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We learn from others:' Higher education doctoral student Gwendolyn Cleveland reflects on her OISE journey 

July 24, 2020

By Vesna Bajic 

U of T Campus

Gwendolyn Cleveland is a PhD student in the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education's  Higher Education program. She is also a life long learner, a storyteller, a mother, a nana, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a student and a nurse. Vesna Bajic sat down with Cleveland to learn more about her journey at OISE. 

Tell us about yourself. 

We learn from the stories of others and I offer my story to teach and inspire. From an early age, I have cared for myself. As a high school student, I had to work almost full- time hours to provide for myself. As survival was a priority, that is where my energy was focused and my grades reflect this truth. My grades impacted my confidence and sense of self-worth. As a result, I did not believe I was ‘smart enough’ to attend university. Once at university, finances and the need to work full-time led me to drop out. I was convinced I could not be successful.

Later, when a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) became a required degree for entry into nursing, I knew I had to return to school. For two years, I was a full-time nursing student and a part-time student working on a certificate in nursing leadership, while caring for my sons and working full-time hours. On completing the BScN program, with much encouragement from the faculty, I explored options for a Master’s degree. Reflecting on my interests I realized I could combine nursing and education which led me to OISE.

Why did you choose OISE?

I like to think I did not choose OISE; it chose me. When exploring options for a master’s degree, I obtained a copy of the U of T brochure. After leafing through the brochure, it sat on my desk for months. The next time I picked it up, the pages opened to the OISE Theory and Policy Studies with information about the health professions education courses. Words cannot describe my reaction when I received the admission package in the mail. From the moment I entered the OISE doors as a Master of Education student, I knew I was home. I was welcomed, encouraged, challenged to learn, and made to feel a part of the OISE family and community.

After completing an MEd, what motivated you to pursue a PhD?

There is a gap of 14 years from completing the MEd to applying for the PhD. Life and life challenges are the reason for the gap. When I am asked, "why now?," my answer is "why not?" I chose to apply to OISE to return to the fold. Applying elsewhere was not an option for me. If my application had not been successful, I would not be pursuing doctoral studies. When I called my sons to tell them my application was successful, I was so overcome with emotion they could not understand me and thought something was wrong. I am honoured to be studying at OISE.

Your current roles?

I like to keep busy. I continue to work full time as a registered nurse. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been providing clinical support in the workplace including developing evidence-based guidelines, policies, and procedures to guide staff and volunteers allowing for the ongoing delivery of services to the community we serve.

As a part-time instructor for a community college, I facilitate nursing education courses, and at times collaborate in the development and revision of nursing courses. One of the greatest rewards for me as an educator is when learners tell me how they drew on a story I shared to assist them in a clinical situation.

What is your research focus and area of interest? 

As a full-time flex student in LHAE at OISE, I recently completed the comprehensive examination. My focus now turns to the research component of my doctoral studies. My area of interest is the accreditation of health profession education. I plan to use a Foucauldian critical discourse analysis approach for my research.

What have you been reading or watching during the pandemic?

Pleasure reading for me is curling up with a mystery novel and a cup of tea. My favourite author is Agatha Christie. I have most of her books in my collection and I re-read the series every few years. I have also begun a collection of books as resources for my dissertation including Foucault. I am particularly keen on Foucault’s 1969 The Archaeology of Knowledge.