Creative and Critical Studies: a family affair

Growing up in Vernon, B.C., husband and wife Kevin Robertson and Kelsey Wheelhouse never expected to become students on UBC’s Okanagan campus.

They also didn’t anticipate that a campus could become a community. Robertson never imagined himself developing into an artist, and the couple certainly didn’t predict emerging as two of the most involved students within the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies (FCCS), while also becoming new parents.

But life is unpredictable. With their UBC degrees in hand — Wheelhouse is on track to receive her UBC degree this June and Robertson later in the year — they will have both accomplished a long list of things they never expected to do.

“Our experience has shaped our lives in so many ways,” says Wheelhouse, who will receive her Bachelor of Arts in English (honours). “We really made a connection. I consider a number of my profs to be friends. And we’ve been able to experience so many things here that likely we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience at other universities.”

Robertson and Wheelhouse have attended UBC’s Okanagan campus since it opened its doors in 2005.

Since 2007, Wheelhouse has worked as an undergraduate teacher’s assistant tutoring her peers in English. She also received an Undergraduate Research Award last summer, and developed her honours thesis researching a series of heritage murals located in downtown Vernon, B.C., and their relation to multiculturalism, colonization and “whiteness.”

Robertson, a cultural studies major, has helped produce the FCCS’s online promotional videos over the past two years, combining his love for technology with his recently developed interest in artistic expression.

“I never thought art was an option for me,” says Robertson. “I didn’t draw or paint or anything along those lines. I just made connections with my professors, opened up my options, and took an unexpected path.”

Being able to work and study on campus has been a big bonus for the couple, who’s two-year-old son Quinn attends the campus day care.

“We’re taking away so many good memories with us,” says Wheelhouse. “The birth of our son, the friendships we made, the opportunities I’ve had to become involved, and even running on the trails behind campus. That’s one of my best memories: getting away between classes for some ‘me time’ on the trails.”

Robertson shares these sentiments, but adds one of the biggest lessons he will take from his undergraduate studies is that learning goes far beyond the classroom walls.

“Although the professors teach a specific course, it is amazing how multi-faceted they are,” says Robertson. “My advice to new students is that you need to become involved — make connections, apply for awards and campus jobs; put yourself out there and network.

“You just never know where it will take you. There are so many unique opportunities available to students here, and I can’t stress enough how much support and insight the faculty is willing to give, whenever you ask.”

Robertson, Wheelhouse and Quinn will be moving to Edmonton so Wheelhouse can pursue a law degree at the University of Alberta. Robertson expects to eventually obtain a master’s degree, but first plans to focus on getting his family settled, immersing himself in the Edmonton art scene, and exploring work options.

“We’re a little nervous to move on, of course, and we’ll miss this campus and the people so much,” says Wheelhouse. “It really has been our home for the last five years. And although we are moving on, I feel like we have a connection with this campus that won’t just go away after we leave.”