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Pursuing Passion: Getting started with alumna Betsy Brey

Betsy Brey
April 13, 2018

English MA alumna Betsy Brey, featured in the 2018-2018 issue of the CLArion, discusses how her experience as both an undergraduate and graduate student at UMD has prepared her for pursuing a PhD.

Being at UMD prepared me for [getting a PhD] through the support and mentorship I received. The opportunities to teach, tutor, research, write, work on grant projects, and get involved in departmental committees and policy-making, all made me a better scholar.

Betsy Brey (Master of English, Writing Studies Emphasis, Minor in Literacy and Rhetorical Studies ’13) is currently a PhD Candidate in the Department of English Language and Literature in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Waterloo, located in Waterloo, Ontario and plans to complete her degree in early 2019. She has numerous research affiliations, including three grants and the Games Institute at the University of Waterloo.

Brey’s transition into Canadian culture was relatively smooth given the many parallels between Minnesota and Canada. However, despite those heartening similarities, Brey has faced discomfort and welcomed her resulting growth as she made a new home in Canada.

“Meeting other immigrants, hearing their stories, and learning about life across the globe has helped me to understand the larger role America has in world politics. It can be easy to forget that our political actions and our government’s action echo across the world,” Brey stated. “[Moving to Canada] definitely helped me become more aware of the privileges I was born into and that I benefit from [as an American] and galvanized me to be a better ally to those who don’t have the same privileges I do.”

One of the ways she’s fulfilling that goal is through her work at First Person Scholar (FPS), which publishes 4-6 pieces per month of open-access, middle-state criticism focused on game studies and games culture. She became the Editor-in-Chief of the publication last fall after serving as Essay Section Head for two years.

Brey explained “In addition to editorial work, one of [FPS’s] roles as an ally to our contributors is to keep writers safe from harassment and abuse. To this end, we monitor our social media as well as alt-right, anti-feminist, and hate-group discussion boards, keeping our team and contributors aware of potential unwanted attention. For example, earlier this year, one of our articles caught the ire of an alt-right gaming group. We immediately took preventative action, temporarily removing contact and searchable information from the article until the threat had passed and by responding to harassers directly as a publication rather than allowing individual authors to be isolated and targeted. We believe activities like this strengthen the feminist games community, and provide safer open-access venues for feminist work on games.”

Brey credits undergraduate and graduate professors at UMD for helping guide her to the interdisciplinary field she’s enthusiastic about. “Without their help and support—putting together independent study courses with me, research and publishing recommendations, reading lists and one-to-one help, even finding the perfect minor for my research—I know I wouldn’t be where I am now…. When I started my MA at UMD, I had no intention of getting a PhD. I had a faint idea that I might enjoy teaching. I certainly didn’t expect to work in a field I’m so passionate about. And I definitely wouldn’t have considered moving out of the U.S. for a degree. But being at UMD prepared me for it through the support and mentorship I received. The opportunities to teach, tutor, research, write, work on grant projects, and get involved in departmental committees and policy-making all made me a better scholar, even as I was just getting started. I’m still getting started, but it’s an exciting time to be working in an interdisciplinary field with activists, scholars, players, designers, and artists all over the world. Best of all, I feel prepared for whatever step comes next, regardless of what it may be.”

After living in Duluth for most of her life, it appears that crossing the border to Canada has diminished other barriers for Brey: “I would love to stay in academics, but I would be equally at-home getting involved in world-building and design for trading card and role-playing games, as well as writing scripts for games. Working with FPS has given me plenty of hands-on editing experience that I’ve deeply enjoyed, and perhaps editing would be a good route. But I could also see myself doing education and outreach outside of academia. And anywhere in the world! Once you move to a new country once, it doesn’t seem as intimidating to try a new adventure somewhere new.”