Athena Loredo and Olivia Brophy, Writing Short is Hard

This interview is part of our ongoing series profiling students and community partners who participated in a Collaborative Cohort Project (CCP). To learn more about CCPs, check out our previous and upcoming projects.  

As part of our Fall 2023 cohort, we interviewed Athena Loredo (DMA candidate, Composition) and Olivia Brophy (MA Student, Medical Anthropology), for their collaborative cohort project with Dr. Letitia Henville’s academic editing business, Writing Short is Hard.

In this project, they conducted research and interviews with SSHRC merit review committee members to produce a series of informational advice posts for academics navigating grant applications.

Q: Can you tell us about yourself and the project you worked on.

Athena: I am a candidate pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts in composition. I was interested in working on this CCP with Letitia Henville because I wanted to learn more about applying for academic grants. I’m familiar with arts granting agencies, like BC Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts, but less so with academic agencies like Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Olivia: I’m a 2nd year MA student in Medical Anthropology interested in reproductive health, education, development cultures, and video gaming! I held a really exciting research assistantship during my first year that centered on editing my advisor’s upcoming book, so the CCP with Writing Short is Hard felt like a great way to explore a new area of interest.

My projects changed a bit over the course of the CCP but focused on interviewing professors involved with SSHRC IDG and IG Grant Committees in the social sciences. I participated in interviews, edited and coded transcripts, and compiled that data into two blog posts that SSHRC IDG and IG applicants can consult for guidance and insight before and during their application process.

Q: What did you find most rewarding about working on this CCP?

Athena: For me, conducting the interviews was really rewarding. Letitia gave me constructive feedback, and I was able to improve to a point where I could lead the discussion with the interviewees. Although the needs of the project changed as we progressed through the project, Letitia maintained open lines of communication and was able to support the interns through any challenges that arose.

Olivia: I really appreciated the support that Letitia provided when I was struggling to receive responses from potential participants. Letitia was able to recognize that the issues were beyond my control and supported pivoting the project as needed. Letitia exemplified the clear communication and flexibility that she expected from us.

Q: How does the CCP model compare the kinds of work you do as a graduate student?

Athena: The CCPs generally have a collaborative or group component among the interns. As a composition student, I frequently work with student musicians and other student composers. Group work can be daunting as a graduate student, but the skills I’ve learned through rehearsals, like giving constructive feedback and staying on top of communication, transferred well to my CCP.

Olivia: Participating in this CCP was an excellent opportunity to apply my interviewing, coding, writing, and editing skills, which are all of paramount importance in a writing-heavy discipline such as mine! I really appreciated the opportunity to step just ‘beyond’ work located within the academy/university setting by working with a small business partner engaged in grant writing.

Q: Do you have any advice for future graduate students interested in joining a CCP? 

Athena: The CCPs and Arts Amplifier in general are a great resource for graduate students wanting to broaden their academic horizons. Especially for those that are uncertain about what life after graduation will look like (myself included), these programs and initiatives are good opportunities to see what’s out there and connect with community partners from a wide range of fields.

Olivia: A CCP can help you to apply your skills in meeting a short term, tangible goal – something that can be hard to come by in research-based programs like mine. I also think that developing a skill set that translates outside of the university context is something that is increasingly important for all of us to devote time to. Participating in a CCP is definitely an option to consider when exploring opportunities for career advancement!

Are you inspired by Athena and Olivia’s story? Visit our Collaborative Cohort Projects for upcoming opportunities and more information on how we connect Arts graduate students and community partners.