Sheena Wilson

Top 40 Under 40 2014

Photography Curtis Comeau

Age: 39

Job Title: Professor of Literature, Film and Cultural Studies, University of Alberta (Campus St. Jean)

Why She’s Top 40: Wilson connects with academics while increasing awareness of the social impacts of the energy sector.

How I Relax: “Going to Pilates or hanging out with friends and family, and having a good laugh over a nice meal.”

Sheena Wilson isn’t the kind of professor who hides in a musty office, surrounded by books. For her, an academic serves the community – not the ivory tower.

“I’m a researcher, writer and an academic and an activist,” says Wilson. “I have the good fortune of having a job where I can do all of these things.”

Fluent in both French and English, Wilson is the director of the Bilingual Writing Centre and coordinator of the English program at Facult St. Jean (the University of Alberta’s French-language campus). She also studies and teaches women’s literature. But her work extends beyond the hallowed halls of academia and into the broader community.

Wilson teaches at the Wings of Providence women’s shelter and, in spring of 2014, she edited an anthology, Telling Truths: Storying Motherhood, that provided a platform for experienced and emerging writers alike to share their honest experiences. She is the mother of a stepson, two young boys and a baby girl.

But Wilson may be best known for her work fostering discussion about the social impacts of the energy sector. In 2012, she organized a conference, Petrocultures: Oil, Energy, Culture, that brought together indigenous community leaders, scholars, artists, business leaders and policy makers. What was originally intended to be a small event rapidly evolved into an international workshop with over 100 participants from 12 different countries. “We were inundated with requests,” says Wilson.

The success of the conference led to collaborations between some of the participating academics and created momentum for international conferences and workshops. In the last two years, Wilson and her colleagues have hosted three more international workshops and are producing a number of books on their findings.

Wilson admits her work veers away from traditional notions of academia. But, ultimately, her career is about encouraging people to act as “agents of change.”

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