| April 3, 2019

Funké Aladejebi, Assistant Professor, Gender & Women’s Studies and History, University of New Brunswick

Funké Aladejebi, Assistant Professor, Gender & Women’s Studies and History, University of New Brunswick

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Funké Aladejebi graduated from the Department of History at York University, where her dissertation focused on Black Women Educators who taught in Ontario from the 1940s to the 1980s. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of New Brunswick.

(March 2019)


Q: Tell us about your current position.

I am currently an assistant professor in the Department of History and Women & Gender Studies at the University of New Brunswick.

Q: Why did you enroll in a PhD program in the first place?

Originally, I was looking to transition to the education field after my Master’s in the History Department at York University. At the last minute, a friend encouraged me to apply for the PhD program. I already had good relationships with many of the academics at York, which made me feel comfortable about applying. York was also very good in terms of resource availability, like library and transportation, as well as space for graduate students to work. Finally, York’s funding package was very attractive; I would have time and space to actually do the PhD. Those were all important factors in choosing to return there.

Q: What did that funding package look like? Did you receive any other internal or external funding during your PhD?

York agreed to match another university’s offer. On top of the funding package, I was able to TA for the first five years of my program, which was also incredibly important. I also received the Ontario Graduate Scholarship twice when I was there, as well as a few travel bursaries for conferences and field work that I received from both the History Department and the Harriet Tubman Institute. Because of the funds that I received, I was able to attend specific conferences and afford accommodations in specific research locations.

Because I also lived at home, the kinds of money that I would have spent on rent and accommodations were lowered. I think it was more difficult for my colleagues who lived by themselves, even with the funding.

Q: What kinds of teaching experience did you get in your program?

I TA’d the first five years, as per the funding package. Half the time I TA’d in Canadian History and half the time was in African Canadian History, as that course was only offered every other year. I also received a Course Director exemption, which allowed me to do one semester as a course instructor rather than a TA. I taught an upper level fourth-year course, which was an essential experience for getting a career. It helped facilitate the transition outside of York University. I found that being able to teach an upper level course was also incredibly helpful, in terms of tracking how you can create assignments that facilitate academic rigour, but also develop different styles of writing skills, reading skills, that you don’t necessarily get to in first and second year level courses.

Q: Was your supervisor an important part of your experience? What kind of mentorship did you receive or give?

I received extensive mentorship particularly from female academics in the department and the program itself. Many of them developed a circle of checking in on you, but also having frank conversations about how to present and about how to situate my CV on numerous occasions. They reviewed my CV on numerous occasions. They had conversations about the challenges of being a woman in academia, and also had frank conversations about how to begin (even before the program was done) thinking about employment options that were both inside and outside of academia. I would say a significant portion of my academic success is contingent on the mentorship that I received from predominantly female academics (but not exclusively).

On more than one occasion, especially in the African Canadian History course, I was mentoring students who were just entering the program or students who were in their undergrad and thinking about taking their Master’s or PhD at some point. We would discuss not only some of the challenges that they would face, but also subjects like workload, writing styles, and practical things like the application process.

Q: Did you feel like you were part of a community during your PhD? Or that you are still part of a community?

I felt a part of a community in the beginning, in my cohort especially. We all came into the program together. As the years went on, people dropped out or finished, and the community changed a little; you begin to feel more disconnected. I think I still have the connections that I had at the beginning of my PhD, but the connections I made toward the latter part of my PhD are still very strong and I feel like those connections are very present in my current context.

Q: How long did your program take? Did it feel like the right amount of time?

It took seven and a half years and I absolutely do not think it was the right amount of time; I thought it was way too long. I had been prepared to stay maximum six years, so seven and a half years was something that I just I didn’t anticipate. I had two years where I had to hunt for external funding opportunities, while still teaching courses. There was a lot of stress around trying to complete the program, while also trying to situate myself with enough experience to have a career outside of academia. I was feeling a little fatigued by the end of the program.

Some factors that prevented me from finishing earlier were the obvious ones, things like edits and changes to your dissertation, or parts that the committee members did not feel were ready for a defense. Sometimes committee members have different visions for how they want dissertation projects to be structured, sometimes there are delays in administrative things like reading the chapters and meetings.

There were also my own commitments at that point. Teaching means that you don’t have as much time to write. Working means that you don’t have enough time to write. Increasing work commitments to be able to sustain myself meant that I had less time to write.

