2021 Carrie M. Derick Award for Graduate Supervision and Teaching

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Philip S. S. Howard
Matthew Hunt | Chiaki Konishi | Ives Levesque | Lisa Overholtzer | Eran Shor | Jean-François Trempe



Philip S. S. Howard, Integrated Studies in Education

“My teaching philosophy considers students who do not fit profiles of the “traditional” or “typical” student, and who face structural barriers, offering them robust support the moment that they contact me to explore supervision.”


I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education. My scholarship is in the areas of Black Studies and anticolonial studies in education, and my interests are in the ways that relations of race and antiblackness mediate how we come to know ourselves, create community, and exercise agency in the Canadian settler-colonial context. My current research investigates contemporary blackface in Canada as a postracialist phenomenon, Black people’s agency in educational contexts in Toronto, Halifax, and Montreal, and school to university transitions for Black students in Canada. My work is grounded in over 20 years of professional experience in K-12 education.

Approach to graduate supervision

As a supervisor, my role is that of mentor who builds confidence through an ethic of care. I seek to optimize the graduate experience, while attending to students’ well-being. Graduate students, while new researchers, are already deeply knowledgeable, and I coach them in their development as bearers and producers of substantive knowledge. My teaching philosophy considers students who do not fit profiles of the “traditional” or “typical” student, and who face structural barriers. For graduate students, I offer robust support from the moment that they contact me to explore supervision. I work closely with applicants to construct competitive applications, mirroring the support other students might receive from personal networks. I help students to resist the imposter syndrome they so often experience (but rarely dare express) by openly acknowledging the insecurities produced by the university and its mounting culture of performance as a phenomenon we all experience. Understanding the sometimes isolating nature of the graduate experience, I work with my students to build spaces and opportunities for scholarly, interdisciplinary exchange through a study group that meets monthly. I complement my direct intervention with students by working at various institutional levels to bolster robust structural supports for students.


Dr. Howard’s commitment to theory extends into his pedagogical approach in the classroom. He centres student voices by applying methods that allow students to lead critical conversations and share their learnings with one another through teamwork. As a professor, he sets the stage for a participatory learning process for everyone while maintaining rigorous academic standards. He does so by clearly communicating his evaluation process and remaining flexible to potential adjustments throughout the term. Teaching under the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Howard has demonstrated his adaptability and commitment to critical pedagogy by providing an exemplary online learning environment that is conducive to generative reflections and knowledge building.

In addition, we have found Dr. Howard to be an exceptional mentor who thoughtfully considers the circumstances, experiences, and career goals of his students in our overall growth as academics. For Adrienna, whose interest is in teacher education, this meant an opportunity to work with Dr. Howard as a course lecturer in a parallel section of his course EDEE 283: Social Studies Pedagogy. Academically, Dr. Howard has introduced Adama to the work of key Black scholars in her readings and has also been available for regular monthly check-in meetings. Professionally, Dr. Howard has entrusted her with the task of coordinating the Montreal site for the BCSE Project. As a result, Adama has been able to collaborate with Black scholars and community organizers not just in Montreal, but also in Toronto, London, and Halifax. This experience has allowed Adama to hone her research skills in planning, interviewing, data analysis, archival research, and partnership building.

Through his teaching and supervision practices, Dr. Howard is not afraid to push the limits we set for ourselves as students. Thanks to his active listening skills, he insists on understanding the needs of each student to provide personalized support and guidance. He encourages critical thinking and because of his mentorship, we have no choice but to question the ways we engage with the world around us.

Adama Kaba (2nd year PhD student) and S.J. Adrienna Joyce (4th year PhD candidate),
Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University


Prof. Matthew Hunt, School of Physical and Occupational TherapyMatthew Hunt, School of Physical and Occupational Therapy

“I endeavor to create an environment where students experience learning interactions as engaging.”


