Arts and cultural management alum looks back at the program that inspired her journey to a degree

October 28, 2019 | Arts & Culture

Charlotte Cranston (Arts and Cultural Management, ’18) had taken a year off from her degree to focus on her own creative projects during her time as Edmonton’s first Youth Poet Laureate when she learned about MacEwan University’s Arts and Cultural Management program.

“Another poet recommended the program to me when we were discussing an upcoming project over coffee,” she says. “After that coffee, I looked into the program right away. There was an info session the next day, and I applied the day after that.”

Here she shares her educational journey through MacEwan and how she decided to complete her bachelor’s degree overseas, with an eye on getting her master’s. 


Q. What inspired you to apply the day after you attended an info session?

I think that by then I had probably almost made up my mind, but I remember feeling right away like I was in the right place. At the time, I was struggling with my mental health, so a sense of community was extremely important to me. There was a lot of emphasis on collaboration, both in the classroom and with the greater arts community. University can be an isolating experience, so the promise of group work and social interaction tipped the scales.

Q. How did MacEwan’s program prepare you for your degree?

MacEwan taught me a lot about how to be a student. When I first started post-secondary, I enrolled at a school with three times the population of the town from which I'd moved. After transferring to MacEwan, I had the chance to start over and decide what I wanted out of the experience.

Classes were engaging, but the most growth came from everything in between: attending counselling sessions, researching in Montreal, touring in Edinburgh. Surprising the class with balloons and popcorn. Having late-night pizza/study parties with friends. I’m grateful to have had the chance to spend my first year at the west-end campus because it fostered a sense of belonging. I started my program at Queen Margaret University knowing what I need to feel successful and keep my mental health in check.

Q. How did you get involved in research?

Seven of us applied for an Undergraduate Student Research Initiative (USRI) grant to go to Montreal as a group and interview artists and arts managers about accessibility and sustainability in the arts. One of the benefits of having such a large group was that we were able to talk to people from diverse artistic backgrounds.

I had never planned to do undergraduate research, but I immediately got on board when a classmate had the idea to go to Montreal. It was a fantastic learning experience, and I especially liked that we had the opportunity to try conducting research without the pressure of being graded. (We did give a presentation and final report, of course, but it’s really not the same.) Having the chance to practice gave me a better idea of what my research in the Independent Study course would look like, and it has made me more confident as I work on my honours dissertation now. 

Q. What occurred during your education here that made you want to continue on for your degree?

I have always wanted a degree. That was never a question. Taking the diploma when I was halfway through a degree already was my way of figuring out my path and building my confidence as a student. Once I learned how different student life is in a small classroom from a massive lecture hall, I felt ready to tackle a degree program again, this time in a setting that works for me.

Q. Why did you choose Queen Margaret University?

Last year Assistant Professor Annetta Latham brought a group of students on a study tour in Scotland where we attended lectures at QMU. It ticked all the boxes for me: fantastic staff, eco-friendly campus (with swans!), reasonable class sizes and located in one of the best places to pursue an arts career. The international recruiter made it abundantly clear that I would be valued and encouraged at QMU. I started in September 2019, and so far it delivers on all its promises.

Q. What do you envision for your next five years?

As you can probably tell from previous answers, I make decisions with my heart. One thing I've learned after many years of trying to figure myself out is that I can trust myself to know when an opportunity is right for me. I've stopped making detailed six- to eight-year plans for myself, because life never works that way and I'm honestly not that patient. Instead, I've identified a mission statement of sorts. For me, success looks like learning, supporting my wonderful dog, and encouraging young people to fall in love with writing. 

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