Meet Our Members
Meet Frederick D. King, PhD.
Assistant Professor of Business Communication
Rowe School of Business
Please take a moment to meet Dr. Frederick King, Assistant Professor of Business Communication in the Rowe School of Business. Born in Saint John, NB, Frederick is the son of working-class parents. “It's satisfying to know that despite having no access to the opportunities that middle-class students have, I managed to succeed anyway.”
Why did you pursue an academic career in your field? I had spent a number of years in careers where I was not satisfied because I earned an early degree in a field other people thought was best for me. When I returned to school to study English, I did it because I wanted to study something I was passionate about. It has since led me to where I am today, teaching communication and writing.
What do you like most about your career? The student engagement is what inspires me most days. It's motivating to talk to students who are discovering their options and exploring new opportunities that they never thought possible.
How did you choose the focus of your research? As an LTA employee with a Degree in the Arts and Humanities, but with work in Business Communication, I need to balance and keep both fields strong so that I can adapt to wherever my career takes me next. In English I chose Victorian Studies because I loved the literature of the aesthetes and decadents of the 1890s. In my research I then discovered textual studies and book history and the value of queer theory. As a gay man, I find it important to reassess and reread history and the past through marginalized points of view that did not always get to publish and circulate their stories. I'm currently writing a book directly related to these topics.
In terms of the possibility that I can pursue a career with the Commerce co-op program at the Rowe School of Business, I see my historical research as relevant to my students today. The corporation is a heteronormative institution with systemic issues regarding difference and change. Queer, racialized, gender non-conformist and women's voices are necessary for the corporation to be a sustainable institution. Beyond just hiring us, corporations need to change their mission and practices to reflect our diverse lives. I'm interested in understanding how my students, and university pedagogy can change corporate culture and challenge the conservative convention of on-boarding students into the unsustainable and anachronistic heteronormative hierarchies that define free-market capitalism.
What do you like most about working with students? Their desire to learn. It's fun to have a meeting and have a student realize how simple it is to do well with some planning and time management. Their enthusiasm is contagious.
What are you most proud of in your career? That I was able to earn a PhD. I come from a very poor background. My parents have junior high school educations. My family has always been on the economic periphery. It's satisfying to know that despite having no access to the opportunities that middle-class students have, I managed to succeed anyway. I credit my husband, James DuPlessis, for teaching me self-respect and confidence to be able to achieve my educational and career goals.
What has been your biggest challenge? Finances. Having come from poverty, school has required me to take on enormous student loans. Despite having a middle-class job now, it will be another 10 years of steady academic work before I will enjoy a middle-class lifestyle.
What is the best piece of advice you could give an undergrad or grad student? University doesn't secure you employment, you do. It takes an enormous amount of work, network development, problem-solving, and creative thinking to make a career out of something you are interested in as a career. You won't be able to do that if you hate what you're studying. Study what you love, but be realistic about it and recognize the work, and the compromises it is going to take to create opportunities for yourself.
Meet Kathy Cawsey, PhD
Associate Professor, English
DFA Member Kathy Cawsey is an Associate Professor of English. A recipient of the 2021 Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award, Kathy is a Past President of the Canadian Society of Medievalists. She loves everything Arthurian – reading and writing books and articles on the topic and "Eavesdropping on Arthurian" podcasts.
Why did you pursue an academic career in your field? I had put off medieval literature until fourth year, because everyone said it was hard, but it was a required course for my degree. When I finally took it, I realized one day that I knew the ending of the story we were reading, with no memory of having encountered it before. I must have read a version as a little kid. I thought, "I could do this forever."
What do you like most about your career? I get to read, talk and write about books! For a reader, there's no greater pleasure. The combination of teaching and writing/research is so energizing and inspiring. I get my best research ideas in the classroom, and I teach my best classes on texts I've used in my research. If you took away one half - if I just researched, or just taught - both sides would suffer.
How did you choose the focus of your research? I chose medieval literature because I was sitting in an undergraduate class one day and thought, "I could do this forever" (as I mentioned above). Within medieval literature, though, I choose whatever most intrigues me and excites me. Right now, I'm exploring the overlaps between medieval attitudes to romance and sexuality, and modern ones. There are vast differences, of course, but also shocking similarities. Attitudes to rape, incel discourse on women, toxic masculinity - we have made frighteningly little progress since the Middle Ages. At the same time, I love looking at the complexities and subtleties of these attitudes, because not everyone thought the same thing. In some cases, medieval individuals held more liberal and open values than people today. We can't assume that medieval people all agreed with each other, or with the authorities.