Matthew Hunt is an Associate Professor at the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy of McGill University, and a researcher at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation and the Centre for Research on Ethics. His research interests are at the intersections of ethics, rehabilitation and global health. Matthew leads the Ethics Axis of the Quebec Population Health Research Network and co-leads the Humanitarian Health Ethics Research Group (humanitarianhealthethics.net).

Approach to graduate supervision

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to supervise graduate and post-doctoral trainees. It’s one of the most stimulating aspects of my work. With graduate supervision, my overall aim is to support students to craft, pursue and realize their own learning goals. Two of the ways that I see this come together is in the creation of learning maps and being part of a community of mutual support. I work with graduate students to develop and regularly revise a learning map, a process which helps chart a pathway linking goals, activities, skill building, and future steps. This approach can encourage focus and forward momentum. It’s also been fruitful as a means to identify new opportunities and valuable learning experiences such as internships or side projects, and to be responsive to change. Of course, the journey is best when shared; a second element that I seek to foster is a sense of being part of a learning community. The collegial and scholarly support of common purpose and a shared commitment to one another’s success is enriching, and something that I hope is realized within my research teams, and amongst the trainees with whom I work.


Dr. Hunt is a unique and tremendously valuable asset within the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, and McGill University as a whole. Although he has not been formally involved my my master's research, he has contributed significantly to my professional and personal growth and development as a graduate student. His guidance, support, perspective, and encouragement have been invaluable through the development, execution and write-up of my research study, and his genuine collegiality has helepd to foster my own self-confidence as a graduate student while at the same time modeled the kind of humilty that I would like to enact and sustain through the course of my own academic career as well

Lisa Maria Arcobelli (PT, BScPT, MSc Rehabilitation Science), 
Vice President, Graduate Rehabil​itation Science Society

In the acknowledgements section of my thesis, I said Dr. Hunt’s “mentorship is rare, and I have been very lucky to have had a supervisor who supported me and my journey down an unconventional graduate school path over the years. The many opportunities I pursued, along with the completion of my thesis work, have played a significant role in helping me define my career path. Had it not been for Matthew’s support and encouragement, I would have had a very different graduate school experience – a less enjoyable and less fruitful one.” Three years later, I still strongly stand by this statement. Thanks to Dr. Hunt’s support, I was able to pursue opportunities that went beyond the classroom and research desk – I got to learn about bioethics by working with top leaders in the field, doing research with multidisciplinary research teams all over the world, and actively participating in diverse projects that led to academic publications, conference presentations, and unique opportunities after graduation. My only wish is that more students are lucky enough to have a supervisor like him. He set me up for success from the beginning. I will always look back fondly on my time at McGill, and that is in large part due to his mentorship

Aunshree Dave (MSc), Biomedical Ethics Unit, McGill University and
Science Journalist for Science News
, Newsweek, and Business Insider

Prof. Chiaki Konishi, Educational and Counselling PsychologyChiaki Konishi, Educational and Counselling Psychology

“I do learn as much from the students as they do from me.”


Chiaki Konishi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, specializing in the area of social-emotional learning (SEL) and development. She obtained a Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia. She has been an active member of PREVNet, Canada’s national organization for Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network, and the international Bullying Research Network, linking over 200 experts globally. Most of Chiaki’s work has been conducted through collaborative partnerships with local schools and community agencies, aiming at optimizing social-emotional development of children and youth as well as learning environments. She has taught a unique graduate-level practicum course in SEL, the first of its kind in North America initiated by Drs. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl and Shelley Hymel, providing opportunities for teacher candidates to develop a deep understanding of embedding SEL in educational settings.