Q: What have you been doing since graduating from your PhD?

Most of my employment has been through courses, either online or at different institutions. At one point I was teaching at three different institutions at once; I was commuting to Guelph, Peterborough and then Toronto. There were also various research jobs or editing or archival work that people hired me to do, so a lot of my money also came from doing archival work for people who weren’t in the city but needed to collect certain documents.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about any volunteering that you’ve done?

A lot of my volunteer work revolves around the area where I used to live, particularly in Scarborough. This was focused on youth programming—helping young adults understand the voting process, creating and facilitating programs that provided access to movies and other pop culture media for students and kids, and volunteering at events. In particular, I volunteered a significant amount of my time during Black History Month at workshops across schools in the Greater Toronto Area.

Q: Do you feel like your doctoral work is relevant to the work you’re doing now?

Funké Aladejebi describes how her doctoral research is important to her pedagogy, volunteer experience, and life experience.

My doctoral work predominantly focuses on Black Women Educators who taught in Ontario from the 1940s to the 1980s. It looks at ideas of race and gender and how they play out in educational institutions across Canada, specifically in Ontario. The kinds of conversations that I have in my doctoral research inform the kinds of pedagogy that I impart in classrooms, and in my volunteer experience as well. Trying to dismantle ideas of systemic racism and sexism in Canadian institutions is very much part of the volunteer work that I do, and the ways that I teach, so they’re interconnected. I’ve found that a lot of the analysis that I did in trying to understand the history of these experiences in education definitely helped to inform my lens as a Black educator, and how I live in this world.

Q: Is there something that you wish you knew before starting the PhD?

I wish I had known how long it would take to complete the PhD; I didn’t anticipate that it would take that long. I wish I had been given more information about opportunities that were available outside of academia much earlier. As someone who was a trained teacher, I felt like I had to re-enter educational fields, but there were moments when I would have liked to know a little bit more about alternative possibilities.

I feel like York had a lot of access to resources, but I don’t know if everybody had the knowledge to access those resources in the same ways. It wasn’t that access didn’t exist; it was that there were inconsistencies around who was allocated this access and how this information was imparted. These ranged from funding opportunities to making sure you have the right supervisor to knowing of other areas where you can go to have more support in your research topic.


Many thanks to Funké for sharing her narrative! You can find out more about her on LinkedIn or via email.

Funké Aladejebi graduated from the Department of History at York University, where her dissertation focused on Black Women Educators who taught in Ontario from the 1940s to the 1980s. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of New Brunswick.

(March 2019)


Q: Tell us about your current position.

I am currently an assistant professor in the Department of History and Women & Gender Studies at the University of New Brunswick.

Q: Why did you enroll in a PhD program in the first place?

Originally, I was looking to transition to the education field after my Master’s in the History Department at York University. At the last minute, a friend encouraged me to apply for the PhD program. I already had good relationships with many of the academics at York, which made me feel comfortable about applying. York was also very good in terms of resource availability, like library and transportation, as well as space for graduate students to work. Finally, York’s funding package was very attractive; I would have time and space to actually do the PhD. Those were all important factors in choosing to return there.

Q: What did that funding package look like? Did you receive any other internal or external funding during your PhD?

York agreed to match another university’s offer. On top of the funding package, I was able to TA for the first five years of my program, which was also incredibly important. I also received the Ontario Graduate Scholarship twice when I was there, as well as a few travel bursaries for conferences and field work that I received from both the History Department and the Harriet Tubman Institute. Because of the funds that I received, I was able to attend specific conferences and afford accommodations in specific research locations.

Because I also lived at home, the kinds of money that I would have spent on rent and accommodations were lowered. I think it was more difficult for my colleagues who lived by themselves, even with the funding.

Q: What kinds of teaching experience did you get in your program?

I TA’d the first five years, as per the funding package. Half the time I TA’d in Canadian History and half the time was in African Canadian History, as that course was only offered every other year. I also received a Course Director exemption, which allowed me to do one semester as a course instructor rather than a TA. I taught an upper level fourth-year course, which was an essential experience for getting a career. It helped facilitate the transition outside of York University. I found that being able to teach an upper level course was also incredibly helpful, in terms of tracking how you can create assignments that facilitate academic rigour, but also develop different styles of writing skills, reading skills, that you don’t necessarily get to in first and second year level courses.

Q: Was your supervisor an important part of your experience? What kind of mentorship did you receive or give?

