Two countries, two degrees, twice the satisfaction
Noëlle Mathis holds dual Canadian and French citizenship and now, dual PhDs in education from Simon Fraser University and the Université d’Avignon et des Pays de Vaucluse, in France.
It was an apt way to earn her PhD, since she was studying plurilingual identities as a means of discovering how adult language-learners, who have several languages, learn to write in French.
Mathis, who currently lives in France and teaches French as a foreign language, earned her MA at SFU in 2004. For her PhD, she wanted to pursue some of her research with SFU education professor and plurilingualism expert Danièle Moore, despite being registered at the Université d'Avignon.
A cotutelle (dual) PhD proved to be the answer.
And while it was more challenging to navigate two countries, two academic systems, and differing expectations, Mathis proved she was up to the challenge. She will receive a Dean of Graduate Studies’ Convocation Medal as one of SFU’s most outstanding graduate students in the Faculty of Education.
She is also the first SFU cotutelle candidate in the Faculty of Education. During the three-year program she spent about one-third of her time at SFU, where she also worked as a research assistant.
Mathis found many differences between the two universities.
“You’re learning in different ways, with different tools,” she says.
Mathis, who speaks five languages, says foreign-language teachers often prohibit other languages in class. But her research proves that’s not the best teaching strategy.
She discovered that students often have three or four languages to draw on, and create strategies for moving between them as they learn.
“Once their languages receive validation, they can express their multiple identities in complex ways which help them to learn,” she says.
Mathis, 46, originally started her PhD out of a love of learning, but now plans to apply for an assistant professorship in France.
Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.
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