Kara Hickson is currently in her second year of the classics master’s program. Her schooling is funded through her First Nations band, the Moose Cree Education Authority, and since arriving at Memorial University, she has also received the Terra Nova Aboriginal Student Scholarship. She is originally from Owen Sound, Ontario, and attended Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario for her BA. She loves to read, sleep (when she can), and plans to move to New Zealand once she is finished school.
How and why did you decide to attend Memorial for your graduate degree?
Choosing Memorial was actually at the suggestion of the dean of humanities, Dr. Carol Merriam, at Brock University. She was my Latin professor in my last year at Brock, and when we discussed furthering my academic career, she thought that Memorial would be a good fit for me. Plus, I really love living near the ocean and on islands, so it also seemed like a good place to be.
What drew you to explore classics originally?
When I first started at Brock University, I was enrolled as an English major, but I always had a fascination with ancient history. I took a Greek mythology course in first year with Dr. Roberto Nickel and I was hooked. Dr. Nickel was a compelling speaker and made the class extremely interesting and enjoyable. After that, I changed my major to a double major of classics and English and it gave me the opportunity to look at literature and history with a new appreciation.
You recently received an Aboriginal student scholarship. How does the study of classics enlighten us as to present day issues (i.e. colonization and the treatment of Indigenous peoples).
Oh, now that’s a big question. Well, in our society today, there are so many things that are influenced by Greek and Roman history and not everyone realizes that they are even there. There’s the law system, patriarchy, democracy, types of cars, the need for expansion, cleaning supplies… The list goes on. In terms of present day issues, such as the treatment of Indigenous people, that’s a bit more complicated to work out. The types of colonization in ancient Greece differed substantially from the colonization of the “New World”, mainly due to the progression of power and religion. That’s not to say that ancient Greek people who colonized around the Mediterranean were wholly accepting of new and diverse cultures, but there was a sense of honour and commonality in their religions and social values. Whereas during the colonization of the “New World”, colonizers had a specific way of living and a strict religion that was believed to be the one and only true way of living, and they sought to educated those who did not know it yet. But the need and desire to expand as humans, and continue to thrive is at the heart of colonization; without it, much of our world would be quite different.
Can you tell us a bit about your current projects?
I’m currently working on my master’s thesis, which is to look at the construction of ethnicity in ancient Greek culture and colonization. I want to analyze and understand the concept of ethnic identity within Greek culture and how it is influenced through colonization; language especially makes up a big part of cultural identity. I’m currently reading Herodotus as my main primary source to look at the difference between the Greek identity and the “other” within ancient times. Once I have a significant understanding of ancient colonization in Greece, I would like to compare and contrast aspects of my findings to the colonization of the “New World”, how the cultural identities of the colonizers and Indigenous groups were influenced and effected. It would allow me to further my own understanding of my people and their struggle that is still continuing to this day.
A supervisor can be key to the success of any grad student. What does your supervisor bring to their role as your advisor and mentor?
When I was applying to several universities, including MUN, I emailed different professors who would potentially be my supervisor to ask a few questions about my thesis topic, and to see whether or not I would be a good fit for the program. Dr. Brad Levett was the only professor out of all the schools to which I applied to take the time and provide me with constructive criticism about my topic. He gave me insightful things to think about to further my topic, and to improve my proposal. It helped me make the decision to come to MUN, and since then he has been wonderfully supportive in my topic change, and in general for my well-being as a student. Dr. Kathryn Simonsen has also been very supportive and all around wonderful person throughout my time here. She has helped me with the new direction my thesis is taking me, narrowing down my focus and providing with supplemental readings to further my research. Both of them are really fantastic as teachers and I could not be happier with their involvement with my education.
Are you involved in any organizations on-campus or off? If so, can you explain and detail such involvement?
Unfortunately, I’m not involved with any organizations on or off campus, mainly due to the fact that reading and preparing my thesis takes up almost all of my time. When I do get some time to do social things, I like to attend the classics coffee and conversation hours, and the guest lecture talks as they come. It gives me a chance to meet new people, learn new areas of interest, and eat good food.
What do you like most about being a graduate student at Memorial?
The people in the classics department. Everyone here is so amazing, I don’t think I could have chosen a better place to attend school. The professors are great and are always making sure that their students are happy and feel supported (we get free food on Fridays at the conversation hours :)). The other graduate students are so wonderful, and since we have similar interests, both academically and otherwise, it is easy to talk with each other. Plus, I never have to leave the department floor because all my classes are in one classroom, so I never get lost!
What do you hope to do after completing your graduate degree?
I am also currently working on PhD applications to start in September 2019. I’m looking to several universities in Ontario, including University of Western Ontario and University of Toronto, but I’m open to going to other places in Canada as well. Hopefully, I can expand on my master’s thesis throughout my PhD, and potentially take courses in First Nations studies to further my knowledge of my people. Essentially, I want to be in school forever and continue to learn new things.