Nov. 17, 2023

Class of 2023: Assignment in team collaboration was both frustrating and inspiring for communications major

UCalgary profs challenged arts, engineering students to create ‘un-useless objects.’ For Bray Jamieson, the result was life-changing
bray jamieson
Bray Jamieson graduates in November 2023 from UCalgary.

Have you ever felt so uncomfortable about the idea of having to do something, you just wanted to quit? Bray Jamieson can relate. Back last fall, Jamieson was one of a handful of students who got hands-on learning through a novel course experience that put a senior-level engineering and a communications capstone class together for their collaborative final project: Build something un-useless.

“This was one of the most influential and frustrating classes I have ever had to take in my life,” says Jamieson. “We spend so much time grounded in theory, we don’t get the chance to engage in theoretical experiential learning, especially making things ourselves and building with our hands. It broke the mould.”

And it was incredibly uncomfortable.

“The most challenging part was that as communications majors, we hadn’t learned how to communicate. We spent our whole degree looking at theories, but when it came time to have a direct conversation with someone in another discipline, there was a communications barrier between us and the engineering students.”

From Okotoks, Jamieson began at UCalgary in 2014. He took a break in his studies and came back in 2020 to finish his program, which he’ll do Nov. 16, 2023, when he convocates. “The last two years of my program, when I came back as an older student, I had more of a determined research ambition that I didn’t really have as a younger student.”

golf club with fishing reel and ball attached

The Reel Golf Ball was meant to be impossible to lose and also un-useless.

Bray Jamieson

Discomfort turns to inspiration

As a communications and philosophy major, he focused on communications theory. His work explored rhetoric and the intersections in political communications, specifically Canadian.

“Communications students are required to take a capstone seminar that is usually a standard research paper project.”

Dr. Maria Guglietti, PhD, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Arts and Dr. Marjan Eggermont, PhD, a professor (teaching) in Schulich School of Engineering, had other ideas by bringing very different students together.

And what surprised him was the thing that initially scared him.

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to build something, as silly as that sounds,” he says. “It opened my eyes to a human element I am missing. It was refreshing to do something so practical.”

Jamieson’s group chose to lean into the interests of their engineering colleagues — also a fruitful strategy to engage the entire team — and created an impossible-to-lose golf ball, called The Reel Golf Ball.

Experiential, transdisciplinary opportunities like the one offered in Eggermont and Guglietti’s course are important for students to have space to try new things — especially since collaboration and shared analysis can be a catalyst to finding solutions to society’s big questions.

“We don’t get forced into discomfort too often. The chindōgu weren’t meant to work and when our design didn’t function, no one cared. We didn’t fail — there was this opportunity to gracefully fail and explore what that feels like and move on. It doesn’t ruin your academic career.”

Jamieson isn’t going to become a full-time inventor, but he is taking the applied theory from the course into his future. He decided to go back to school, but this time chose a new field: law.

“I want to be doing something pragmatically beneficial for myself and for others. The specifics of what that looks like — I don’t have an answer. That’s why I chose law. I decided to leave theory and try and explore something that can be pragmatic.”

Read more inspiring stories about the accomplishments and journeys of the Class of 2023.

As you prepare to transition away from student life, we'd like to also welcome you into the UCalgary alumni community! Learn about the programs, benefits and services available exclusively to UCalgary grads, and be sure to keep in touch! 

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