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Dr. Catherine Schryer

     Dr. Cathy Schryer isn’t sure that her career trajectory would have been possible at any institution other than the University of Waterloo. It was not the university where she initially chose to work. While completing her doctoral dissertation at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, she received an offer from the chair of UW’s English Department, Gordon Slethaug, for a contract position. But contract positions are notoriously unstable, and she took a tenure-track position at Laurentian University in Sudbury instead. When a permanent faculty position came up at Waterloo, Dr. Slethaug asked her again to apply.

     Dr. Schryer credits UW for letting her follow her passion, genre theory, for the last twenty years. "In many ways, I’m doing the same work I did at the start of my career," she says. At a research-intensive university like this one, however, "I was able to delve very deeply into theory and method. The resources were always available, and I have been extremely fortunate in terms of research partners." She has enjoyed particular success with her work on the genres of communication in medical fields, work that has led to several SSHRC-funded collaborative research projects with partners such as UW’s Marlee Spafford (School of Optometry) and Tom Carey (Management Sciences) as well as Lorelei Lingard (Department of Medicine, University of Western Ontario). Indeed, her research group ranked first in its SSHRC category in 2008 for a project that will look at communication on interprofessional teams, winning $179,000 for its research.

     As her research blossomed here, she developed Rhetoric and Professional Writing courses that allowed her to share her research strengths in communication theory with UW undergraduates. Special favourites of hers included the cap (or 400-level) RPW courses, in which she synthesized genre theory with applied communications. One year she had her students create ’zines from scratch, requiring them not only to design the whole document but to explain how and why it would attract its target audience. "One group produced a brilliant magazine done completely in Dr. Seuss rhyme," she recalls. "Its point was to explain how rhyme appeals to readers." During her years at Waterloo, Dr. Schryer has also been in high demand as a graduate supervisor, and in 2007, her advisee Lara Varpio won UW’s Alumni Gold Medal for Outstanding PhD Dissertation.

     UW faculty will remember Dr. Schryer’s years here as the Faculty Association’s first female President and her leadership of the Status of Women and Equity Committee, as well as her participation on numerous university-wide committees that addressed issues of pressing concern across campus. She was the inaugural Director of TRACE, UW's Teaching Resources Office, and later the first Director of the Centre for Teaching Excellence. In September 2009, she took up a new position as Chair of the Department of Professional Communication at Ryerson University in Toronto. While she’ll be impossible to replace, we wish her all the best as she embarks on yet another university adventure.