Alumnus of the Month - Megan Forsey
Megan Forsey is a personal trainer, DJ, and the education coordinator for local DJ collective Yung Dumb. She holds a MA from York University in socio-legal Studies, along with a BA in sociology/French and a certificate in criminology, both of which were obtained from Memorial University. She has discussed the topic of safer spaces in electronic music communities on the Boil-Up Podcast (which can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/boiluppodcast/ep2-loa (the mix following the interview is recommended for when you’re feeling spooky!), as well as in her master’s paper “House Rules: A Socio-Legal Analysis of House Music,” and on the panel Safer: Inclusivity in Nightlife, which was sponsored by St. John’s Pride, MusicNL, and Yung Dumb.
How and why did you decide to attend Memorial for your degree?
I attended Memorial for what I imagine is the same reason as a lot of people – I lived in Newfoundland. Fresh out of high school I had no idea what I wanted to do/study and going to the Grenfell campus in Corner Brook, where I had grown up, seemed like a great way to figure some stuff out while still living at home and saving up money.
What drew you to do a degree in sociology?
Sociology was an easy choice for me – I feel like I decided immediately after my first class of introduction to sociology in my third year. I left feeling so validated. It was as if I had found a discipline which explained so many of the things which I had been thinking in my head but never put into words. After that moving to St. John’s to complete a degree in sociology felt like an obvious choice.
Do any particular memories stand out from your time here as a student?
I think one of my favorite memories from Memorial was participating in the Sociology Symposium in my fifth year (2015). I was an undergraduate coordinator so I got to work closely with a some classmates for a few months to throw an event which celebrated our students’ successes.
If you could do any course over again, what would it be?
For pure pleasure? Definitely Sociology of Sexuality with Dr. Ailsa Craig. Not only was the content interesting, but it was also fascinating watching other people in the class learn who had very limited understanding of LGBTQ history as well as socio-sexual theory. Dr. Craig did a great job of explaining the material as well as providing fun academic projects that challenged to reconsider the things you thought you knew. I also really enjoyed Social Psychology with Dr. Judith Adler. I feel like there is an infinite number of lessons to be extracted with the texts she assigns, so I think doing that one over again would also be a fun experience.
You currently work as a personal trainer, a techno DJ and as an education coordinator - can you explain your career trajectory?
Well I think they all stem down to the joy of dancing that was instilled in me as a child at Dance Studio West in Corner Brook. Personal training to me means passing that lesson on – the joy of movement. DJing? Much the same thing. It’s all about moving to the music and feeling the catharsis of being in that community where you’re all undergoing that process of release. And then as an education coordinator, well that is partially from my work I accomplished in my master’s degree from York University, where I studied the conjunction between electronic music and municipal bylaws. So although on the surface they seem so disjointed, they really all come from a love of movement and learning that I want to pass on to everyone.
You often speak on the need to create safer spaces in community and how that benefits the nightlife economy. You are doing a TEDx Talk on this topic on May 10 – why is this so important?
It’s important because a huge part of our revenue as a city and as a province comes from our hospitality industry and nightlife economy, and in an ever changing world, it’s important that we are always opening ourselves up to new ways to welcome in other people from diverse backgrounds. I also think that substance use plays an important part of Newfoundland culture that does not necessarily have to be destructive. By teaching safe substance use, whether it be alcohol or other recreational narcotics, we can support not only our community, but also our economy in the long run.
What is a typical day like?
Wake up either by alarm or my cat headbutting me for attention, then feed the cat, feed myself (often includes a big cup of tea), morning hygiene ritual, then I’ll walk down from my place on Quidi Vidi Lake to work at Atlantic Place, train some clients, train myself, eat, train some more clients, and then once work is done for the day I will often end the day behind my DJ controller doing some mixing, playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends, or possibly catching up on Game of Thrones. Also I play VOCM Radio Bingo every Saturday evening.
In a perfect world, what is the one thing you would like to see happen in the city of St. John’s (or in the province of Newfoundland) that would benefit young people?
More than anything I would love to see more engagement between the people who organize electronic music parties and our government representatives. Over the last year or so we’ve made a particular effort to get to know the people in our municipal and provincial government as an effort to reduce the stigma around electronic music. I am exceptionally proud of the progress we’ve made, but every once in a while we have some kind of hitch, which ultimately undercuts the success of the event. The best thing we could see is a cooperative effort to improve the success of the events, because having nightlife activities which are relevant to our youths is exactly what will keep them in the province in the long run!
If there is one thing you would like people to know about the work you do what would it be?
I think I would love for people to know how seriously we take our electronic music culture here. For most of us it is very much about the love of the music, and creating a safe environment for people to party in and be themselves. We get a lot of undeserved stigma and I would be thrilled if people could just see us as a community who just love getting together and dancing the night away!
How did your arts/HSS degree prepare you for your life and career?
More than anything, my undergraduate degree taught me critical thinking. It taught me how to not take something at face value, dive in, and really evaluate the content of what it is that I’m ingesting. One big learning moment comes from, again, Ailsa Craig, who in my contemporary social theory course taught us to use four questions: 1) What does this say? 2) What does it do? 3) What does my reading of this tell me about the intentions of the person writing it?, and 4) What does my reading of this tell me about myself and my own evaluation? I use these four questions for everything. It taught me to think not only about what I’m saying, but also the consequences of what I’m saying, while also teaching me to be just as self-reflective. These lessons are invaluable. I think with science degrees or professional degrees you get taught how to do a job, which is great, obviously we need that. But with the humanities and social sciences, I was sculpted into a particular type of person who evaluates, and then acts. They were lessons that expand far beyond my career and inevitably into almost every aspect of my life.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In truth, I have no idea! I have found myself really missing learning, and so I wouldn’t be surprised if I have some long academic applications in my future, but I am entirely unsure what they are. I may try for law school next! It’s always been in the back of my mind and, much like personal training, I think it’s important for me to find myself in a position where I can feel like I’m helping others.
What do you say to those who question the value of an arts degree?
Don’t! The arts are important. You see a lot of saturation in media nowadays about how useless they are, but like I’ve said, it really made me the human I am. I learned so much about myself and about the world around me. I learned different perspectives and how to embrace those perspectives. I think if we all had an arts degree we would all probably be a little bit more understanding of one another.
What advice would you give a student who is unsure of what to study?
It’s gonna be a long four years if you are doing something you don’t love. Follow your heart.
What’s your favourite place to visit?
My family home in Boom Siding! The property has been in the family for years, and is one of the most substantial bases for my relationship to my indigeneity. When I am there I feel most myself.
What are you reading and listening to these days?
I am currently reading a fantasy novel titled The Name of the Wind by Philip Rothfuss – one of my favorite things of being out of school is reading for leisure again! As for listening, I’ve been very tied up in Justin Cudmore, a techno DJ and producer who we have was here here for our April Yung Dumb! I love his high energy acid tracks with soft vocal loops throughout.
What are you most looking forward to within the next year?
Well, obviously the TedxStJohns talk is HUGE. But I will also be convocating with my Master’s degree in June which I am also looking forward to, and I am working with a few other lady DJs on an all womxn DJ collective which we are hoping to launch in the fall sometime! 2019 is gonna be a big year, and I am looking forward to all of it.