By Deborah Melman-Clement
Ask Jessica Parker and she'll tell you that she's where she's supposed to be. "I see everything I've done as leading me to this moment," she says.
For as long as she can remember, Parker has been fascinated with museums. Even while studying Anthropology as an undergrad at the University of Toronto, she wanted to be working in museums one day.
More recently, Parker has augmented her interest in museums with an interest in her heritage. While growing up in Toronto, she attended Jewish day school until the end of Grade 10. While her academic interests and extracurricular pursuits moved away for awhile, as she says, "It just came back into the picture. Sometimes the past just has a way of catching up with you. It surprised me."
Parker combined her two passions during an internship at the University of Tel Aviv's Diaspora Museum. "They're still working with the same exhibit that was mounted in the 1970s," she says. "It's a very powerful exhibit. People really connect to it emotionally - many have emotional experiences as they move through it."
While she enjoyed the experience and hopes to work in Israel again someday, Parker had been looking for an academic route that would allow her to combine the two disciplines. When she heard that Queen's was starting an interdisciplinary Cultural Studies program, she knew she had found what she was looking for, and it helped that it brought her closer to home. "I was definitely interested in the idea of an interdisciplinary program," she says, "because I have so many interests and I was having trouble finding an outlet for them in a more traditional program." A member of the program's pioneer cohort, Parker is pursuing her interests in Museum Studies and Jewish Studies.
Although the campus is smaller than what she was used to at the University of Toronto, Parker was able to make herself at home quickly. "I really, really, really like Queen's," she says. "I'm surprised at how taken I was with it, but I felt connected very quickly."
"I've met some great people in the program," she continues. "It's such a supportive community - the staff, the faculty and the students have all been wonderful. I knew that Cultural Studies would attract an interesting bunch of people, and I haven't been disappointed."
Parker believes that living in a smaller city has made the adjustment process even easier. "The pace is very different," she says. "Kingston has a vibrant downtown and I feel like I was able to get my bearings and settle in very quickly. It wasn't overwhelming. Even though I've only been here a few months, I can walk downtown and see people I know. It's a great feeling to find that I'm part of a community."
Between the welcoming community and a program that affords her the opportunity to pursue her interests, Parker feels that the elements have fallen into place. "I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be right now."