On 2 December 2013, Mariève Forest successfully defended her thesis before her supervisor and other committee members and became the School of Sociological and Anthropological Studies’ first PhD graduate. A hearty congratulation to Dr. Forest for making history!
What was your research’s theme?
I wanted to better understand the role of MPs in our political system. We often have the impression that MPs have a tendency to follow the party line, corrupt institutions or simulate conflict. I wanted to move away from these ideas and research the more political role of MPs; their propensity to action. I am interested in how MPs participate in what I called the "processes behind the creation of political decisions".
Who was your thesis supervisor?
My thesis supervisor was Professor Stéphane Vibert. Stéphane is very competent in the field and so I was initially intimidated when I met him. However, his openness, his ability to simplify complex ideas, as well as his ability to understand my posture and my ideas - sometimes more so than I! - has proven most beneficial. Thanks to him, I was able to develop a realistic plan and progress at my own pace.
What is your academic background?
I completed both my BA and my MA in Sociology at the University of Ottawa. After completing my Masters, I sincerely believed that I would no longer step foot in classrooms or universities. In addition, I had my hands quite full with a second child. But, after working for a few years (and having a third boy!), I started to miss the research environment. At the time, I was working as a project management consultant with various Francophone Canadian organizations and missed working on projects of my own. It’s around then that I met Marie-Blanche Tahon, a professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, who told me that the Department would soon offer a doctorate in sociology. And so I decided to go back to school!
How was your Ph.D. experience?
I started my Ph.D. in 2007 and was part of the first cohort of doctoral students in sociology at the University of Ottawa. In the first year, we had two annual seminars and I thoroughly enjoyed my return to the academic life. Every week, I appreciated discussing new ideas with my colleagues and the teachers were very involved. However, the first year was challenging because of the demanding workload and the young age of my sons. After the seminars, I started the comprehensive exams (we had two at the time), which allowed me to research the themes I was most interested in. This second step also presented some challenges. This time, it was less to do with the workload and more with having to discipline myself to be independently productive. I was relieved once it was over!
While working on my thesis, I found it very stimulating to be able to shape a confused line of questioning into a gradually more and more specific research project. Throughout the undertaking, my supervisor supported me and ensured that my approach and efforts were relevant and consistent. At that time, I also greatly benefited from the activities organized by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Citizenship and Minorities (CIRCEM). I participated in the discussions and discovered new approaches from researchers in other disciplines. These moments were also times where I could share with colleagues who were going through similar efforts.
The last few months of my thesis were more intense, but were also the most enjoyable as I felt like I was living out my thesis. I felt creative and worked on themes I (finally!) mastered.
What's next for the first Ph.D. graduate from the School?
I'm lucky because everything has moved quite quickly since I submitted my thesis. I did a little research work for an organization located in Montreal and then found an immigration project management contract in Ottawa with the Consortium national de formation en santé. At the moment, I’m creating an online introduction to sociology course for the University of Ottawa - and am very excited to find myself once again in an academic environment. As I have been offered research contracts for the fall, I'm not complaining! I hope to continue my research while contributing to the common good.