Thompson Rivers University

Arts grad finds path through research

January 4, 2021

Teacher, nurse, accountant, journalist—these are just some of the more typically sought-after career paths of university students. However, Bachelor of Arts (BA) grad Luke Kernan had other plans.

Kernan, an anthropologically trained mythographer and artist, got his start at TRU and carved out his own unique career path thanks to the Undergraduate Research Experience Award Program (UREAP), directed study opportunities and access to faculty and mentors.

As a mythographer, much of his time is centred around research, focusing on how myths, symbolic thought and poetics integrate into our daily lives. After graduating with his BA, he went on to complete a MA in Interdisciplinary Studies and Anthropology at UBC, where he studied “dreamtime” narratives, myth and story revitalization while conducting community-based fieldwork in Wadeye, the northern territory of Australia, and with the Kanamkek-Yile Ngala Museum.

“Attending a smaller university like TRU to do my BA was really advantageous,” said Kernan.

“Smaller schools allow for greater access to undergrad research, faculty mentorship and the ability to build important relationships and networks. There is also less competition for national-level grants like the SSHRC (Social Science and Humanities Research Grant)—you just need to have the drive to take advantage of the opportunities available.”

Kernan in the Wadeye region of Australia’s northern territory, Yederr camp, doing story revitalization work with an Elder and family members.

Kernan is an SSHRC scholar, literary anthropologist, graphic novelist and published poet. SSHRC supports high-calibre Canadian graduate students in building global linkages and international networks through the pursuit of exceptional research experiences abroad.

I met Luke in an upper-level English class, but it quickly became clear that his interests were broader than what could be contained in a scheduled course. That led to a directed studies project under the auspices of UREAP on gift giving in epic literature from Beowulf and the Nibelungenlied to the Odyssey, the Aeneid and Paradise Lost,” said arts faculty member Ken Simpson.

“Luke’s passion for the subject and his ability to see connections across disciplines and time periods was exhilarating for me as a teacher—I am not surprised that he has been so successful since then.”

Despite following a non-linear path, Kernan has been able to capitalize on his passion for research to advance his education and career. He is currently working toward his PhD in anthropology, where he will conduct ethnographic fieldwork on psychosis narratives and publish an innovative, multimedia volume of comics and poetry to accompany his dissertation and highlight its findings.

“The idea is to diversify my options,” said Kernan. “I would love to work in academia as a professor. I am passionate about research, writing and creating, and there are opportunities within medical anthropology, neuroscience, art therapy and teaching that I would like to explore as well.”

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