A Long Journey from England to Grad Studies at Queen's
by Anam Fatima
PhD candidate Lorraine Godden has taken the road less travelled to graduate studies at Queen’s University. She completed her undergraduate studies in England, her native land, as a mature student in business and marketing in 2002. She then went on to pursue a teaching qualification and a post graduate certificate in post compulsory education.
After working for a few years in business and marketing, Lorraine had her youngest daughter in the midst of her Master’s degree. With a family to take care of, and a part time job, she had to shelve the Master’s degree with the intention of coming back to it at some point in her life.
She then transitioned to teaching adult learners in 2005—a role that provided her with the underpinning knowledge for her work at the Faculty of Education. She managed a portfolio for education staff that worked in support roles from teaching assistants, midday assistants, to custodial staff. It is through this experience that Lorraine began to take interest in learning in the workplace.
The Master’s degree came up again as something she could pursue.
"I knew I was a lifelong learner because I did my undergraduate studies as a mature student. I never stopped taking courses or workplace qualifications, and so it felt natural to look at Master’s as an option."
Lorraine was interested in living and studying in another English speaking country and, as the safety of her children was important consideration, she chose to look at Canadian universities. In July 2009, Lorraine, her husband, and their three children, got ready to move. Home was an extremely transient concept for them. They wanted a rural community out of Kingston and so moved to Westport. They moved 13 times between July and Christmas—having to sit on her bed to complete assignments and having access to nothing but summer clothes for the harsh Canadian winters as all other belongings were in storage.
Looking back, Lorraine said that the whole experience was a challenge. “It was our first time ordering wood for a stove instead of relying on a continuous supply of natural gas to the house.” But we finally managed to find long term accommodation.” When asked how she would advise international students coming to Canada, Lorraine said to “expect the challenges. They can be overcome, but expect them. It is definitely a learning curve.”
Why Queen’s? Lorraine had decided that they were coming to Ontario after a visit to the Faculty of Education in late 2008. “It was the Faculty of Education staff that had me,” said Lorraine, describing how she was very pleased with the reception she was given by the staff and students.
"Erin Rennie [Assistant to the Associate Dean Graduate Studies] was lovely, she answered all my questions, didn’t make me feel rushed, and I felt like nothing was too much trouble for her. Then I had a chat with Marlene Sayers [Manager, Graduate Studies] and I once again felt that she had all the time in the world to talk to me. No one was looking at their watch. There was also a sense of collegiality and that came from the 3 graduate students that I met that same day. And it was that. I knew moving was a traumatic upheaval and I knew I needed to be in a supportive environment."
Before arriving at the Faculty, she also had a Skype conversation with her advisor, Associate Dean Undergraduate Studies Peter Chin, and all of these experiences helped to ease the transition of the transatlantic move for Lorraine.
Acclimatizing to Canada was a challenge, but Lorraine has settled in to the Faculty of Education. Her research focuses on the policy and curriculum documents available to teachers and their implementation. She wants to examine how this process works and how the teachers interact with these documents—what the connections are at the different levels. Her lens is career education in the secondary curriculum.
But her work doesn’t stop there. In January 2010, Lorraine went to her first conference in Toronto which she described as “an invaluable experience.” “Nancy Hutchinson was my supervisor for my MEd work and I can’t thank her enough. She is a fantastic mentor, very committed to her work and to the work of her students.” For her PhD work, Lorraine is now working with Ben Kutsyuruba, Nancy Hutchinson, and Chris DeLuca and says, “I feel so privileged, I am working with faculty that inspire and motivate me, and provide the very best mentoring in all that I do.”
Most recently, Lorraine was awarded the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC) award. The award, which is presented to select full-time graduate students annually, provides free registration to the Cannexus National Career Development Conference in Ottawa (January 2013) and $1,000 to cover expenses to attend the conference. CERIC offers resources for career development practitioners, has a journal, and a quarterly magazine, where Lorraine’s article is being published. Lorraine has also joined a CERIC committee on academic and practical research.
Lorraine holds two research assistantships, has presented at 14 conferences, stays on top of her reading and course work, and juggles family life on top of everything. She has great relationships with faculty members and fellow graduate students. From driving the meetings with her supervisors to running a graduate student mentorship program, Lorraine has become an integral part of the Faculty of Education.
"Don’t be too fixed on what you think you’re going to get from the program when you first arrive. It’s OK to have a notion of what drives you and the questions you are interested in and to have a sense of where your previous experience fits, but to also retain flexibility that you may develop in an area that you had never foreseen. Be open to that experience and allow yourself to develop in that way."
A testament to her own advice, Lorraine is an exemplar for a successful graduate student at the Faculty of Education. We look forward to her many successes to come!