By: Winona Young, Staff Writer
After writing a 236-page comic book for her thesis, high school arts teacher Meghan Parker crosses the stage this month to receive her master’s degree in education.
According to SFU, Parker is reportedly Canada’s first student to complete a master’s thesis in this medium. Her thesis is titled Art Teacher in Process: An Illustrated Exploration of Art, Education and What Matters.
“My thesis is an autobiographical comic and it’s about myself and my own experiences as a new a high school visual arts teacher,” Parker explained as she sat down in an interview with The Peak.
Parker’s thesis aimed to explain the significance of art education, and how the arts can benefit communities and societies. She began writing it two years into her career as an arts teacher in North Vancouver. Her thesis encompasses many experiences, such as her response to readings, problems she’s encountered, classroom experiences, and more.
Created on 11-by-11-inch paper, her comic book is a combination of watercolour, crayon, and pencil, employing different methods of colouring depending on the content of the page.
“[My choice] came from the question in the beginning, ‘Why am I typing about art instead of making art about art?’” – Meghan Parker
Parker’s inspiration for writing a comic book thesis started with an assignment given to her during her undergrad by SFU associate professor Lynn Fels. Parker thought the assignment gave her an opportunity to try a different form of thesis, with the encouragement from her supervisors.
Parker felt that the medium of her thesis needed to be visual, given its huge emphasis of visual arts education.
“Form and the content are inextricably linked,” she said. “So I don’t think that the things I’m talking about could have been in a solely text form.”
Parker’s creative process was anything but chronological.
“It was like writing an essay with all the paragraphs separate then putting them together in a cohesive order,” she explained. For her, writing comics served as a reflection tool.
Parker has released her thesis online and received a great deal of feedback, both positive and negative.
“I’ve been getting beautiful emails from people all over the world saying ‘thank you’. . . but there’s also been a bit of conflict with people thinking that scholarship doesn’t look like comic books,” she said.
But Parker remains optimistic. She believes such conversation is worthwhile, and will open up thinking about the various forms scholarship could take.
Overall, Parker has learned much about herself, as both an artist and an art teacher after writing her thesis.
“I gained a confidence ability [sic] to communicate through the comic book form,” she said.
“A big thing I take away as a teacher is that you enlarge the space of possible, and you allow students achieve what they’re capable of. That’s really what we’re here for.”
Parker’s thesis is still available to read online on Summit SFU.
With files from CBC.