I received extensive mentorship particularly from female academics in the department and the program itself. Many of them developed a circle of checking in on you, but also having frank conversations about how to present and about how to situate my CV on numerous occasions. They reviewed my CV on numerous occasions. They had conversations about the challenges of being a woman in academia, and also had frank conversations about how to begin (even before the program was done) thinking about employment options that were both inside and outside of academia. I would say a significant portion of my academic success is contingent on the mentorship that I received from predominantly female academics (but not exclusively).

On more than one occasion, especially in the African Canadian History course, I was mentoring students who were just entering the program or students who were in their undergrad and thinking about taking their Master’s or PhD at some point. We would discuss not only some of the challenges that they would face, but also subjects like workload, writing styles, and practical things like the application process.

Q: Did you feel like you were part of a community during your PhD? Or that you are still part of a community?

I felt a part of a community in the beginning, in my cohort especially. We all came into the program together. As the years went on, people dropped out or finished, and the community changed a little; you begin to feel more disconnected. I think I still have the connections that I had at the beginning of my PhD, but the connections I made toward the latter part of my PhD are still very strong and I feel like those connections are very present in my current context.

Q: How long did your program take? Did it feel like the right amount of time?

It took seven and a half years and I absolutely do not think it was the right amount of time; I thought it was way too long. I had been prepared to stay maximum six years, so seven and a half years was something that I just I didn’t anticipate. I had two years where I had to hunt for external funding opportunities, while still teaching courses. There was a lot of stress around trying to complete the program, while also trying to situate myself with enough experience to have a career outside of academia. I was feeling a little fatigued by the end of the program.

Some factors that prevented me from finishing earlier were the obvious ones, things like edits and changes to your dissertation, or parts that the committee members did not feel were ready for a defense. Sometimes committee members have different visions for how they want dissertation projects to be structured, sometimes there are delays in administrative things like reading the chapters and meetings.

There were also my own commitments at that point. Teaching means that you don’t have as much time to write. Working means that you don’t have enough time to write. Increasing work commitments to be able to sustain myself meant that I had less time to write.

Q: What have you been doing since graduating from your PhD?

Most of my employment has been through courses, either online or at different institutions. At one point I was teaching at three different institutions at once; I was commuting to Guelph, Peterborough and then Toronto. There were also various research jobs or editing or archival work that people hired me to do, so a lot of my money also came from doing archival work for people who weren’t in the city but needed to collect certain documents.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about any volunteering that you’ve done?

A lot of my volunteer work revolves around the area where I used to live, particularly in Scarborough. This was focused on youth programming—helping young adults understand the voting process, creating and facilitating programs that provided access to movies and other pop culture media for students and kids, and volunteering at events. In particular, I volunteered a significant amount of my time during Black History Month at workshops across schools in the Greater Toronto Area.

Q: Do you feel like your doctoral work is relevant to the work you’re doing now?

Funké Aladejebi describes how her doctoral research is important to her pedagogy, volunteer experience, and life experience.

My doctoral work predominantly focuses on Black Women Educators who taught in Ontario from the 1940s to the 1980s. It looks at ideas of race and gender and how they play out in educational institutions across Canada, specifically in Ontario. The kinds of conversations that I have in my doctoral research inform the kinds of pedagogy that I impart in classrooms, and in my volunteer experience as well. Trying to dismantle ideas of systemic racism and sexism in Canadian institutions is very much part of the volunteer work that I do, and the ways that I teach, so they’re interconnected. I’ve found that a lot of the analysis that I did in trying to understand the history of these experiences in education definitely helped to inform my lens as a Black educator, and how I live in this world.

Q: Is there something that you wish you knew before starting the PhD?

I wish I had known how long it would take to complete the PhD; I didn’t anticipate that it would take that long. I wish I had been given more information about opportunities that were available outside of academia much earlier. As someone who was a trained teacher, I felt like I had to re-enter educational fields, but there were moments when I would have liked to know a little bit more about alternative possibilities.

I feel like York had a lot of access to resources, but I don’t know if everybody had the knowledge to access those resources in the same ways. It wasn’t that access didn’t exist; it was that there were inconsistencies around who was allocated this access and how this information was imparted. These ranged from funding opportunities to making sure you have the right supervisor to knowing of other areas where you can go to have more support in your research topic.


Many thanks to Funké for sharing her narrative! You can find out more about her on LinkedIn or via email.

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