Arielle VanderSchans: Serendipity in writing

By Emma Hicks

Arielle's hometown: Fraser Valley, B.C.

Arielle wants to complete her PhD by 2021, which will be her fourth degree from Western.


Arielle VanderSchans is a second-year PhD student with a focus on fiction writers and their research habits. Specifically, she’s interested in exploring their relationship with serendipity; how— among all of a writers’ research—one piece could make everything fit.

Arielle came to London nine years ago to pursue an undergraduate degree in English linguistics and hasn’t strayed far from campus since. After getting her bachelor’s degree, Arielle completed two master’s degrees: the first in linguistics and the second in library sciences, allowing her to become well-acquainted with the FIMS program here at Western University.

Now in the midst of her PhD, Arielle’s academic work overlaps with her personal passion projects: writing. In her spare time, she is often reading or writing fiction—specifically, historical fiction or fantasy pieces.

It was her passion for fiction that led Arielle to decide what she wanted to do her PhD in—when working in an online writing group with other aspiring novelists, she saw a lot of writer’s block. Her peers’ blockage stemmed from the overwhelming amount of research conducted and how they were struggling to find their missing puzzle piece.

"I watched writers struggle with writer's block and become overwhelmed with the amount of information and research they had. When you become overwhelmed, you use it as an excuse not to write. That's what I want to change."
Arielle is currently seeking to give writers guidance in the face of adversity through her research on serendipity and finds support in her strong academic cohort, which she notes as the best thing about her program.

Fun Fact

If Arielle were good at science, she would be a mortician.

Serendipitous in its own way, Arielle always thought that after high school she would go teach English abroad. Instead, she landed at Western to pursue her degree in one of Canada’s finest linguistics programs and has since settled into life in London.

Apart from her studies and research, Arielle has honed the methodical skill of book binding, noting that if she had to stop her academic work, book binding would be her trade of choice. In fact, Arielle has turned her hobby into a sort of side hustle. When she finds the time, she studies under a local teacher, hoping to earn her certificate in book binding, as well as repair her collection of 19th century books.

To read some of Arielle’s work, you can check out her master’s thesis, “The Role of Name Choice in the Construction of Transgender Identities” and view her personal website to learn more about her current projects.


Profiles in the Meet Our Students section are written by students in the Master of Media in Journalism & Communication program, who are enrolled in MMJC 9604 - Professional Writing.