Approach to graduate supervision

Every student brings their own unique set of attitudes and ways of seeing the world, and that learning influences and improves how I teach to them. I do learn as much from the students as they do from me. Every student comes to a place of leaning with their preconceived beliefs and notions about any content or topic, unquestionably myself as well. It is expected that students will depart from the place of learning (class or supervision) more “awake” than when they arrived. Keeping this in mind, I sometimes use my personal experiences to challenge my students to reflect on their own thoughts and attitudes. At the same time, I emphasize that it is okay for students to have their own opinions and ideas about other cultures regardless of whether they are biased or not, but the most important point is our willingness to recognize and understand more about the uniqueness of others as well as the similarities between us. As students share preconceived biases, we often experience dissonance. As a professor, I have come to understand that this difficult experience is critical and I allow my students to wrestle with their uneasiness as they reflect. The process brings my students up to the level where they are able to internalize their learning into their heart. Without going through their own social-emotional struggles and experiences in learning, it would be difficult for the students to be able to grasp actual children’s social-emotional experiences which is a primary focus of my research, SEL.


There are many things we appreciate about having Chiaki as a mentor. What comes foremost to mind is the intellectual curiosity that she not only promotes but actively embodies. This makes her exceptional both in terms of the extent of her knowledge, as well as her ability to spark our interest in the different aspects of our discipline. Moreover, Chiaki takes the time to understand our interests and ultimate goals for our research and career. She is acutely aware of her students’ passions and makes every attempt to involve them in different activities. She offers direct and constructive advice, challenges our understanding when needed, but most importantly, always provides caring and unconditional support. Without question we can approach her about issues related to our graduate work as well as any other issues we may encounter. We truly feel that she is not only a mentor, but also an ally.

Luis Francisco Vargas-Madriz, PhD Student and Research Coordinator,
Educational and Counselling Psychology, McGill University

One of my earliest recollections is sitting down with Chiaki, and other students in her research group, to discuss different resources that she thought would be useful in our research, as well as learning about different tools that she believed would help us better implement our projects. However, Chiaki not only cares about how her students are doing academically, but she also deeply cares about our overall well-being. Therefore, the quality of her supervision and progress-tracking was valuable not only because she always had high expectations for me, expectation that were clearly communicated, but also because she always made sure that I was taking care of myself socially, emotionally, and mentally. This made my experience in graduate school, and the experience of other students in her research group, less frightening, and more supported, than many of the other students I know.

Xi (Lydia) Tao, Clinical Research Coordinator,
McGill University Health Centre Research Institute

Prof. Ives Levesque, Gerald Bronfman Department of OncologyIves Levesque, Gerald Bronfman Department of Oncology

“I like to teach through problem solving, and to nurture students’ critical outlook with open-ended problems that do not necessarily have optimal solutions.”


I am an Assistant Professor in the Medical Physics Unit and Gerald Bronfman Department of Oncology and Associate Member of Physics and of Biomedical Engineering. I am a physicist with expertise is magnetic resonance imaging, and I work to find new, faster, and better ways to look inside the human body. My research is focused on new methods for quantitative image acquisition and analysis. I am currently interested in techniques for mapping tissue composition, blood supply, and oxygenation. I am also active in clinical medical physics at the McGill University Health Centre.

Approach to graduate supervision

Working with students is my central motivation in this job. Teaching is challenging work. These students have high expectations, and they deserve excellent instruction and supervision. My approach to graduate teaching is structured to foster six core elements in graduate student development: Independence, Inquiry, Creativity, Critical Outlook, Communication, and Collaboration. I strive to cultivate these elements, critical to the transition from undergraduate study to independent work in the physical sciences, throughout the continuum of classroom teaching and research supervision. In the classroom, I help students develop their ability to acquire new knowledge and their intuition for answering new questions, through self-directed learning. I like to teach through problem solving, and to nurture students’ critical outlook with open-ended problems that do not necessarily have optimal solutions. In research supervision, appropriate guidance is key. Every student deserves a personalized level of attention, and this evolves over time. I want my students to own their research—it is their project. In my research group, it is important to me to maintain a culture of exchange between colleagues, of teamwork and discussion, encouraging students to connect and to help each other.


