Cory Henderson has been interested in politics since she was a young girl. She was a Grade 10 student in the French immersion program when a representative from Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) French Cohort Program (FCP) visited her school in Penticton, B.C.
After listening to the presentation, Cory was so sure that SFU was the place for her that she didn’t apply to any other universities. Cory graduated from the FCP, a bilingual program in public and international affairs, in Summer 2019 with a major in Political Science (Honours), and an extended minor in French. Many factors played a role in getting her to that point, but the biggest one was having a sense of community at SFU. Her university journey was challenging, but she was not without support.
“In the French Cohort Program, my classmates and I did most of our courses together,” Cory says. “Having social and academic connections to them was so important to helping me succeed.”
In addition to classmates, the FCP community includes professors, older students, and members of the Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs management team, all valuable support as this program is mainly taught in French.
In Cory’s third year in the program, she completed a student exchange at Science Po Paris, campus in Reims, where she took courses ranging from the history of Syria to critical race theory to the philosophy of multiculturalism. Academic expectations there were high, and Cory was one of the only students in class whose first language was not French.
“This was a very academically challenging year, but it ultimately gave me a new perspective on the way I thought about Canadian politics,” Cory says. “These challenges were crucial to my growth as a student, as an aspiring researcher and as a person.”
A key feature of the FCP is that it lets students apply their lessons through hands-on community projects and bilingual job opportunities. Through SFU’s Co-op program Cory took on a position as a research assistant at the federal government’s Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) in their Litigation Management and Resolution Branch. Cory found that her French language skills were readily transferable as she honed her qualitative research skills writing case reports. By the time her Co-op term was over, Cory was convinced that she’d like to continue working in the federal government.
“I was very glad to have that professional experience because I never wanted my degree to be just about academic performance,” Cory says. “I wanted it to be supported by knowledge I learned from doing.”
Cory credits her experience in the Political Science Capstone Honours Program with setting her on her current trajectory and her greatest success at SFU, although the Co-op job and other opportunities to work and volunteer provided her with very valuable lessons.
“I learned that life should be multi-dimensional, and that taking breaks is okay,” Cory says. “That’s not a message we get very often in the academic world, or in the world in general, so I am thankful to have learned that early on in university.”
Through the Accelerated Master’s Program, Cory took Master’s-level courses in political science for both undergraduate and graduate credit, which will allow her to finish her Master’s degree in less time than normal.
“Taking graduate level courses was an invaluable experience, because it provided me with more opportunities to get to know professors outside of the French Cohort Program and meet other Master’s students,” Cory says. “The Accelerated Master’s program and Honours were what convinced me to pursue my Master’s—and to pursue it at SFU. I wanted to continue the connections I had with professors at SFU, and I felt like the research I wanted to conduct was not complete yet.”
For her Master’s in Political Science, which she began in the Fall 2019 term, Cory received the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Her research will examine gendered and racialized differences in media coverage of candidates during Canadian federal election campaigns.