Lizette Gerber will receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in English (honours) during U of S Spring Convocation on June 5.

English student experiences ‘both sides’ of publishing academic work

One of the most influential experiences of Lizette Gerber’s undergraduate education was working with the University of Saskatchewan Undergraduate Research Journal (USURJ).

USURJ is an online, peer-reviewed scholarly journal featuring original work by U of S undergraduate students. Gerber, an English major, became editor-in-chief of the journal alongside PhD student Tara Chambers.

Gerber also had one of her own essays published in volume 4 of USURJ. The essay, “Transgender Bodies in The Little Mermaid and Swim Thru Fire,” was nominated for one of the journal’s best paper prizes.

“Being able to experience the publication process from both sides like that was amazing, especially since I really want to continue studying and working in academia,” she said.

Gerber will receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in English (honours) during U of S Spring Convocation on June 5. The evening before she crosses the stage at TCU Place to receive her degree, she will be among the high-achieving students honoured at the annual College of Arts and Science Convocation Dinner and Awards Ceremony. At the college event, Gerber will receive the Copland Prize in Humanities and the Award for Excellence in English Studies.

Gerber said she was “so happy” to find out she would be recognized.

“I love studying literature and work hard to be successful at it, so it’s very gratifying for that to pay off,” she said.

Gerber is currently working as a research assistant for a project led by English professor Joanne Leow, which is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. In September, Gerber will begin a master’s degree in the College of Arts and Science in English. She is aiming for a PhD after that.

“My broad research interests include transnational literature, Indigenous literature, speculative fiction and literary animal studies,” she said.

Although Gerber will no longer be an undergraduate student, she is planning to stay on with USURJ as a graduate advisor. She said she has learned a lot about publishing and editing through her time with the journal.

“I love getting articles through to publication. Even if I only played a small part in working with the paper, hearing about the success of the authors that submit to us makes me so happy. It’s definitely one of the reasons that I’m staying on as a graduate advisor for the upcoming year; I know how exciting it is to get undergraduate work out there and I want to keep being a part of that,” she said.

“By giving undergraduate students the opportunity to learn in a positive and constructive environment about the standards of research and the process of publishing in an academic journal, they gain an advantage when it comes to thinking about studying at the graduate level. Even if grad school is not part of their plan, I think it’s important for undergraduate students to have a venue for their work to be seen by more people than just their professor so that they know that their work can have significance in the world beyond the classroom.”

Gerber describes choosing English as her major as “the best decision I ever made.” She has advice for other undergraduate students: don’t compare yourself to others.

“It can be very easy to devalue your own accomplishments because someone else is ‘better than you’ in one way or another, but my advice would be to try your best to only compare yourself against your past self. Allow yourself to be proud of what you’ve achieved, and ignore that part of you that says it doesn’t matter because someone else seems to be higher than you on your scale of expectation. Be nice to yourself.”

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