John Bodner, Assistant Professor of Social and Cultural Studies, Grenfell Campus, Memorial

John Bodner, Assistant Professor of Social and Cultural Studies, Grenfell Campus, Memorial

BY: Catherine Nygren

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For his doctorate in folklore at Memorial, John conducted an ethnography and folklife study of a street kid community in downtown Toronto. He was supported by a great community at MUN: the professors were professionally encouraging and academically stimulating, and he had strong bonds from his Master’s degree at the same institution. Internal and external grants made doing a PhD possible, and he also was a teaching assistant for the first couple years of his degree.

Relocating to Ontario with his family complicated matters, however, and distance and other responsibilities led to a loss of focus. He applied for contract work at Trent, and some of his courses were outside of his subject area—in addition to the pay, he gained confidence in his ability to master material quickly. After the end of his contract, new opportunities led the family to Vancouver Island, where John worked in construction, as a tree planter, and teaching community research and fieldwork to non-professionals. He was also an active volunteer, working with local museums, archives, and activist groups.

John remembers that “I thought of quitting my PhD ten or fifteen times, but was talked off the proverbial ledge by my supervisor who recommended a contract position at MUN.” He applied for and got the job, returning to his home institution and finishing his thesis. The contract position developed into a regular term teaching appointment, which then rolled into his current tenure track placement as Assistant Professor of Social and Cultural Studies at Grenfell Campus, MUN.

The community of his current position feels significantly different than the struggle before. He notes that “Becoming a professor can be lonely and isolating; you spend so much time trying to prove yourself that you can self-isolate. You curate the best version of ‘you’ professionally, and that takes a while to ease up (it’s gendered too, women deal with it far more). When you’re on contract you’re like a medieval baby—people have a hard time caring about you much because you may not last. That can be really lonely. Once you’re out of contract, though, you make friends (hopefully some outside your department) and settle in a bit.”


Header image: Group of ‘squeegee kids’ on a couch, south-east corner of Queen Street West and Bathurst Street
Ivaan Kotulsky, July 1998
Courtesy of City of Toronto Archives, CC by 2.0

For his doctorate in folklore at Memorial, John conducted an ethnography and folklife study of a street kid community in downtown Toronto. He was supported by a great community at MUN: the professors were professionally encouraging and academically stimulating, and he had strong bonds from his Master’s degree at the same institution. Internal and external grants made doing a PhD possible, and he also was a teaching assistant for the first couple years of his degree.

Relocating to Ontario with his family complicated matters, however, and distance and other responsibilities led to a loss of focus. He applied for contract work at Trent, and some of his courses were outside of his subject area—in addition to the pay, he gained confidence in his ability to master material quickly. After the end of his contract, new opportunities led the family to Vancouver Island, where John worked in construction, as a tree planter, and teaching community research and fieldwork to non-professionals. He was also an active volunteer, working with local museums, archives, and activist groups.

John remembers that “I thought of quitting my PhD ten or fifteen times, but was talked off the proverbial ledge by my supervisor who recommended a contract position at MUN.” He applied for and got the job, returning to his home institution and finishing his thesis. The contract position developed into a regular term teaching appointment, which then rolled into his current tenure track placement as Assistant Professor of Social and Cultural Studies at Grenfell Campus, MUN.

The community of his current position feels significantly different than the struggle before. He notes that “Becoming a professor can be lonely and isolating; you spend so much time trying to prove yourself that you can self-isolate. You curate the best version of ‘you’ professionally, and that takes a while to ease up (it’s gendered too, women deal with it far more). When you’re on contract you’re like a medieval baby—people have a hard time caring about you much because you may not last. That can be really lonely. Once you’re out of contract, though, you make friends (hopefully some outside your department) and settle in a bit.”


Header image: Group of ‘squeegee kids’ on a couch, south-east corner of Queen Street West and Bathurst Street
Ivaan Kotulsky, July 1998
Courtesy of City of Toronto Archives, CC by 2.0

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