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Student story

Sionainn Byrnes

20 July 2023

"The opportunities in the Arts are many and varied..."


Bachelor of Arts in English and Political Science

Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours in English

Master of Arts with Distinction in English

PhD in English

Sionainn’s love of literature and politics stems from her school years, and with motivation from her high school English teacher, she decided to enrol at UC in English and Political Science.

Now doing PhD research, Sionainn’s particular interests include literary criticism, postcolonial studies, and magic(al) realism, all of which incorporate her undergraduate education in Political Science.

"I am trained to read, write, and think critically, and I can communicate effectively to different audiences. An Arts education makes you engaged, inventive, and resilient," she says.

Being close to home, UC was the best option for Sionainn, and she looked forward to the community opportunities UC offered. Sionainn has taken part in UC Femsoc, UC Marxsoc, and Thursdays in Black. She has also received a number of scholarships toward study throughout her time at UC.

In 2018, Sionainn won a UCSA Blues Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Canterbury Community. 

"I am pleased that UC and the UCSA recognise the contributions students make to, and also beyond, the UC campus," she says.

"UC boasts amazing staff, clubs, and study and travel opportunities. The opportunities in the Arts are many and varied," she says. "Through my study, I’ve travelled to Europe, where I presented my research at the 7th Annual Conference on the New Materialisms in Warsaw, Poland. I’ve worked for WORD Christchurch, through which I recently interviewed the Ghanaian-British author and filmmaker Yaba Badoe. I’ve forged relationships with community organizations, like Aviva, Family Planning, and the Christchurch Women’s Centre. As a result, I now volunteer for the Canterbury Sexual Assault Support Service.

"In 2011, I volunteered at Te Kōhaka o Tūhaitara Trust as part of a PACE 395 undergraduate course, which I definitely recommend. My internship project involved conducting and transcribing interviews with key figures in the Canterbury environmental restoration community, including the former Upoko Rūnanga for Tuahiwi Marae Henare Rakiihia Tau. These interviews and my own research relating to models for environmental co-management between indigenous communities and government agencies are now part of an archive held by the trust."

As a tutor for the English department, Sionainn’s spare time is spent supporting other students, teaching, and marking assignments. The experience has led her to want to pursue a university teaching career once she finishes her PhD.

"I get to learn from amazing colleagues and staff, coach undergraduate students, and study what I love," she says.

"I would not be the person I am today were it not for my time at UC. Tertiary education wasn’t an option for everyone at my decile 1 high school (Linwood College), and so I feel very privileged to have been encouraged to pursue my interests. I like to think that I’m helping to build a better world bit by bit, and I’ve been empowered to do this through the opportunities I’ve had and the people I’ve met at UC."

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