From STU to STU – the circle of learning

(Megan Cooke/AQ)
(Megan Cooke/AQ)
Erin Fredericks (Megan Cooke/AQ)

She’s in search of the perfect coffee latte. She traveled around the world. Now she joined the same department she once was a student of.

Erin Fredericks returned to St. Thomas University to teach sociology.

“I didn’t know how my now colleagues would feel for a student coming back as a prof. It was only a little intimidating to come into a department where you once studied,” Fredericks said.

When Fredericks came to STU as an undergraduate student, she started in journalism. She switched over to sociology because she loved her introduction class.

“Sociology helped me to think about the world in a way that I hadn’t before. It just made sense to me. I think some people are already inclined towards thinking like a sociologist and the class just clicks for them for some reason. That’s how it was for me,” Fredericks said.

Her particular interests are health and illness, and the social health movement. Besides her classes, she’s working with the Pink Ribbon Movement, an organization to support breast cancer patients. Frederick’s doing qualitative research and asks women how the movement influences their daily life.

“Often [the interviews] are emotionally tiring in some ways, because people are ill, they’re going through treatments, and have a lot going on. But I think it’s important. I really love doing it. I love doing research.”

After having spent a year in Australia during high school, Fredericks participated in her third year at STU in a year long exchange with China. She said it was a lot of fun and would recommend it to students.

She has traveled to India, Southeast-Asia and to Europe after getting her PhD. She said travelling makes her feel smaller.

“Sometimes we can get really caught up in our own world and feel like this is everything and it’s overwhelming and it’s too important. That we’re not too significant, but that a lot of things are about us,” she said.

“I think when you can get taken out of your regular context and thrown into somewhere’s else and really different, it gives you some perspective in your own life. That maybe what we’re doing it here is just one way of doing it, and there’s other things that are important as well. That’s why I travel. So that I don’t get too self-involved.”

She added she got the same feeling when she looked at the ocean. Originally from Annapolis Valley, N.S., and a big beach person, moving to Fredericton was a bit hard.

“I’m learning to love rivers,” she said.

She has been exploring New Brunswick but dreams of travelling to South America, mainly Ecuador and Chile.

“And why? I don’t know. It’ll be hard to explain probably,” Fredericks said. “I think most of the time we want to travel places, because we heard something once and it was really interesting.”

Before going to South America, she wants to learn Spanish. She said it’s always a bit rude to go to different places and expect everyone to speak English. Coming to New Brunswick also made her notice that her French “is pretty terrible too.” In both her classes, she has groups of francophone students who seem to translate discussion questions or words for each other.

“It always makes me feel a little bad that I can’t be more helpful to them, because I can’t communicate the content. I mean if I was ordering a hamburger, I could probably do that, but to actually explain ‘social constructionism’ in French [is difficult]”

Fredericks will be teaching the first sociology health and illness class. She also plans to do more research projects and to try to get her students involved. For now, she hopes to work towards a Safer Space Committee at STU.

The initiative will offer faculty members workshops about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer issues. According to some studies, Fredericks said, people from these communities sometimes struggle more with going through university. The idea of the Safer Space Committee is to make faculty members know the resources they can offer students, and generally inform people.

Fredericks has been volunteering in Halifax with queer and women centered organization. She also participated in this year’s Pride Parade and joined the Take Back The Night march.

For the coming winter, Fredericks hopes to pick up some winter activities. She said the last time she tried skating in twenty years was hilarious.

“I have the move called ‘The Starfish’. It’s like the panic, everything goes stiff which is the worst thing you can do with skating. Like the absolute worst thing you can do.”

Until the cold months arrive, she will enjoy spending time outdoors biking or hiking. She said Fredericton has a lot going on. And since she’s a bit of a coffee addict, she’s still looking for the perfect coffee latte.

With classes starting to get busier, there’s one thing Fredericks doesn’t have to worry about:

“I never get lost on campus. The only new building is McCain, so I get lost when I go there. But otherwise, everything is good.”