Graduate Student of the Month - Lesley Derraugh
Lesley Derraugh is a second year graduate student in the master of gender studies program at Memorial University. Her research focuses on masculinities in the context of campus rape culture, prompted by recent discussions of sexual violence in university settings across North America. She has always had a strong interest in violence reduction and previously interned with the Coalition Against Violence - Avalon East. Born and raised in St. John's, Lesley identifies as a feminist, anti-violence activist, pop culture enthusiast, and dog lover.
How and why did you decide to attend Memorial for your graduate degree?
I chose MUN for my graduate studies for several reasons, including the fact that I am from St. John's and quite attached to the province. The most important reason, however, was my undergraduate experience here. I completed my Bachelor of Arts with a double major in psychology and women's studies (now gender studies) and felt a lot of support from the university community at Memorial throughout that degree. I was particularly influenced by the amazing faculty in the Department of Gender Studies. They celebrate their students' successes and support them during difficult times. All of the instructors are working on interesting research that they integrate into their courses and share with their students, and they are all very encouraging towards students who express an interest in pursuing graduate studies.
What drew you to explore gender studies?
I initially took a women's studies course during my undergraduate degree simply to fill the place of an elective, but I completely fell in love with the topic. It's interdisciplinary nature means that it is applicable to so many areas of academic study and everyday life. I love that my work in gender studies can draw on so many other disciplines, from psychology to sociology. It allows me, as a student, to explore so many areas and topics of interest. The more courses I took, the more I realized how much I identify with feminist principles, and how much I value the practical application of theoretical concepts.
Can you tell us a bit about your current research?
My research is prompted by the current crisis in North America of campus rape culture. Grounded in the need to identify solutions to the rate of sexual violence occurring in university communities, I have set out to explore the complexities of modern masculinity. Through interviews with young male-identified individuals I hope to gain insights into the ways in which masculinities are being reproduced, challenged and resisted. It is my belief that contestations of masculinity, when examined in the context of sexual violence, hold insights for the creation of effective violence reduction programming, and the possibility of a future with significantly less sexual violence.
A supervisor can be key to the success of any grad student. What does your supervisor Vicki Hallett bring to her role as your advisor and mentor?
My supervisors, Dr. Vicki Hallett and Dr. Carol Lynne D'Arcangelis, both from the Department of Gender Studies, are amazing mentors. I feel incredibly lucky to be working with them. They are supportive, and always quick to provide honest feedback on my work. Their encouragement and input have really helped to strengthen my research.
Have you attended any conferences/delivered any papers this year? Can you give details?
I participated in Memorial's Aldrich Graduate Student Conference in March of this year, and really enjoyed the opportunity to briefly present my research plan and hear feedback from the audience. Sometimes, having individuals outside of your academic discipline ask about your research, can encourage you to look at your project from a different angle, and strengthen the project as a whole.
Are you involved in any organizations on-campus or off? If so, can you explain and detail such involvement?
I have always tried to be involved in my community, both on and off-campus. Currently I am working with a group of my fellow students to establish a gender studies society here at Memorial. I'm really looking forward to the possibilities that a society brings with it. I am also the gender studies representative on the Arts Graduate Student Council, and that is a position which I am enjoying so far. Off-campus, I have been volunteering at St. Clare's Mercy Hospital for just over 10 years now, an experience which has really helped to shape me as a person. I am currently a member of the hospital's auxiliary executive, serving as first vice president, and as chair on the gift shop committee. My work with St. Clare's has provided me with so many insights into working with vulnerable sectors, serving on committees and boards, and the complexities that accompany working with non-profits. More importantly, it has taught me about the importance of compassion and dignity in a healing setting. I am also a volunteer with the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre, working on the 24-hour crisis and information line. While that work is, at times, emotionally draining, I also find it extremely rewarding to support individuals as they face some of their darkest moments. I feel that my work with NLSACPC has definitely influenced my current research interests, and if nothing else, reinforces its importance for me and my dedication to my thesis.
What do you like most about being a graduate student at Memorial?
Above all else, my favorite thing about being a graduate student at Memorial is the people I have met. The students in my program, instructors and support staff are amazing! Their own research is fascinating and they show genuine interest in others' research. Grad school is notorious for being socially isolating as you work on your individual research but my program has allowed me to make lifelong friends, who I am blessed to have in my life.
What do you hope to do after completing your graduate degree?
After I complete my graduate degree I want to work in the community. Ideally, it would be amazing to work in the violence reduction sector and I am particularly interested in women's centres and shelters as well as recidivism reduction programs and prison reform. My primary goal is to work in a position where I can help people and also integrate my education and experiences to their fullest.