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10 Concordia public scholars pass the torch

The inaugural cohort looks back at a transformative year
May 1, 2018
By Tatiana St-Louis

Public scholar and PhD candidate Desirée de Jesus. | Photos by Emily Gan Public scholar and PhD candidate Desirée de Jesus. | Photos by Emily Gan

What a year it’s been!

50 blog posts, nine published op-eds, one public event and hundreds of tweets later, the university’s first cohort of public scholars is handing over the mantle.

After months in training — in everything from government relations, to etiquette and social media — and a transformative year filled with challenges and opportunities, the outgoing PhD researchers have set the bar high for the 10 scholars taking their place.

A demanding but rewarding program

For many of these first public scholars, balancing the already demanding day-to-day life of a PhD candidate with the program’s numerous requirements was a challenge.

“It’s definitely a bit of a grind, but the rewards are there”, says Rocco Portaro, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering whose research seeks ways to deliver medication through non-hypodermic needles.

The 10 grad students were selected as part of a partnership with the Montreal Gazette to become the public faces of Concordia’s innovative research. The program is part of the university’s key initiatives to support its 9 strategic directions.

The public scholars with Lucinda Chodan from The Gazette at their end-of-year event. The public scholars with Lucinda Chodan from The Gazette at their end-of-year event.

Broadening their views

“The biggest takeaway for me was meeting really cool, dynamic individuals from different disciplines,” says Portaro.

“As engineers, we often stick to our research and our field. By broadening my scope, I was able to see possibilities for collaboration and to better understand how our respective research applies to different aspects of our lives.”

Desirée de Jesus, a PhD candidate in Film and Moving Image Studies, says the program encouraged her to think of more expansive ways to share her passion for film beyond the traditional classroom. While her research focuses on women’s and girls’ experiences in cinematic works, she never thought of working on cultural policies before taking the program’s government relations training.

De Jesus loves teaching and now sees it as an extension of her interest in arts advocacy. Public policy is an avenue she is now seriously considering.

Deep learning

Portaro, who runs his own business and also enjoys teaching, believes the program will serve him in both areas. He admits he learned a lot by observing his peers.

“The public relations aspect of the program will certainly be useful for me as a researcher and businessperson,” he says.

“When I started, I didn’t think people were using Twitter to promote academic research. It was definitely an eye-opener and an incentive to invest more time in this platform!”

De Jesus says the program prompted her to reflect on what makes her unique.

“Being a public scholar helped me accept my own journey as a graduate researcher,” she says. “I now better appreciate who I am and how I can impact the community.”

Follow the new cohort on the public scholars blog or on Twitter! #publicscholars.



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