Meet Mya Kidson
Mya Kidson is a U of G student studying Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and working as a SPARK Writer. SPARK (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge) is a unique Experiential Learning opportunity at the University of Guelph for students to gain communications experience and develop skills that help in the transition to the professional world. Mya has worked as a SPARK Writer since January 2019, noting that it has enabled her to step outside of her discipline and learn about the amazing research happening across all other colleges and departments on campus. Mya discusses her writing process, her current and past projects, and some of her favourite parts about being a SPARK Writer. “Being able to write for these publications has been both challenging and exciting, but most of all it has enabled me to enhance my knowledge and teach others.”
What has been your favourite moment as a SPARK writer?
“My favourite moment would have to be working with my coworkers. SPARK is really my second family. Everyone is so welcoming to new SPARK writers and we act as a support structure for each other. We are also like-minded individuals but celebrate our differences and having this interdisciplinary aspect to a workspace is crucial to grow as an individual. Although COVID has meant that we can’t be in the office working right now, we’ve still made it possible to connect via Microsoft Teams which has greatly improved my work ethic in quarantine.”
Walk us through your process of writing an article. How do you start and how does it get to the final publishing stage?
“The story leads are often given to us if we are working on a specific project (i.e. the Agri-Food Yearbook), but for the majority of our Research News pieces we get to pick the topics which is a matter of doing our research online and finding relevant or new research that perhaps hasn’t had a lot of media coverage in the past. When I have my story lead (Principal investigator on the project and research topic), I get in contact with the researcher to schedule an interview. With COVID, I’ve been doing lots of video call interviews. Once I have an idea of what the research project is about, I start thinking of the angle I want my story to take (this is sometimes the hardest part — you want the story to grab people’s attention). After I know my angle, drafting the story doesn’t take long. The story goes through the editing process once it’s done being drafted and the story then goes to the researcher for review before it’s published.”
What else are you involved with on campus?
“I will be starting my Peer Helper position with Feeding 9 Billion in September which I’m stoked about. Through SPARK, I also found out about HK*4510 which is a textbook writing course. I was accepted into that course for the F20 semester which will enable me to expand on my knowledge translation and transfer skills. I am also the communications and social media lead for NNSSA at Guelph. I have a few off-campus commitments but come September, I’m hoping to get involved in a few more initiatives on campus.”
You mentioned that this Experiential Learning opportunity opened up a path that wasn't originally what you wanted after you graduate. Can you explain how SPARK inspired a change in your career path?
“I started at Guelph with the ambitions of becoming a doctor — not sure what kind of doctor, I just wanted to help people. During the first semester of my first year I just found myself unhappy with that career choice and I also felt stuck. I started at SPARK because I loved learning about research and I dabbled in writing my entire life. I met people (coworkers and researchers) from working at SPARK who opened my eyes up to the astronomical amount of careers that I could go into, one of which was knowledge translation. My friend and past coworker, Sam, who was in NANS suggested that I switch my major to NANS because nutrition was something I was super passionate about. During my second semester when I switched into NANS I also found that knowledge translation began to grow in my mind as the perfect future career that could merge my love of nutrition and health sciences with writing and it’s all thanks to SPARK.”
What are you working on right now at SPARK? What have you recently worked on that you are particularly proud of and where can people find them?
“Summer 2020 has been a busy one at SPARK. And with the onset of COVID, I was adding quite a lot of COVID angles to my stories. We have been working on the latest Agri-Food Yearbook that will be released next year. We are currently wrapping up a few one-pagers and other communications content that we wrote specifically for Dairy at Guelph. Fortunately, I could take the lead on this project. Essentially we are publishing 12 one-pagers and a few Research News stories that will be posted on the Dairy at Guelph website which showcase various dairy related research. I am also working on editing a video about Prof. Alison Duncan’s bean consumption research that will be uploaded to U of G Research Instagram once finished.”
“One of my favourite articles that was published earlier this year can be found on Research News. It was about Prof. Carla Rice’s Bodies in Translation project https://www.uoguelph.ca/research/article/reframing-society’s-views-“difference”
Would you recommend SPARK to other U of G students?
“Definitely! It’s a job that directly encompasses experiential learning. And the thing about SPARK is anyone from any major can work at SPARK which I loved. I started at SPARK with a passion for writing, but no experience in journalistic writing which is very different from creative writing. Throughout SPARK I’ve developed not only my writing skills but also skills such as communication, collaboration, time management, etc. that I am able to use in my future jobs.”