Graduate Student of the Month - Natasha Farrell

Natasha Farrell grew up in St. John’s and completed her undergraduate degree at Memorial, specializing in political science, English literature, and French. She has worked as a communications professional in Halifax as the regional coordinator to the Council of Atlantic Premiers. She is now taking on her next challenge, completing her master’s degree in French studies at Memorial University. During her first year of graduate studies at Memorial, she also worked as a per course instructor in the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, and as a graduate assistant to the COASTS Working Group. She enjoys reading, films, theatre, and travel.

What drew you to pursue graduate studies at Memorial University?

I am familiar with the university and the quality of the programs offered. After working for a few years, I wanted to continue to improve my French language skills and was open to new challenges and learning experiences. My first year of graduate studies has provided that and much more! In particular, I very much enjoyed teaching my French 1500 class during the Winter semester 2017. One of the many advantages Memorial offers to master’s students is the opportunity to teach first year students. It is an invaluable learning experience and opportunity, and I am very appreciative to Dr. Basabose, Dr. Thareau, Dr. Thistle, and everyone in department for their support.

What drew you to explore French studies?

French has always been a part of my life and interests. I was a French immersion student and continued my French studies at Memorial and beyond. When I studied in France, I had the opportunity to combine my interests in media, cinema and French. We wrote a film script and filmed a short film, with elements of 1940s film noir. It was so much fun, and now I am back at Memorial studying cinema and literature. I am really looking forward to taking a cinema and literature course this summer. In some ways, I feel I have come full circle. I have learned so much during my first year of graduate studies, and I have had incredible educators and mentors in Dr. Abadie, Dr. Basabose, Dr. Harger-Grinling, Dr. O’Reilly, and Dr. Thareau.

Can you tell us a bit about your current research?

For my Master’s thesis, I am analyzing and comparing three unpublished film scripts authored by Irène Némirovsky, written during the period of transition from silent cinema to sound: Symphonie de Paris (1931), Noël (1932), et Carnaval de Nice (1932), in which even the titles evoke this use and delight in sound. Némirovsky was passionate about cinema and the possibilities it opened up for writers. Interestingly, the publication of her novel David Golder in 1929, and her celebrity, coincided with the transition to sound cinema. David Golder became the first “big, all talking” French film, directed by Julien Duvivier. The relationship between cinema and literature is unmistakeable in her work, including her unfinished masterpiece Suite Française, with the shifting points of view and multiple narratives. I will compare Némirovsky’s film scripts with early French sound films.

A supervisor can be key to the success of any grad student. What does your supervisor Dr. Karine Abadie bring to the role as your advisor and mentor?

I am very lucky to have a mentor and advisor like Dr. Abadie. She is brilliant and supportive. Transitioning to university work again, I have really appreciated her knowledge and guidance. She provides helpful feedback, encouraging me to do my best work, and her expertise on cinema and literature has been invaluable. As one of my professors during a course on the Quebec New Novel and the relations between literature and film, she and Dr. Harger-Grinling opened up new ideas, authors, films, and created an incredible learning environment. Before beginning my program, I had a lot of ideas about what I would like to write my thesis on, and this course in particular helped me to expand my knowledge.

For my thesis, I am watching a lot of French cinema from the interwar period and I love discussing these films with her. What I also appreciate is how Dr. Abadie encourages love of film, literature, learning and discussion outside the classroom and in the greater Memorial community. Throughout the past year, she has organized film screenings, inviting directors such as Louis Bélanger. She also organizes the department’s Ciné-Club, highlighting French films and discussions, which is a lot of fun and is open to everyone at Memorial.

Have you attended any conferences/delivered any papers this year? Can you give details?

As a graduate assistant to the COASTS Working Group, I had the opportunity to participate and present during the COASTS pedagogies symposium on April 28, 2017. I spoke about my experiences working with the Working Group during the students’ panel discussion. During the symposium, one of the participants, Pam Hall, talked about encouraging and teaching students’ to be good learners, which has really resonated with me. I am grateful to Dr. Phillips for the opportunity to work on COASTS. I enjoyed working and meeting other students and faculty, learning about their research, which is an important part of the graduate school experience. It also helped me to continue my interest in communications work, from writing a story for the Gazette to helping create content for the COASTS webpage.

What is the biggest myth about graduate school?

Graduate students spend their time drinking coffee and talking. Graduate school is hard work and like Pam Hall said during the COASTS symposium it teaches you to be a good learner, which is an invaluable skill in the shifting globalized economy. There are so many interesting and innovative researchers at Memorial, and I am happy to be apart of the community.

Are you involved in any organization on-campus or off? If so, can you explain and detail such involvement?

I represent the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures on the HSS Graduate Student Council. It’s been a pleasure to interact with my fellow graduate students and I am grateful to Dr. Dyck and the department for the opportunity. It’s great to see and discuss different perspectives, across disciplines. Throughout the past year, I have been pretty busy, but I hope to become involved in more organizations in the coming academic year.

What do you like most about being a graduate student at MUN?

Firstly, as a descendent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who served in the first and second world war, I am proud to attend a university which stands as a living memorial to those who defended our liberties and freedoms and paid the ultimate sacrifice. As a woman, I am also fortunate to attend an educational institution which promotes inclusion and respectful dialogue. Lastly, Memorial feels like home to me. I have good relationships with my fellow students in the department, and everyone, from the administrative staff to my professors, has been very supportive. There are a lot of opportunities for learning and growth, including teaching first-year French. My fellow per-course instructors and Dr. Thistle were incredibly helpful throughout this past semester as I have never taught before. I have attended other universities where the learning environment was not as supportive. Whether it is teaching, working on committees, or participating in clubs and societies, Memorial offers diverse opportunities to prepare students for successful completion of graduate school and transitioning to rewarding careers.

What do you hope to do after completing your graduate degree?

I am keeping my options open. During the past semester, I discovered how much I love teaching, so there is always the possibility of further study to pursue a Ph.D.

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