What do you like most about working with students? I get so much energy from teaching, and I learn so much from my students. I know that's a cliché, but if you look at the footnotes of my articles you'll see it's true - I try to credit individuals and classes for the sparks of ideas that came up during discussion, and which I then go and explore through research.
What are you most proud of in your career? The FASS teaching award I won last year. If I do nothing else (though of course I will!), I will have satisfied the height of my ambition.
What has been your biggest challenge? Standing up to the culture of over-work in academia and society as a whole, and not feeling guilty. I shouldn't feel guilty about not working nights or weekends, and taking some time just for me, or for my family. I still do feel guilty, of course, but I'm doing my best to fight it!
What is the best piece of advice you could give an undergrad or grad student? Don't be judgmental. People in 20 years, or 100 years, or 1000, will look at what you believe, and think, "How could they believe/do/think that?" One of the reasons I think medieval literature and history (or any culture or history sufficiently different from ours) is so important is it lets you get in the mindset of totally different cultures with totally different assumptions. Don't assume we have it right.
Meet Laurel Schut
Instructor, College of Sustainability
DFA Member Laurel Schut is an Instructor with Dalhousie’s College of Sustainability. Her commitment to sustainability goes far beyond academia. Laurel is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of FOUND Forgotten Food, collaborating with local farmers to harvest leftover produce and redistribute it to multiple non-profits across the province. She is also on the Board of Directors for Divert NS, a not-for-profit corporation championing recycling in our province. Laurel is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Fitness Instructor, and Continuing Education Provider with Yoga Alliance.
What do you enjoy most about your career in academia? I love that I can work on issues that are important to me, and that I can end each day feeling like I’ve made a difference. This is a privilege that I am grateful for on a daily basis.
What do you like most about working with students? I love the energy that students in the Environment, Sustainability & Society undergraduate program bring! They are so passionate about the sustainability issues we are facing. It is inspiring to see the many ways our current students and alumni use their skills to be the change they wish to see in the world. I also spent a couple of summers teaching English as Another Language students here at Dal, and I still keep in touch with a few of them as an email pen pal.
When you think about your career in academia, what makes you most proud? Any time a student shares with me that our time together has made an impact on their personal learning journey.
What is the best piece of advice you could give an undergrad or grad student? Don’t feel boxed in upon graduation to future employment in just your discipline. The skills you learn in your disciplinary studies can be applied to future careers in other disciplines — and this cross-disciplinary fertilization is actually really helpful and valuable for problem-solving and creativity!
Meet Jason Brown, PhD
Professor, Mathematics and Statistics
Jason Brown, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, has been involved with the DFA for many years. A member of the DFA’s communications committee for several years, Jason is also a past member of the Executive Committee. He is an excellent choice as the volunteer for our first Member Profile. He understands the value of having members of the public get to know university teachers for who they are beyond the classroom. Introducing Dr. Jason Brown…
Why did you pursue an academic career in mathematics? I was interested in mathematics since I was quite young. I remember my class being given an independent mathematics project of our own choosing in grade 7, and taking one of my older brothers' grade 13 math textbook and teaching myself matrices. It just seemed to make sense. At university I decided to go into mathematics as it was the one science I didn't have to do labs in! In my second year, one professor hired me to do research on networks, and I was hooked!
What do you like most about your career? There are many things I love about my career as a mathematician - the freedom to investigate research problems that interest me the most, the daily opportunity to learn, the immediacy of teaching in front of a class. But what I enjoy most is the mentoring of students - undergraduate and graduate - as I teach them to appreciate and love interdisciplinary research as much as I do.
How did you choose the focus of your research? During the summer of my second year as an undergraduate at the University of Calgary, I had an opportunity one summer to carry out research in graph theory. Silly me, I thought "graphs" were the study of plots from calculus, but I soon found out that graph theory was the study of networks, and I was enthralled. After reading through a textbook on the topic, I began working on a problem in graph colouring, and I was much more productive that summer than I could have imagined. During my Master’s degree, I took a computer science course on "network reliability" and found my background in mathematics opened up all sorts of opportunities for research. Both of these experiences led to published papers, and seeing my name and work in print was icing on the research cake.
