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Briercrest alumnus makes transition from student to professor

Posted: October 15, 2014

Johannah Bird enjoys school, to say the very least.

Bird graduated from Briercrest College in 2010 with a BA Humanities, and quickly picked up a job as the Native and Metis Coordinator with her alma mater. It was her love for the school and the people that kept her around.

Eventually, seeking further education, she knew that she had to leave.

"I knew I wanted to do my masters," explained Bird, "so I studied at the University of Waterloo and got my masters in literary studies and wasn't sure where that would take me, or what I would do next."

Bird spent a year working at a museum in Waterloo, Ontario as an interpreter but jumped at the chance to be back at Briercrest.

"Wes [Olmstead] needed someone as his assistant and also needed someone to help teach some English courses," explained Bird. "In our conversation initially, he was wondering if there were ways I could come teach some courses as an adjunct professor, and then the more he thought about it, he figured there could be something more to my position."

Moving back to Caronport was an easy decision for Bird, and that realization came while attending her younger sister's graduation from Briercrest College.

"I said yes [to the job] because I didn't really have a place, and Caronport was a second home for me," said Bird. "I was reminded of the great mentorship that I had when I was here, and could have if I came back. Foremost on my mind as I consider doing my PhD eventually and, hopefully, becoming a professor, is what kind of faculty mentorship I want."

Bird feels that the faculty at Briercrest are the ones that she can trust her faculty mentorship with. She works closely with the faculty of the school and teaches three English classes, along with a Native studies class.

Bird's passions for her disciplines are very evident. She sees both English and Native studies as pieces that can help her students to better who they are.

"I see there are ways for my students to encounter a literary text... and ask 'why is this writer writing this? What is going on? What is the point of it all?'" explained Bird. "It propels them to think more about people who aren't like them in worlds that they have never inhabited...if they're thinking carefully about the text, it can spur them on to be better people."

Bird, a member of the Peguis First Nation, also sees Native studies as more than just a history lesson.

"One of my interests is, of course, native studies," said Bird. "For me there is an ethic [component] there too, it's not just knowledge. The history of our country all goes together. The big question is how to love our neighbour well."

As mentioned, Bird is interested in pursuing a PhD and chasing down a future as a professor, however, she is open to change.

"I hold [my future] with an open hand," said Bird. "It's never an automatic thing...I really enjoy teaching and I love the challenge of it and I really like the work that I'm doing out of this office. At this point, I'm seriously considering doing my PhD, I'm just looking at options now."

If her past is any indication, she could find herself back in Caronport to be the kind of faculty that she works with daily.

"We have faculty who love teaching but they also really care about loving our students," explained Bird. "I came back to a place where I knew people cared about me, where there is that kinship and friendship," she said with a smile. "This is a place that is close to my heart."