Gianluca Agostinelli

Profile photo of Gianluca Agostinelli
Educational Studies (Joint PhD Program) – FOE
Research adviser: Dr. Nancy Taber

Program entry date: 2016

It is difficult to imagine my life without Brock University. I have been a full-time student at Brock since 2009 and, during that time, I have earned four degrees, including a Master of Arts (’15) and a Master of Education (’16). I am now completing a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Studies, the research of which investigates the intersections of masculinity, sexuality, and sport. More specifically, I am exploring the storied, situated learning experiences of male student-athletes who challenge sexual violence and rape culture in their communities of practice, and inspire others—especially their teammates—to do the same.

I decided to pursue graduate studies at Brock University because so many of the school’s qualities had become integral components of my personal and professional success. Brock’s faculty, campus culture, and extracurricular options have fostered a strong sense of belonging that is critical to my ongoing growth as a student, educator, and emerging scholar. At Brock, I have held many academic positions, including Marker-Grader, Research Assistant, Graduate Teaching Assistant, Practicum Advisor, and Education Instructor, all of which have afforded me invaluable, real-world work experience, and the opportunity to cultivate meaningful, lasting relationships with students and colleagues across a variety of disciplines.

Though students often decide to seek graduate programming beyond their home university, I believe in the importance of finishing where one begins—especially if that place is a source of comfort and identity. My circular pathway has offered the chance to collaborate with co-workers who were once my professors, and to teach courses in the very classrooms where I once sat as an undergraduate student. Being at Brock for the last 13 years has allowed me to expand my networks, volunteer with and lead several, non-profit organizations, and even realize a dream that I, as a doctoral student, thought I would be too old to chase. But simply because one is regarded as an academic does not mean that they cannot be an athlete, too.

When Brock University’s tennis team was reinstated, I was already in my mid-20s—and accepting of the fact that my would-be teammates believed that I was actually the squad’s coach. Trying to juggle Ph.D. coursework, demanding teaching schedules, and sport, volunteer, and social commitments was a difficult, and certainly not flawless, balancing act. I would by lying if I were to write that I was not exhausted from routinely burning the candle at both ends. I required, every day, a great deal of motivation, organization, time management, and support from my classmates, colleagues, and teammates to achieve my objectives. This process, though, was a test of determination that resulted in me co-captaining the men’s tennis team in the same year that I defended my comprehensive portfolio and submitted my dissertation proposal.

As I enter what may be my final year of study at Brock University (although I have said that at least three times before), I would like to relay, to both current and prospective graduate students, a few lessons that I have learned throughout my own journey: take the time to truly take care of yourself, because you cannot pour from an empty cup; close your laptop and books periodically and immerse yourself in the school’s culture by engaging in the endless, memorable experiences that just might come to define your time at Brock; foreground the significance of your transferable knowledges, skills, and values, and, finally, contemplate what you may accomplish with your degree, rather than on what it may accomplish for you.

My former supervisor, the late Dr. Marilyn J. Rose, once told me that every decision made in one’s life uniquely shapes one’s narrative, which is continually being formed. Her words still guide me on my path and serve as a reminder that graduate studies should complement one’s life, and not the other way around. I am eternally grateful for her counsel—and the mentorship of my advisors, Dr. Neta Gordon, Dr. Susan Drake, and Dr. Nancy Taber—and hope that all students benefit from the same degree of inspiration along their own pursuit. I have now officially spent more of my life at a single university than as a K-12 student, and I am happy that I reached such an unexpected milestone at Brock, where I will forever be a Badger.