What do you like most about working with students? Seeing them grow and mature as they become more autonomous in their learning, and as they find out that they can indeed discover new mathematics.
What are you most proud of in your career? The interdisciplinary nature of my research. From early on, I loved the surprising applications of one field of mathematics to another, and I have uncovered and explored such connections between algebra, analysis, probability theory and networks. I also have combined my love of mathematics and music to solve musical mysteries surrounding the songs of The Beatles, from the opening chord of "A Hard Day's Night" and the mathematical beauty of the bridge to "I Want to Hold Your Hand", to composer authentication and the conundrum of who - John or Paul - wrote "In My Life".
What has been your biggest challenge? To be constantly learning new areas of mathematics, where command of a topic may be months or years off in the distance. Patience is a virtue, and I have had to keep my eye on the prize. What helps is how much I enjoy the long ride.
What is the best piece of advice you could give an undergrad or grad student? Make yourself a life-long learner. You don't HAVE to learn - you GET to learn! And know that what makes you special is not just your knowledge and expertise in one narrow area, but the unique combination of skills and life experiences that you bring to the table. Learning and exploration is a gift - don't forget to be grateful!
Comments from Past Students
“I am especially grateful to Dr. Jason Brown, my PhD supervisor, who has been a lifelong mentor to me. During my years learning from Jason, I saw him expand his research to new fields … publish his work through books that reached national audiences, and mentor hundreds of students so that they too would have an impact in this world. Fifteen years after graduating from Dalhousie, I am still following in Jason's footsteps…”
Richard Hoshino, Associate Professor, Khoury College of Computer Sciences, Northeastern University, Vancouver.
“During the six years I spent at Dalhousie, Jason was always readily available to talk about research … In the crunch times of thesis writing and paper deadlines, he was always available late into the evening and on weekends to help me with any issues that arose. He would spend extra time scouring for TA and lecturer jobs for me to ensure that I could support myself while studying. He also always helped me secure the necessary funding to attend any conferences that I was interested in. … it might be easy to think that I was given special treatment, but Jason was supervising other students during this time … and putting in as much extra time and effort with each of them. I am extremely proud of my degrees from Dalhousie University … However, the institution itself did not give value to these degrees, it was the many exceptional professors who challenged and supported me along the way, like Jason Brown.”
Ben Cameron, Roncesvalles Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Guelph
“When I began my Master’s degree, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Dr. Brown was willing to be so actively involved as my mentor. Between our regular meetings and his constant detailed feedback, it was clear that Dr. Brown was dedicating time and effort in order to help me through the process of writing a thesis. This level of one-on-one interaction was especially surprising considering that Dr. Brown was supervising multiple students and teaching multiple classes, all on top of his own research and external collaborative work. The amount of work that Dr. Brown did and continues to do as a Dalhousie professor is both amazing and inspiring, and this should never be understated.”
Jordan Barrett, PhD student, McGill University
“Dr. Jason Brown was my supervisor, who helped me and inspired me on my honours thesis. The first time I met Dr. Jason Brown was in his mathematical modelling class, and it was the second year at Dal. I was surprised by this professor; he had full energy and cared about students' study, and the most important thing was that he loved music and did a lot of research about mathematics and music. I was enthusiastic about music since I liked playing the piano. Therefore, when I started working on the undergraduate honour thesis about math and music, I was glad that Dr. Brown could be my supervisor … I was astonished about the time and energy he put as a professor at Dal. Without his help, I could not finish my honours thesis, and with the inspiration and energy he gave, I would never forget it.”
Tingyu Zhang, Master of Data Science Student, University of British Columbia
“As an undergrad studying mathematics … I was able to spend a summer working as a real mathematician - investigating modern areas of graph theory, developing research skills, and learning new computational tools. Dr. Brown was an excellent advisor and mentor throughout the whole process, and I'm proud that our work culminated in a published paper. It was a valuable experience, and a big boost in my budding STEM career.”
Julia Tufts, Software Engineer, Google NYC
In 2012, the Wall Street Journal recorded Jason and his band playing "A Million Whys", a song Jason wrote in the style of the early Beatles using mathematical principles he gleaned from their songs.
Promotional video by the National Academy of Sciences on a math and music talk Jason gave in their Distinctive Voices series in Irvine, California:
A promotional video done when Jason was nominated for a Discovery Centre's Science Champion award.