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Pictured: Dr. Jane Pulkingham, Dean of Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences; Thomas Vigié

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Economics PhD student Thomas Vigié wins FASS Employee Achievement Award

October 17, 2018
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The Department of Economics is pleased to congratulate economics PhD student, Thomas Vigié, on being the recipient of the 2018 FASS Employee Achievement Award in the TA or TM category. The award recognizes an employee for distinction in teaching.

Vigié, who hails from Bayonne, France, completed his bachelor’s degree in economics with honours from the Toulouse School of Economics. He also went on to finish his master's degree in economics before coming to Simon Fraser University to pursue his PhD.

Vigié has demonstrated an impressive array of academic and research work, but he has become even more well-known throughout the department for his excellence in teaching. Vigié has worked as a teaching assistant in economics since 2013, and his consistently exceptional work as a TA has already earned him the 2018 Outstanding Teaching Award.

Below, we hear from Vigié on economics, academia, and his thoughts on teaching.

Tell me about your academic background, research interests, and what led to where you are today?

I come from an ECON background, since high school (we start doing ECON at the high school level if we want to in France). I am interested in a lot of things, which can be a problem as I am supposed to focus on a particular topic. Lately, it has been econometrics, a field that our SFU professor talks about in the SFU ECON podcast series launched recently. What led me to Canada, and SFU? Curiosity and luck! I did not imagine I would be accepted when I applied, it was an impossible thing that I applied for for funsies! Next thing I know, I get an acceptance letter!

Why did you study economics? What do you like about it?

I started economics out of curiosity, and kept studying as I grew more and more curious. I love the mechanics of it, the mathematical rigor we try to involve, and the enlightening intuitions we get from models that represent some features of the world. It is at the frontier of a lot of disciplines, it is a very complete field.

You’ve won multiple awards recognizing your achievements in teaching. What methods or perspectives have you used in teaching that have allowed you to be so successful as a teacher?

I am lucky to get these teaching awards! I believe a bunch of other colleagues deserve them. If I had one thing to say about the way I teach, it would be the way I project my old struggles with some concepts. It took me a long time to understand most of them (in fact, I would understand them after taking the course and writing the exam. For the exam, I would learn a lot of things by heart and try to make enough sense of them to pass the course). So when I teach, I try to explain my students the way I explained myself the moment I finally understood the concepts. I tell the same stories as the ones that made me grasp those ideas. That is also how I change my explanations over time: when I hear another story around a concept and I find it relevant to understanding it, I update my past explanations to accommodate for that story.

Do you plan on pursuing more teaching in the future, perhaps an academic teaching career?

I love teaching. Probably because I want to make people feel what I felt when I understood a concept and thought, "That is so sick!" I would like to keep teaching in the future, even in the private sector, teaching colleagues and of course getting taught!

Any advice for other students with similar aspirations?

I don’t think I am in a position to give advice. However, I am positive that any teaching-oriented graduate student puts at least as much effort as I do and constantly tries to improve her style. Obviously there is no one best way to teach, to each their own style!

Congratulations again, Thomas!