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  • Brock grad and Guernsey native applies transdisciplinarity in law career

    Emma Alderton (BA ’17) came from Guernsey to study at Brock University on a Brock Guernsey Undergraduate Scholarship. Coincidentally, soon after her arrival, the statue of a more famous Guernsey Island native was erected on the campus of the university that bears his name.

    Major-General Sir Isaac Brock now resides in bronze in front of the main entrance to the University. Alderton returned to Guernsey in 2017, translating the lessons and experience gained as a Brock University student into a career in law.

    As a Child and Youth Studies (CHYS) major, she was introduced to the notion of transdisciplinarity – “the inclusion of perspectives and knowledge from all disciplines including Indigenous ways of knowing” – by Professor Richard Mitchell who also co-supervised her honours thesis.

    With her curiosity piqued, Alderton was inspired to learn more about the University’s namesake and the significance of his statue for the University and the community. Her research resulted in what Mitchell calls “a critical rendering of that statue with regard to our ongoing lack of acknowledgement of First Nations participants at Queenston.”

    A transdisciplinary lens considers contexts of history, culture and politics, elements that he says are “typically left out of western, modern scientific methodologies and metrics due to fallacious claims of objectivity.”

    As described in the Guiding Values of Brock University’s strategic plan, transdisciplinary research is one element contributing to the “unique student experience” that “positively transforms our students’ abilities, understanding and impact on the world.”

    Alderton’s student experience was indeed transformative. She graduated from Brock with new knowledge and new perspectives. For one thing, she veered from her original career choice.

    She had planned to work with young people in prison. However, she says, “after taking some legal courses, first in the CHYS department and then further in other departments, I realized that I actually really enjoyed law.”

    Upon graduation, she successfully applied to law school in the U.K.

    Alderton was interested to learn of Brock’s new Law Plus program which is open to students in any program at Brock, is designed for students who are interested in pursuing any career in the legal field. She calls it “a great opportunity for students to get an introduction to the legal world without feeling the pressure of having to pursue a career in law.”

    In addition to practical skills, she hopes the program can open students’ eyes to the many and varied opportunities available for them to qualify as lawyers, whether in Canada or abroad.

    Brock’s Law Plus program includes workshops on effective communication, team building and leadership skills, computer training, presentation skills and time and stress management workshops. For more information, including admission requirements, expected outcomes, visit the Co-op, Career and Experiential Education website.

    Alderton acknowledges that Mitchell’s teachings about transdisciplinarity continue to resonate in her professional life. “The concepts and principles Richard discussed surrounding culture, history and politics are not just relevant to young people,” she says. “They play a vital role in any sort of communication.”

    Throughout her professional experience, she has found “the concepts he taught about interacting with children and youth are also a vital part of building positive client relations.”

    “I think the bottom line is that everyone has a history and a culture that we do not necessarily understand,” she says.

    Alderton says her Brock experience taught her that “it is okay to ask questions and it is okay to make mistakes (as long as you learn from them). And that, even when a task seems extremely overwhelming, there is always a way to break it down and work through it.”

    Echoing the sentiment of Sir Isaac Brock’s famous “Surgite!” (Latin for “push on”), she says one of the most valuable ways Brock prepared her to study law was to instill “the determination and patience to sit and figure something out” even when her first thought is “I can’t do this!”

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