Class of 2024: EMSP grads flourish in King’s close-knit community

Class of 2024: EMSP grads flourish in King's close-knit community

Gaby Milner

Gaby smiling to camera with long, brown hair, wearing a red shirtA Halifax visit, a campus tour and the close-knit community nature of King’s sparked her interest, but it was the Foundation Year Program (FYP) lecture Gaby Milner attended that clinched it. “I went to a lecture on Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus that King’s gave in Toronto. No other school actually came to me and showed me what I could experience there.”  

Milner made the right choice; she loved FYP. “I loved that we were all doing the same thing at the same time, reading the same book. I loved the community aspect,” she says. Wanting to continue taking classes at King’s, she decided on a double major combining Early Modern Studies with her first love, Theatre Studies. The rich communal experience of daily life at King’s and acting in and directing plays would have to wait, however, as the pandemic forced classes online. Everyone experienced online learning and pandemic isolation differently and Milner found it challenging with all the community aspects of both her life and her studies abruptly withdrawn. “I went through a hard time in second year,” she acknowledges. “I found the online class experience difficult.” 

As the King’s campus eased back to life the following year, Milner found her footing. She directed the first post-pandemic production in the Pit, Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano. The following year she pulled back a little, doing fewer classes and taking a part time job, returning full-tilt the year after, when she co-directed Euripides’ The Bacchae for Classics in the Quad.  

In her fifth year she had an experience that she counts among her most memorable of university. “I assistant directed the final production of the Theatre Studies Program, the world premiere of Euripidaristophanize, written by a Dalhousie alumnus, Sophie Jacome, as my honours project. I assisted [Professor of Theatre Dr.] Roberta Barker, [BA(Hons)’96], who also taught me at King’s. She’s one of the professors who’s been a real inspiration to me.” As well, Milner apprenticed with ZUPPA, a local theatre company and, with recent graduate Olivia Paul, BA(Hons)’23, founded the King’s Jewish Cultural Society.  

Milner’s future isn’t clearly mapped out and she’s fine with that. “I have never not been a student,” she says. “I want to see who I am when I’m not.” She’s staying in Halifax for now and will explore some opportunities in the local theatre community. She speaks heartfully about what she will miss about King’s. “I’m going to miss my community here. I’m going to miss the people who supported me through things. And the people I could talk to about the weirdest, most esoteric books we had to read for class,” she laughs.  


Zia Shirtliffe

Zia Shirtliffe, an Early Modern Studies (EMSP) and English combined honours student, describes her academic interests, perhaps a touch apologetically, as “nerdy.” To the listener, however, ‘timely’ or ‘fascinating’ are a little closer to the mark.  

Take, for example, her honours thesis. Dr. Kyle Fraser’s class, The History of European Alchemy, precipitated Shirtliffe’s decision to research mid-seventeenth century alchemy as it began shifting into (what became) modern chemistry.  

“At that point alchemy was trying to legitimize itself,” Shirtliffe explains. “Alchemists were trying to get the approval of universities and become more mainstream.” She was interested in how gender impacted the alchemy of the time and she found a focus in the work of Marie Meurdrac and her book, La chymie charitable et facile en faveur des dames published in 1666. Meurdrac’s book, Shirtliffe says, was about medical alchemy and how to distill household medicines. At the time, there was a movement of women advocating for women to be regarded as equal in intelligence to men and for them to be educated as such. Meurdrac made a case for this and how education positively affects women. 

Reflecting on her undergrad experience as a whole, Shirtliffe says, “I loved King’s from the start. I thought it was so cool, I loved all the books and the beautiful campus and that it was such a close-knit community. I joined a bunch of societies including the Literary Society and the Dance Collective. I auditioned for Classics in the Quad, Euripedes’ Medea. I didn’t think I’d get a part—I had no acting experience—but I did: I was cast as Medea! It was exciting and I acted in a couple of different plays in my first year. I thought I might do theatre studies, but over the year I realized I preferred Early Modern Studies and English more.” 

A part-time job at the King’s Library also made a big impact. “I developed a love of libraries and archives; the way data is stored and the historical contexts.” So much so, that she is considering the Master of Information program at Dalhousie. “I’m interested in the historical context of how systems of organization developed—a lot of them were developed out of colonialism and the philosophies of the early modern period. It’s not always examined why things are stored in a certain way, what categorization means. They were created with the bias of the time and I want to learn how you can change that. It’s a huge conversation that’s happening now. Whose voices are being completely cut out because the system wasn’t designed to hear them?”

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