all, my family. When I decided that I wanted to move back, I also decided I needed a shift in research paths. Reconnecting with the whole reason I began my Neuroscience studies, I had this strong need to work with people – the mice and cells weren’t cutting it for me anymore. From the first meeting with my current supervisor, I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

What I’m Here to Blog about: I have always been drawn to helping people and have recently found that I can have the greatest impact through my writing. Writing gives me a voice that differs from spoken language. It has a lasting impact. Engaging with my own mental health struggles to encourage others to find comfort and feel less alone in theirs, wellness in grad studies will be my primary focus. Though, given my academic history, I have seen how the experiences of grad students are often universal and are not tied to any one discipline or institution. I want to cultivate a sense of togetherness and share my cross-disciplinary knowledge, tips, and tricks.


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