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HWW: Lori Barkley

Building communities, allies, and partnerships is an important part of post-secondary and life generally. We welcome you to get to know the members of our Selkirk College community!

Lori Barkley, Instructor, Anthropology, Peace and Justice Studies

What drove you to become a professor?

A friend at the time suggested I apply to be a teaching assistant at SFU after I finished my undergrad. At the time, seminar sizes were smaller & the Sociology and Anthropology department at SFU didn’t have enough graduate students for all of the positions. I started as a seminar instructor the fall after I finished by degree from the University of Calgary (I was a visiting student @ SFU so have some idea of the challenges of transferring courses between provinces). I loved it & it turned out I must have been good at it, as they kept hiring me back. I taught seminars in both sociology and anthropology, and was a marker for ethnic relations as well. So I sort of fell into teaching. After my experiences teaching, I decided to apply to grad school so I could teach on a more regular basis, rather than the contract treadmill. I was hired at Selkirk shortly after finishing my graduate degree.

What inspires you to continue being a professor?

Students! I learn from my students each & every day. I also love seeing when things “click” for them & they become inspired. Without the meaningful interactions with students I would have been out of this profession long ago!

If there is one thing you could change about academia, what would it be?

Smaller class sizes & free tuition. Sorry I can’t pick just one. If my tuition was as expensive as it is now, I wouldn’t be where I am. My tuition tripled over the course of my degrees & it was a struggle. I’ve seen the student demographic change as a result & students have so many financial barriers to overcome that it makes obtaining an education more and more difficult. 

I benefitted from small class sizes & I have seen dramatic changes in that regard since my first university class in 1988. When class sizes increase the quality of education goes down, it is inevitable. There is only so much an instructor can do in terms of establishing connections, providing extensive feedback, & just being there for students. I think everyone teaching in the education system right now, no matter what the level, struggles with this.

What do you see as the values of education in society today?

No matter the program of study, education provides several things: the ability to think critically and process large amounts of information, multi-task, work for various people with just as varied expectations, meet deadlines, etc., these are all valuable skills for the workforce and life in general. I greatly value my education as it opened my eyes to seeing the world in a much more complex and nuanced way. I’m a better person in the world because of the outstanding education I received at my alma maters (University of Calgary & Simon Fraser University). My motto is the more I learn, the less I know. Education creates a thirst for knowledge that is never satiated, there is always more to question, experience, know, leading to another set of questions. It is a fantastic journey to become a better member of society.

What is your favourite thing about the Kootenay region?

As an anthropologist, of course I will say the people! Coming here from Vancouver, I have certainly gotten used to the slower pace of life, and the ability to spark conversations with strangers without being suspected of wanting something. When I first got here, the friendliness was what struck me the most. I also appreciate the fresh air & sheer beauty of this place. There are just so many interesting people here that all have these amazing stories.