As we work on securing improvements to the working conditions of teaching-focused faculty at the University of Waterloo, FAUW is interviewing lecturers across campus to find out more about their experiences at Waterloo—and how potential policy changes might affect their work.
Lamees Al Ethari has been a lecturer in the Department of English Language and Literature since 2015. Let’s meet Lamees!
What does your job include right now?
My contract officially defines my load as 80% teaching and 20% service. I teach 7–8 courses per year, mostly ENGL 109 (Introduction to Academic Writing) and creative writing courses, but occasionally also literature courses. In 2019, I developed and taught a course titled Displacement Narratives in the Arts First program.
In addition to teaching, I keep active as a researcher and creative writer. I participate regularly at academic conferences, readings, and literary festivals. I have also published a memoir and a collection of poetry. I co-founded a SSHRC-funded community writing and performance workshop, The X Page, for local immigrant and refugee women. I have been a coordinator and an editor with the workshop since 2018. I am also a nonfiction editor for The New Quarterly, a national literary magazine housed in St. Jerome’s University.
What parts of your work are you most passionate about?
I love teaching—it’s really a big part of who I am professionally. But I also love doing research—research allows me to work on projects that relate to my own academic specialization.
While some of the research I do is on pedagogy, most of my research is on immigrant women’s narratives, especially from the Middle East. I focus on their journeys from home, the trauma they endured, what they left behind, and their experiences of trying to resettle in the diaspora. I have applied that research in teaching both my writing and my literature courses.
What has your experience been like trying to navigate the process of becoming a continuing lecturer?
That’s a really interesting question. A lot of the process actually seems very much up in the air. Each person seems to have had a different experience, and my questions weren’t answered in a timely manner because no one seems to know what the process is, and it’s not the same across different departments. Originally, I understood that I could apply in my fifth year, but that turned out not to be the case. The situation kept changing, there was nothing solid to go by, no guidelines to follow.
I submitted my application at the end of 2020 and didn’t hear anything about the application for a few months. (I finally received my continuing offer in May 2021.)
The lack of information is problematic and needs to be addressed by the Faculty and the University or it will continue to be problematic for those who follow after me. I’m not the first person in this kind of situation, and it’s not just for continuing status. A clear and consistent process will allow lecturers to plan ahead and be prepared.
Have you applied for any research grants while working at Waterloo, and how did that go?
I’ve applied for two research grants. I faced some complications with the first application process because, once again, there were no clear guidelines for lecturers applying for grants. However, when I applied for a SSHRC Connection Grant in 2018, I was told that I just needed to get approval from my chair, who supported the application and the project. We were awarded the grant in 2019, which funded the first cycle of The X-Page workshops.
Research grants, like these, allow us to be part of the academic community and they help us expand the work we do in our classrooms. I know that many of my lecturer colleagues are working on interesting and innovative research. They would benefit greatly from research grants that could support and fund their projects.Continue reading “Meet the lecturers: Lamees Al Ethari”