Sheridan Professor Nicolette Little embodies a love of learning. For the past seven years she’s shared her passion for the written word with students in literature and communications courses in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. At the end of each semester she hopes students leave her classes not only with important linguistic tools but also with a broadened worldview and an appreciation for alternative perspectives. To achieve this, she brings myriad academic, research, business and volunteer experiences into her teaching.
“I want students to avoid comma splices, sentence fragments and have the critical ability to write an essay,” Little says, smiling, “But I also hope they will continue to develop their analytical skills, question their sources, be willing to talk things through with their peers and find new ways of thinking and understanding to make a positive impact on society.” Drawing from traditional and digital resources to keep things fresh and engaging, she tailors materials to the individual interests of students, occasionally throwing in something to stir up discussion. She uses a self-described “exuberance method” in her teaching — one she cites as particularly effective for early morning classes. “If you’re excited and happy to be alive and in class teaching, students will meet that mark.”
“She helps them [students] understand that communication is a hallmark of professionalism” – Stephanie Samboo
Sheridan Associate Dean Stephanie Samboo attests to Little’s uncanny enthusiasm, describing it as eye-opening for her students. She also notes how Little “helps them [students] understand that communication is a hallmark of professionalism and that communicating carefully and properly makes a difference in all aspects of a person’s life.” This can be challenging in today’s age of text message lingo and email shorthand, but it’s something Little has believed in since childhood, growing up in a home invested in arts and literature. Her father – a book loving, award-winning international jazz trombonist and one of her mentors – instilled in her that writing and speaking articulately and remaining open to lifelong learning are the “highest good.”
It was that measure of success that pushed Little as a student and into a career in academia. She earned an Honours Bachelors in literature and history at the University of Toronto and a Masters at Dalhousie University in literature with a focus in women’s studies. Currently, she is a PhD candidate in the York/Ryerson University Communication and Culture program. “I was always a ‘Victorian literature girl,’ but I needed more and more to study something incredibly relevant to now, something that would make a more immediate impact,” she says.
“I was always a ‘Victorian literature girl,’ but I needed more and more to study something incredibly relevant to now, something that would make a more immediate impact” – Nicolette Little
In June 2016, having been granted a Mitacs Canada Globalink Research Award, Little embarked on a three-month-long research trip to India to explore first-hand the extent to which women’s voices are being represented in ongoing climate change discussions and media coverage. Social justice work will also be the focus of her PhD dissertation. She will be researching the “advocacy art” of Leah Parsons, the mother of the late Rehtaeh Parsons, a Canadian high school student who was sexually assaulted and took her own life after being cyberbullied.
Little also runs her own business, the English Mechanic, writing news releases, scripts, speeches and web content for clients like Mercedez Benz Burlington, Porsche and RE/MAX, and not-for-profit organizations. She shares these real-world experiences with her students, noting the importance of effective communication in business. “I can speak to students from a theoretical perspective, but also from the experience I have as an actively engaged writer and editor,” she says. “Many students show an interest in writing professionally so I welcome any questions about this industry.”
Community work and volunteering are an important part of Little’s body of work. She is a long-time supporter of Halton Women’s Place, an organization that provides shelter and crisis services for women and their dependents fleeing abusive situations. She fundraises for one of its events, Hope in High Heels, and organizes an annual hamper drive at Sheridan to collect clothing and supplies for women at the shelters looking to reenter the workforce. For her efforts to end gender-based violence, Little was recognized by the United Way with a “Top 20 under 40” Award.
With the many positions she holds, it’s no surprise Little turns to running and dance to decompress. She also looks to new, creative outlets – not straying too far from her literary roots. She has authored her first children’s book, titled A Toot in the Tub, and describes it as “an illustrated story in verse form that recognizes the health and necessity of ‘wacky release’ for kids – especially when they are working so hard to learn manners and social mores.” It is slated for publication by Newfoundland’s Flanker’s Press in 2017.
Little’s selfless approach has a noticeable impact on the students and communities with whom she works. She also role models the power of using language and communication for positive change. “Nicolette likes and cares for people, so teaching follows naturally,” says Samboo. “And she has always been a ‘driver,’ never letting a project or an idea drop and seeing it through with passion.”
Pictured at top of page: Sheridan Professor Nicolette Little. Photo by Sheridan Photography Technologist Owen Colborne.
Written by: Keiko Kataoka, Digital Communications Officer at Sheridan.