by Barbara Black
Joint programs are the ideal way to make the most of limited resources,
take advantage of the cluster of universities in Quebec, and tap into
the richness of a bilingual learning environment. While the idea is not
new, Concordias involvement in joint programs is growing.
A case in point is the joint PhD in religion, which now embraces Concordia,
UQAM and Laval. Leslie Orr, chair of the Religion Department, explained
that although Concordia has had a doctorate in religion since 1974 and
a joint doctorate with UQAM since 1989, the introduction of Université
Laval brings new elements.
Distance, for one. Professor Orr said that the seminars that have proved
so successful with UQAM will probably be refashioned into day-long events
to make travel to and from Quebec City feasible.
These seminars have been a feature of the program for the past seven years,
she said. They take place in English and French speakers speak
their institutional language, and discussion flies in both languages
and have been stimulating not only for the students, but for the participating
faculty, too. Ive taken part in all three seminars held so
far, and we all benefit from these year-long face-to-face encounters,
Orr said with enthusiasm.
French and English have a different intellectual inheritance. The
francophones tend to have read more European sources, while the anglophones
have gone for American and British viewpoints.
The constituent universities have their own areas of specialization. Concordias
Religion Department is especially strong in Judaic studies and comparative
ethics; the Université du Québec à Montréal
specializes in religion in Quebec and contemporary religious phenomena,
and its programs are growing.
Laval introduces a new dimension. Long established in traditional faith-based
theology, the university also has experts in the religions of India and
Amerindian religions, as well as a big project on the Nag Hammadi texts,
part of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
At any one time, between 50 and 60 students have been enrolled in the
joint Concordia-UQAM program, and these numbers will increase with the
addition of Laval students. Each PhD student is enrolled at one of the
One benefit is sharing resources among more faculty. I teach Buddhism,
and there will be one or two others. Its so good for students to
have more than one viewpoint, Orr said.
She has been impressed by the openness of her francophone colleagues,
who go out of their way to provide extra help for students struggling
to understand difficult material in their second language.
While the bilingual sessions are a challenge for some of the students
at first, she said, at the end of the day, theyre glad they
did it. Its a pleasure to see the goodwill on both sides.
Religion for the real world
A religion degree can be an entrée to the legal profession, government
and NGO work, social assistance, education and health care even
business. Here are some examples.
Marlene Bonneau, who is getting her PhD in religion this spring, is
working as a ritual counsellor and marketing specialist with Mount Royal
Russ Daye is teaching at a United Church seminary in Fiji. Patricia
ORourke is an ombuds officer for the Royal Victoria Hospital, and
Rabbi Meyer Schecter is a chaplain at the Jewish General Hospital. (We
told you about their careers as ethicists in CTR, Mar.
Abolfazl Sajedi, who got his PhD recently, is working for the
government of Iran.
Susan Palmer, who has been profiled recently in The Gazette
as well as CTR (Feb. 7), is an expert
on new religious movements like the Raëlians. She has published a
number of books, serves as an expert witness in court cases, and teaches
at Dawson College and Concordia. A more recent graduate, Maria Mamfredis,
is also teaching in the Religion Department.
Current PhD students include Sonia Zylberberg, who was recently
mentioned for her work on Jewish womens rituals in an article in
the Toronto Star.
PhD candidate Louis Chauvin is teaching business ethics, business
and society, and sustainable development in the Faculty of Management
Marco Mingarelli owns and manages a consultancy that advises governments
on the privatization of public businesses, and Bassem Khalifa,
who helped establish the Canadian Institute of Technology, is involved
in property management.