GC Society Members Write In and Look Back: Rita McNamara

Green College Staff

Rita writes from Wellington, New Zealand:

“What a difference a decade makes! From January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2019, I lived in four countries, earned two advanced degrees, and reinvented myself at least five times. Right smack in the middle of that decade were the hugely formative and transformative four years I spent living at Green College.

But before we get too much further, let me introduce myself. Hi there, I’m Rita. I’m a Senior Lecturer (more or less equivalent to Associate Professor in North America) in Cross-cultural Psychology at Victoria University Wellington, in Wellington, New Zealand. I lived at Green College from June 2012 to August 2016 while completing my PhD in Social Psychology.

In that time, I did the normal student-y things: debates, talks, writing. I fondly remember writing my dissertation in that cozy alcove at the back of the dining hall. I also made friends and had romances and shared deep conversations and did the other normal things people do in a community.

But as you know, Green College is not special for the normal things. Green College was special to me because it allowed me to explore parts of myself that I never knew I had.

In 2014, I played Hannah Jarvis in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. I had no theatre experience, but Hannah was an easy fit because she and I are (or at least were, at the time) basically the same person. Through the fearless directorship Jess Rose, I was able to open up and explore this character – a hard-nosed empiricist, but afraid to see the wider truth of myself and let anyone else in. Lessons I’m still integrating today.

In 2015, I stepped into the director’s chair in Life is a Dream by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. With a stellar cast and my rock of support in co-director Sarah Higgins, we made something special. My biggest lesson, though, was in stepping into my ability to lead by seeing others and helping them shine. I was uncomfortable with holding space for others at that time, but the skills I learned gave me the core confidence to connect with my students now. This was my first real practice in drawing out the hidden performances in people, a practice that I use in every student mentoring meeting. And one of the biggest gifts in this experience was the freedom of naiveté: as I said, I have almost no theatre experience. Therefore, I was not hindered by knowing what I couldn’t do. I believed we could, and so we did. This again has served me immensely in my academic life: the way to make breakthroughs in blue skies research is not by looking at what is, but by looking for what might be and bringing it in to being.

The PhD is a journey full of unexpected lessons, but I’m grateful for every minute. I’m honoured to have been a part of this community, and I look forward to watching how Green College continues to give these unexpected lessons into the next decade and beyond.”

This is an excerpt from the 2018-19 Green College Annual Report. View a copy of the full report here: https://greencollege.ubc.ca/sites/greencollege.ubc.ca/files/2018-19_GCAnnualReport%20WEB_0.pdf

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