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Interdisciplinary graduate degrees set a new trend in education

June 06, 2013 - 9:36 AM

Highest number of cross-discipline degrees to be conferred at UBC convocation

Call it the new wave of post-secondary education. More and more graduate students, those working towards their master’s or doctoral degrees, are leaving UBC’s Okanagan campus with an interdisciplinary education tailored to their specific research goals.

Convocation begins Thursday, with five ceremonies over two days recognizing the achievements of more than 1,485 students – a record number. Of more than 110 students earning graduate-level degrees, 35 will receive doctoral or master’s degrees in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies – meaning they have combined at least two different educational perspectives, sometimes across different faculties.

For Cynthia Mathieson, Dean of the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, it means UBC’s students are leaving university with a powerful, cross-discipline degree that can open many doors.

“When students can successfully combine different areas of research and earn their degree in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies it really does give them the best of both worlds,” Mathieson says. “It means they have straddled and excelled beyond one research focus, sometimes combining areas to create a new perspective.”

At Thursday’s 1 p.m. Convocation ceremony, graduate student Tamil Kendall will be presented with the Governor General’s gold medal, a distinction given by the university each year to the graduate student with the highest academic achievement.

Mathieson says Kendall is the perfect example of new the wave of graduate students. She studied anthropology and health sciences and her supervising committee members, Naomi McPherson, Hugo DeBurgos, and Joan Bassett-Smith, came from the disciplines of cultural anthropology, medical anthropology, and nursing.

The opportunity to have three supporting supervisors, each with considerably different research interests, added to her wide scope of education, Kendall says.

“The interdisciplinary program is well adapted to my background as a qualitative HIV researcher who has worked extensively in public health policy and with community-based networks, and also to my area of doctoral study, the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission. The complementary strengths and perspectives of my committee members contributed to my research,” Kendall says.

Kendall was a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Vanier CGS Scholar during her doctoral studies. She is currently a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health and also holds a Trudeau Foundation postdoctoral scholarship.

Miriam Grant, Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, agrees that with each year, more and more graduate students are tackling multi-disciplinary research problems with the end result of a “powerful degree.” As students strive to gain as much knowledge and experience as they can during their graduate studies, Grant expects numbers will continue to rise in this new trend in post-secondary education.

“When a student is able to customize their degree, they can specifically design it toward their personal academic destination,” says Grant. “Tamil Kendall is an excellent example of this. Our students are taking on complex research problems and combining their research into their own custom-made degrees.”

Kendall will receive her award at the second of three ceremonies on Thursday:

11 a.m. --  Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences (Sciences)
1 p.m. -- Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences (Arts)
3:30 p.m. -- Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, and Faculty of Management

Canadian poet Patrick Lane will receive an honorary degree during the 3:30 p.m. ceremony. Lane, 73, is a prolific writer with more than 27 books of poetry to his credit. He has also published a volume of short stories and a memoir. His latest work, The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane, includes 400 poems that he wrote during a literary career spanning more than 50 years. He was received numerous accolades and awards, including the Governor General’s Award in 1978 for his collection of published poems and the 2007 Lieutenant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence for his lifetime contribution to literature in British Columbia.

Two Convocation ceremonies take place on Friday:

8:30 a.m. -- Faculty of Education, and School of Engineering (UBC Faculty of Applied Science)
11 a.m. -- Faculty of Health and Social Development

Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky will receive an honorary degree during Friday's 8:30 a.m. ceremony. Burtynsky’s remarkable large-format photographic depictions of global industrial landscapes are included in the collections of more than 50 major museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Bibliotèque Nationale in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. He has won numerous honours and in 2006, Burtynsky was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of Canada.

This year, UBC’s Okanagan campus will graduate a record number of students, conferring 20 doctoral degrees, 151 master’s degrees, and 1,082 undergraduate degrees. Including degrees completed last fall, a total of 1,485 degrees will be conferred this week. Last year, 1,300 students graduated from UBC’s Okanagan campus and in 2011, a total of 1,174 students received degrees. The number of degrees has almost tripled since 2006, when 468 degrees were conferred at the first UBC graduation ceremony in the Okanagan.

Go to to view live webcasts of UBC's Okanagan Convocation ceremonies.

News from © iNFOnews, 2013

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