It was always clear to all of us that Ives wanted to have a united and dynamic research group. We had the chance to discuss each week of the science behind my project, my level of satisfaction as well as publication opportunities. I never felt left behind and was always encouraged to present my work. Generally, Ives helped me gain a lot of confidence in my work. I have seen him evolve from a newly appointed professor in 2014 to an important member of the medical physics unit with a lot more responsibilities now, and this has never impacted the time that was allowed to help each of us reach our career goals. In time, I have also learned to ask for his advice concerning much more than my M.Sc. project such as his philosophy on career paths, interactions with students and colleagues, and much more.

Mikaël Simard, Postdoctoral Fellow,
University College London

Prof. Lisa Overholtzer, AnthropologyLisa Overholtzer, Anthropology

“My approach to graduate teaching, service, and supervision aims to ensure equal opportunity and a safe research environment for all our students.”


I am an Assistant Professor and William Dawson Scholar in the Department of Anthropology. My research reconstructs the everyday lives and social identities of ancestors in Postclassic and Colonial central Mexico. I am committed to decolonizing archaeological practice through collaboration with Indigenous descendant communities, and I currently direct and supervise student research on a community-engaged household archaeology project in Tepeticpac, Tlaxcala. I also conduct research on the sociopolitics of knowledge production in archaeology, including the discipline’s struggle to train and retain a diverse workforce and more recently, on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on archaeologists and archaeology students.

Approach to graduate supervision

Individual students differ greatly in their knowledge and understanding of the higher education system, the likelihood they will face discrimination and sexual harassment, and the quality of mentoring and opportunities they will receive, all along the all-too-familiar lines of gender, race and ethnicity, sexuality, class, parental status, and (dis)ability. My approach to graduate teaching, service, and supervision aims to ensure equal opportunity and a safe research environment for all our students. I was fortunate to have the example of strong women project directors as undergraduate and graduate advisers. They showed me the possibilities of safe scientific excellence, and I work to do the same for the students I mentor, with the ultimate goal of disciplinary culture change.


Lisa is an amazing role model, especially for young women, and has inspired me as graduate student, course instructor, and humanitarian. She was an excellent instructor and was especially supportive in guiding our fellowship and grant applications. She bolstered discussions, gave thoughtful and reassuring advice, and guided critical but respectful reflection on our work and the work of our peers. She constantly encouraged students to email her with their proposal drafts, providing detailed and thoughtful revisions to each person who emailed her. She took great care in anticipating our needs, directing us towards resources and demonstrating how to use relevant software applications, things that were above and beyond the subject matter of the proseminar course. Especially since September 2020, Lisa has helped me refine my dissertation research, providing me critical feedback on my work at a time when other committee members have been unavailable. She has done this for me despite her many existing responsibilities at McGill (she is serving on nearly all the graduate committees of archaeology PhD students in the department), and despite working from home and being a fulltime mother to four children. Lisa’s efforts and talents as an instructor, committee member, humanitarian, and as a role model, are but some of the reasons why she is so incredibly deserving of recognition.

Sam Walker, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, McGill University

Prof. Eran Shor, SociologyEran Shor, Sociology

“One of the most important parts of our job as academics is to train the next generation of researchers and faculty and help them become better researchers.”


I have been a Professor at McGill's Department of Sociology since 2010. My research examines primarily the causes and effects of political conflict and violence, focusing on state counterterrorist policies and human rights practices. In other research, I study inequality in the media coverage of ethnic minorities and women; the effects of social stressors, social relationships, and immigration on health; and the dynamics of sexual attraction and sexual aggression.

Approach to graduate supervision

I believe that one of the most important parts of our job as academics is to train the next generation of researchers and faculty and help them become better researchers and, consequently, more competitive job candidates. My own experience has taught me that the only way to do that is through very close engagement with the work of graduate students, spending many hours training them and giving them tools and feedback on their work. I try to exercise this philosophy by investing a substantial portion of my time in three main domains of graduate training: teaching classes, supervising PhD and MA dissertations, and being involved in the Sociology program, offering students informal mentoring and feedback.


