Dr. Corinne Mason is an Assistant Professor who is jointly appointed to the Department of Sociology and the Gender and Women’s Studies Program. Dr. Mason joined Brandon University in the fall of 2013, accepting a tenure-track position.
The Quill: Can you tell me about your academic background?
Dr. Corinne Mason: I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Development Studies from Queen’s University. After that, I did my Master’s at the University of Toronto at the Women and Gender Studies Institute. From there, I went to the University of Ottawa and received my PhD at the Institute of Women’s Studies. I officially became a doctor in October 2013.
TQ: Did you always want to go into academia?
CM: Truthfully, I had no idea what academia was. When I was finishing my degree at Queen’s, a bunch of my friends were applying to grad school. I didn’t know what it was, I had no idea what grad school was, but I knew I was just as smart as them. I wanted to find out what they were up to. Thankfully, I had a really wonderful mentor at Queen’s who took me into his office and asked if I was applying to grad school. I said “yes, I’ve heard a lot about this grad school, I don’t know what it is” and he said “you’re going to grad school, we are going to find you a way to go to grad school”. He found me a program with full funding, helped me apply, and from then on, I was addicted to it.
TQ: What drew you to interdisciplinary studies?
GM: I think global development studies led me to interdisciplinary thinking. Global development studies comes out of sociology, but asks a variety of interdisciplinary questions. Development studies led me to think about gender. It also made me think about race, about racial politics across borders, and a lot about the racial politics around foreign aid and the history of development as an extension of colonialism and as a new imperialism. As I was thinking about both gender and race, it made sense for me to seek out an interdisciplinary program where I could ask those kinds of questions about race and gender, and later class and sexuality, and now disability in my research.
TQ: So what kind of research do you do?
CM: I am a transnational critical race feminist. I am grounded in critical race feminism, and I also ask questions about ‘the global’ or the ‘transnational’. Most of my research thus far has focused on development discourses, on international development, policies, programs, and campaigns, and I’ve focused mostly on representations of violence against women. Now I’m moving more towards questions of reproductive justice in the development context and also thinking about queer theory and its relationship to development studies.
TQ: What do you think the difference is between academics who went to school 20 years ago compared to academics now?
CM: I think that now the expectation is to get a master’s degree, where before, when I graduated high school, the expectation was that if I wanted a job, I’d have to have an undergrad degree to do it. Now there’s an expectation that to get a certain level of job, or to enter the workforce at a certain level of pay or rank, you need a master’s degree. I think that makes graduate experiences quite different. There are larger amounts of people enrolling in master’s programs than there ever were before. A lot of folks who are going into master’s programs are not necessarily looking for a career in the academy. People who are going into PhD programs are also not necessarily looking for jobs in the academy because they are few and far between both in Canada and the US. It’s a highly competitive space, and because of the kinds of changes we’re seeing at the university level with the freezes we are seeing in hiring tenure-track positions and relying more on precarious contract instruction, there just aren’t the same kinds of jobs out there. So people are thinking about grad school quite differently than they were thinking about it before. People are obtaining graduate education and taking it outside of the academy and moving it into other areas such as working in government, consulting work, or community work. My guess is that 20 years ago, when people went to graduate school, especially at the PhD level, it was to become a professor. Because there are fewer jobs, people are imagining different ways to be an intellectual outside of the academy.
TQ: How do you think Brandon University compares to other universities that you’ve studied at?
CM: The thing that I noticed most about Brandon when I came here, and how different it is from my own experiences of undergrad and my experiences of teaching undergraduate classes at the University of Ottawa, is the connections that I have with my students. Because it is so small and because classes are so small, the ways in which you get to know students both on a personal level and on a mentorship level is unparallel to anywhere else I’ve ever been. During my undergraduate experience, I was lucky enough to have someone who chose to mentor me, who called me out, who saw potential in me, and was able to develop that at Queen’s. That’s not always the case in these larger spaces. At the University of Ottawa, a little bit smaller, I was mentored really really well, but that’s not always the case, and is rarely the case at these larger places. At BU, you get that at the undergraduate level. You get that in the first year. I know all of my students’ names, I see them around town, I build different relationships with them. I think that’s really beneficial for me as a teacher to know more about my students, to know what they need from me, and to know how to best do my job. I think that allows students to approach me, which will only enhance their experience. I’ve never seen that anywhere else, the way it is here.
TQ: What courses do you teach?
CM: I teach the intro classes for Gender and Women’s Studies, I teach a reproductive justice class, the sociology of development and globalization, and consumer culture.
TQ: Reproductive Justice is a new class this term. What made you interested in teaching it?
CM: The idea of the reproductive justice class was to fill a gap in both Gender and Women’s Studies and Sociology in that no course was specifically focused on what is probably our most gendered experience, for men, women and people of all genders. I’m working on a new project on reproductive justice and I really wanted to think through the concept of reproductive justice in the classroom, and I wanted to provide an opportunity for students to have a conversation around reproduction that I think would be really connected to their lives. The course is focused on the ways in which reproduction is imagined – in the public realm, in pop culture, in news media, in alternative and social medias – the conversations that are happening about reproductive justice right now. The class looks at everything from Dirty Dancing to Baby Mama to MTV’s Sixteen and Pregnant and Teen Mom. We also look at these real, intense debates we are having in the US and Canada around abortion access, rights, choice, and justice for all kinds of reproducing folks. It’s a really complicated and interesting class. It’s couched in critical race theory. It’s exciting because I’m giving students a foundation in critical race feminist and sociological theory, and an opportunity to apply it to questions of reproduction.y, but asks a variety of different questions beyond the core of sociology.
Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 104, Issue 17, January 14, 2014.