Humanities Spirit of Brock winners have sights set on helping others

Both in the classroom and in the community, Brielle Kaminsky (BA ’21) and Carolyn Fast (BA ’14, MA ’21) are determined to have an impact.

The Brock graduates were recently honoured for their work on and off campus, each receiving the Board of Trustees Spirit of Brock medal for the Faculty of Humanities during the University’s Virtual Spring Convocation on Friday, June 18.

For Fast, her work and research has always focused on people.

The Master of Arts (MA) in History graduate brought her passion working for people with disabilities to her graduate research, looking at humanness within the context of the deinstitutionalization movement in Ontario. Her research centres on the stories of people who experienced institutionalization and explores the continuing impact of this lesser-known aspect of Ontario history.

“I really wanted to look at the deinstitutionalization process,” says Fast. “I wanted to focus on personhood and I wanted the autonomy of people to shine through every page.”

Between 1876 and 2009, more than 50,000 people with intellectual disabilities were housed in institutions across Ontario. Fast saw the impact of institutionalization and the ideologies behind it in her work in the disability sector.

“I saw good friends having to constantly push back and prove their capacity and thought, this is just wrong,” she says. “I really wanted to unpack the ideology behind why we segregate, isolate and institutionalize people who are different.”

The MA topic was a natural fit for Fast, who has worked in the disability sector with organizations such as People First Ontario, Partners for Planning and Community Living. In March 2019, she launched her own business, working directly with individuals to help set goals and make plans, while also consulting for various organizations.

“Her dedication to her community, her vision of humanity, of what it means and what it obliges us to do for one another, has quite simply changed the way that I think about the world,” says Associate Professor Renee Salhany, who supervised Fast’s thesis, “The Un-making of Difference.”

“She is the embodiment of integrity, honour, grace — and good humour in the face of struggle and adversity.”

While her thesis focused on interviews with survivors, Fast also examined changes in policy. She plans to continue her research through her work.

“Personhood and identity have always been important to me, so I will continue to explore it in other ways and continue to research and understand institutionalization and how it plays out in my work,” she says.

Kaminsky, a Music graduate, also spent her time at Brock actively involved in making a difference in the University and wider community.

Kaminsky was a leader within the Brock University Students’ Union as the Faculty of Humanities representative on the Brock University Students’ Administrative Council for the past four years.

Last year, she was appointed to the Advisory Committee for the Dean of Humanities as the undergraduate student representative. She also supported Humanities students serving as the Music Department student representative at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

Other leadership experiences included President of the Brock Golden Key Chapter, serving on the International Council of Student Leaders with Golden Key International Honour Society. Over her four years with Brock Leaders Citizenship Society, she held various executive roles, such as vice-president, public relations officer, peer mentor and the lead organizer for the ‘Play for Memories’ Ball Hockey Tournament, a fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Society.

“Golden Key and BLCS have reminded me of the value of collaboration between leaders in making a positive change,” Kaminsky said.

She is a founder and leader of the Days for Girls Brock Chapter, a social justice volunteer program where students help make feminine hygiene kits to donate to women and girls in developing countries. She has gone on to be involved in the organization at the national level and on global advocacy panels with Days for Girls International.

Kaminsky has served as the President of the Brock French Club and led the annual French Canada Trip that tours Quebec and Ottawa during Reading Week. She has been with the Brock Catholic Student Association as the music minister and served as president. She currently leads Catholic Christian Outreach faith studies on campus.

“I have found that faith can be a strong force and has a huge impact on university life,” she said.

Kaminsky will be returning to Brock in the fall to complete the Teacher Education program.

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