"Stepping to the Forefront Lakehead Graduate Students on the Frontier of Success"
by J. Andrew Deman
Michel Beaulieu and Andrea Collins Although their personal experiences place them worlds apart, there are two things that you will find in common between Michel Beaulieu and Andrea Collins: they are both graduate students at Lakehead, and they are both distinguishing themselves, as well as their university, at the highest level of their respective disciplines.
In History, Michel Beaulieu is conducting important research into early 20th century moving pictures, specifically 1896 to 1930 in the Thunder Bay region. Dr. Ron Harpelle, Beaulieu's thesis advisor, acknowledges that "his look at the social aspects of film at the Lakehead will make a valuable contribution to our understanding of the impact of moving pictures on Canadian society in the early 20th century."
Equally impressive, Andrea Collins's work in English revolves around the study of how Boethius' "Consolation of Philosophy" informs William Shakespeare's "Timon of Athens." This work is described as "extraordinarily promising and original" by her own thesis advisor, Dr. Mike Richardson.
Collins, 42, born and raised locally, spent some 20 years in the military before returning to further her education at Lakehead. Beaulieu, 25, raised in Caledon, Ontario, was drawn to the university through the reputation of its English and History departments as well as the smaller size of the school. "I feel part of the university community here," he says, "There's a sense of home." There have been challenges along the way. For Beaulieu, it has been resources. The materials required for studying local film are, ironically, most often located elsewhere, sometimes as far away as British Columbia. This he has overcome with the help of an Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) as well as two prestigious Vast and Magnificent Land research grants. Currently he has a paper in consideration for Papers and Records, and an abstract under consideration for a University of Chicago conference.
For Collins, also a recipient of an OGS, the challenges have been more internal. Diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, her first two years as an undergrad found her seeking help at the Learning Assistance Centre (LAC). Through the aid of LAC, combined with the guidance of Professor Lisa Richardson, Collins has overcome this obstacle and achieved scholastically, having attended an international conference, and having won the Ishak Book Prize, awarded annually to the best graduate student within the Department of English. For Collins, the personal trials have only made her stronger. She describes the study of such notable bi-polar and depressed writers as Charlotte Gilman, Virginia Woolf, and S.T. Coleridge as "therapeutic." In regards to Collins' ability to draw on personal experience in her work, instructor and mentor, Dr. Alice den Otter, agrees: "There were times, in fact, when I felt she knew the 'inside' of Coleridge's or Anna Barbauld's experience more fully than I could ever know."
Meanwhile, Beaulieu's work has allowed him to thrive not only in the collegial realm, but within the community as well. He is a board member of the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society, a department representative of the Canadian Historical Association Grad Council, co-chair of "Flash Frame" (the Lakehead Cinema Society) and the former chair of the Communications Across Curriculum Committee. In the words of Dr. Harpelle: "Michel's work goes a long way in fulfilling Lakehead University's obligation to the region and the people who live here."
For both Collins and Beaulieu, the future is bright, pointed firmly at PhD studies, and eventual professorships. Of Collins, Dr. Gillian Siddall says: "I know she will enjoy great success in her doctoral studies." Of Beaulieu, Dr. Ernie Epp foresees "considerable success at the PhD level." A credit to their respective disciplines, and to the Lakehead graduate program as a whole, Michel Beaulieu and Andrea Collins are two students on the frontier of success.
Andrew Deman is one of several students taking part in SPARK, a student writing program sponsored by The Chronicle-Journal. From Lakehead University Agora (February 2003)