Jenna Kirker (2019)

In March 2019, I had the privilege to be an I-CYS fellow working alongside a fantastic group of students, faculty, and staff. As a PhD candidate with a dissertation strongly focused on children and youth, I-CYS presented a unique opportunity for new perspectives, academic support, and a refreshing change of scenery for research and writing. 

Arriving in Lethbridge, I was excited to dive into the world of child and youth history, with Dr. Kristine Alexander acting as a passionate and informative guide for the recognition of these often ‘lost’ voices in history. My research places children and youth in a predominantly political context. My dissertation explores the organizational and cultural history of the Canadian Young Communist League between 1923 and 1943. My goal in exploring the League is to bring together information created for children and youth, while also exploring information created by children and youth. By including a cultural component, I have more opportunity to include the ‘voices’ of children and youth, while at the same time recognizing distinct social, personal and cultural impacts during the period. Having both a supervisor, and past educational experience primarily focused on the political aspect of my research, coming to work and write with I-CYS was beneficial to recognize differing experiences, perspectives and histories on children and youth. 

Originally my plan for the fellowship was to use the special and academic resources available to me in order to focus on my research and writing. However, thanks to Kristine, her students, and other faculty members of the institution this narrow experience quickly evolved. I was able to sit in on classes dealing with the history of emotion, attending and listening to amazingly detailed and insightful undergraduate proposals for a history of “girls and girlhood” class, and attending fourth year thesis presentations. All of these opportunities helped me re-examine how I could incorporate children and youth into an ‘adult’ centred narrative and expand my own research into areas I either didn’t consider or was introduced to. This was all in conjunction with independent study time punctuated by varied conversations with so many unique individuals truly making my experience invaluable. 

Alongside the academic, and research aspect of my visit, I felt welcomed by any and all whom I had the opportunity to interact with. Whether it was an invitation to dinner, an offer to drive me to an event, or seeking me out to talk about the city – I was often overwhelmed by the hospitality shown to me.

I would like to give a BIG thank you to everyone whom I had the pleasure to meet and hope that I will be able to return to Lethbridge and I-CYS in future.