Marie-France Fortin: A time to say Thank You
In a time when we are all in solidarity, even while each in our own homes, in the fight against an invisible enemy that is nonetheless inflicting real damage, I feel this is the right moment to say "thank you". In the midst of the pandemic, I recently successfully defended my PhD thesis at Cambridge University, via videoconference. The completion of my PhD project, which was born as I was preparing my application for a Foundation Scholarship, prompted me to go back in time and think of those who support the university community.
Without the support of the Foundation, I could not have undertaken my PhD studies; my family situation would have made it impossible. Nor would I have had the chance to meet Foundation members, in particular Foundation Fellow Jean Leclair, who was an extraordinary doctoral supervisor and counsellor. It is also thanks to the support of the Foundation that I was able to pursue my studies at Queens’ College, Cambridge. In a university that dates back to the Middle Ages, Queens’ College is one of the few colleges that provides Master’s and PhD candidates with daycare services. Following my short maternity leave, it also gave me the chance to occupy the position of Director of Studies on a replacement basis. This College, which was founded by two women, will always have a special place in my heart and the hearts of my family, and I thank the Foundation for having given me the incredible opportunity to complete my PhD there.
Without the support that is available in Canada to make university more accessible, many encounters, collaborations and discoveries would not have happened for me. I feel especially lucky to have benefited from such support right from the start, with my Bachelor’s studies at l’Université Laval. Having now completed university programs in Canada, the United States, France, Ireland and the United Kingdom, it is clear to me that the university environment in Canada stands out in the way it strives for equality, inclusivity and innovation. In that same vein, I also feel particularly fortunate to have recently rejoined several other Foundation alumni at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, where I am now an assistant professor. I have become part of a teaching staff that is egalitarian, dynamic, and welcoming and I am grateful for the opportunities that are available to the professoriate, even its newest members.
Now, more than ever, the value of the expertise that lives in universities has come to the fore. There is still much work to do, but I am confident that if the university community remains true to its ideals, and we all continue to support it, we can continue to achieve great things, ultimately to the benefit of everyone.