ASPA Member Highlight – Allison Fairbairn, Instructor

By Karen E. MosierAlison

Allison Fairbairn has her BMus in Music (Theory & Composition) and a BA in English from the University of Saskatchewan. She also has a MA in Ethnomusicology & Popular Music from the University of Alberta. She is currently working towards a MEd in Educational Technology & Design through the University of Saskatchewan.

Allison has worked on campus since 2010. She began working in the Department of Music office in a CUPE 1975 position as a Clerical Assistant. In 2011, Allison accepted an ASPA position in the Department of English as a Department Administrator and in 2012 after the campus’ restructuring and job layoffs she joined the Administrative Commons that looked after all the Humanities. After a maternity leave, she accepted her current permanent ASPA position as an Online Course Instructor in the Department of Music in 2015. She works out of the R. J. D.Williams building. Allison is a co-instructor and jointly teaches 2 online classes per term (Fall/Winter/Summer except for the Spring session) through Blackboard. She co-teaches a theory course (Fundamentals of Music) and a music history/cultural studies course (History of Popular Music). Her duties include designing and editing course materials, grading assignments, and communicating regularly with students. She has revamped the general elective History of Popular Music course twice since 2015, and the theory course had a complete rewrite in 2015/2016. She and her co-instructor work with ~1000 students during the regular term and ~250-300 students during the Summer term.

Allison asserts that she “feels lucky to work here” at the University of Saskatchewan. One of the things that Allison enjoys the most about her job is the flexibility that allows her to work at the office or at home while balancing family life. She also is delighted that her position allows her to work in popular music, which is a passion of hers.

Allison loves to introduce a cultural studies/ethnomusicological approach to music to get students to thinking more deeply about the meaning and context of North American (and British) popular music. Once her students learn about the historical context of a particular artist, group, or genre, it allows them to better understand popular music of the past, today’s music, and also have a sense of larger historical moments that continue to influence the music people enjoy today. Communicating with students and reading their work has revealed that many students’ perceptions of history, race, gender, and popular music have changed while working through the course.

Allison credits her educational background in Theory and Composition and Popular Music with allowing her to “speak from a place of confidence”. She and her co-instructor work to continually improve the courses and provide as much feedback as possible given the number of students they connect with each term.

Allison has been an ASPA member for 8 years. She appreciates the history of ASPA and the inherent trust that is given to ASPA employees with an emphasis on the “value of the work” and getting the job done rather than just punching a time clock and working a regular work shift. As an ASPA member, Allison appreciates her yearly APDA funds. They enable her to attend conferences and continue her learning and keep on top of her field, particularly in pop music. She also greatly values ASPA benefits which are great especially for parents with children. She is grateful for the ASPA tuition waiver, which allows her to continue learning while maintaining her full-time job.          

If Allison could give advice to our ASPA members she would advise to “take advantage of your APDA for further learning” and consider using your ASPA tuition waiver to “take a free class each term to build up your skill set ”.  

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