Professor Shor's dedication, intellectual rigour, experience, and sensitivity are truly exceptional; and I am privileged to be mentored by this extraordinary person. The writing of a PhD thesis is at times a frustrating process. One goes through many setbacks and challenges during these long and often very lonely years. During my PhD program, I lost loved ones, immigrated to a new country, became a mother, and live through the current pandemic. Two things were instrumental for me to continue and strive for excellency in the program despite the challenges:research that truly inspires me and constant mentoring. I can thank Professor Shor for both.

Ina Filkobski, PhD Student, Department of Sociology, McGill University

Prof. Jean-François Trempe, Pharmacology and TherapeuticsJean-François Trempe, Pharmacology and Therapeutics

“I make it clear to every student that while they have distinct projects, they are working toward a common goal.”


Jean-Francois Trempe obtained his doctorate degree from the University of Oxford in 2007. After postdoctoral training at McGill (Biochemistry) and the Montreal Neurological Institute, he obtained a Faculty position in the department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics in 2013. His goal is to elucidate the function of proteins implicated in Parkinson’s disease through 3D structure determination and proteomics studies. He holds a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Structural Pharmacology and has received the New Investigator Award from Parkinson Canada in 2014. He has published a total of 55 articles and trained 10 graduate students and 2 postdoctoral fellows.

Approach to graduate supervision

I strongly believe in the importance of knowledge transmission. My specialty field, structural biology, has led to countless innovations in biomedical research and pharmacology, but the science behind it is dense and the mathematics complex. I thus make it a mission to train graduate students to become experts in these fields, with the hope that they will take on the relay. At the same time, I understand that not every graduate student desire to become structural biology specialist, so I also try to teach the basics to the widest audience possible to raise awareness of structural biology and foster collaborations. I make it clear to every student that while they have distinct projects, they are working toward a common goal, which is to understand and cure Parkinson’s disease, and thus they need to share information and methods, perpetuating a collegial atmosphere.


Throughout my master’s program at McGill, Dr Jean-Francois Trempe provided exceptional training and mentorship. Simply put, I could not have asked for a better supervisor, and I felt very fortunate to have worked with such an incredible professor. When I first met Dr Trempe at a pharmacology conference at Halifax, I was struck by his energy and fascination for his research and field. I found transitioning into a new field a steep learning curve, which Dr Trempe facilitated wonderfully. There were several moments of feeling imposter syndrome or not feeling qualified for this work, but Dr Trempe helped me navigate through those feelings of doubt and grow in both confidence and competence as a graduate student researcher. Over time, Dr Trempe instilled in me his sense of curiosity and ownership in the project, helping me become fascinated and invested in my work, motivated to conduct my research at a high quality to answer the various research questions that arose.

Anthony Duchesne (MSc), MD Candidate, Memorial University Newfoundland

I have been working under Dr. Trempe’s supervision for the last 7 years; I performed the research for my Master thesis in Biochemistry in his laboratory (2014-2015) and owing to my wonderful experience working in his laboratory, decided to pursue my doctoral thesis research under his supervision as well (2016-present). I feel extremely privileged and hold a high sentimental value for being Dr. Trempe’s first graduate student. His style of supervision is a perfect marriage of Socratic and friendly mentoring. The student is encouraged to individually ponder important questions regarding his/her research and allowed the space and time to do so, but the supervisor’s kind and gentle helping hand is omnipresent to guide the student as solicited for both practical and theoretical aspects of the project. He sees students for the potential they possess and the interest they demonstrate as opposed to the outcomes of their research. These factors provide a rich, stimulating and optimal learning environment for the student to pursue his/her research work and contribute to knowledge generation.

Shafqat Rasool, PhD Student, Department of Biochemistry, McGill University

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.
Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University.

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