CTR Home Internal  Relations and Communications Home About CTR Publication Schedule CTR Archives

October 24, 2002 Great grads



Alina Andreevskaia

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

Alina Andreevskaia juggled research and family duties

What do software agents and Russian morphology have in common? They both fall into
the broad scope of Alina Andreevskaia’s academic portfolio.

The computer science student recently defended her master’s thesis on the design of a program to personalize e-commerce Web sites. This summer, she will begin a PhD in natural language processing, a discipline that uses computers to understand and analyze human language. With this topic, Andreevskaia will combine her two areas of expertise.

She studied applied linguistics in her native Russia. After moving to Montreal six years ago, she completed a graduate diploma in computer science at Concordia.

The architecture that Andreevskaia proposed in her master’s thesis allows electronic businesses to gauge a consumer’s tastes dynamically, or continuously, by tracking a user’s choices over numerous sessions instead of basing them on their first visit.

She said that the design is best-suited for customer relations management in small e-enterprises who want to maintain a loyal clientele. When you go to Wal-Mart, you don’t expect personal service. However, “when you go to the corner store every couple of days, you hope that they’ll remember you and know what you’re looking for.” The same holds true for electronic businesses.

For the past four years, Andreevskaia has balanced her academic career with raising her four year-old daughter, Erica. She recalled how her husband, who worked during the day, would bring Erica to her night classes for breastfeeding.

Nevertheless, Andreevskaia received several grants and scholarships, including a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) scholarship, and has had several papers published. Her graduate supervisor, Thiruvengadam Radhakrishnan, said that her dedication is responsible for her success. “Whatever she undertakes, she puts all of her effort into it.”

Once she has completed her PhD, Andreevskaia hopes to remain in the academic environment as a professor. If she follows her dream, she will represent the fourth generation in her family to teach at the university level. “It’s a family tradition,” she said.

- Melanie Takefman








Christian Johnson

TV veteran Christian johnson refreshed his journalistic skills at Concordia

At 56, Johnson was the eldest of 22 students in the 12-month graduate diploma in journalism program, and by far the most experienced journalist. He had his own five-hour TV program, The Christian Johnson Show, every Saturday night for 20 years in Ecuador, and worked for United Pictures International in Miami, flying around the world, meeting movie stars.

How did he wind up at Concordia? “I was about to become a dinosaur, a famous old figure from TV,” he said candidly. “I wanted to get acquainted with new technologies, learn the formal aspects of journalism, and get a Canadian degree.”

He’d been here in the 1960s, at what was then Sir George Williams University. His father brought the family to Canada when he was 18.

He studied communications, but passed only five courses in three years. “I was having too much fun,” he recalled with a roguish grin. “Womanizing, going to parties, driving a diplomat’s car.”
His mediocre marks didn’t stand in the way of a successful career in South America, a career that at its peak earned him a five-figure monthly salary, but he knew that to achieve the same success in Canada, he had to start all over again.

How did he feel going back to school with a bunch of 20-somethings? “There were certain moments when I really felt out of place,” he admitted.

He divided his time as best he could between his family (wife and six-year-old son) and the huge course workload. When he wasn’t writing articles late into the night, he was working as a chef, a chauffeur, a film extra, and a columnist in a local Spanish-language newspaper.

He took particular pride in his final-term documentary, a 41-minute piece about an Ecuadorian jungle doctor who is on house arrest on an Ontario farm following the death of a woman during a healing ceremony. Black Jaguar, White Jungle has aroused the interest of a number of television producers, including the CBC.

Johnson is passionate about exploring anthropological issues through journalism. His own experience trying to regain in Canada the status he enjoyed in Latin America gives him insight into the problems facing other newcomers, particularly Latinos.

“There are people here in Montreal who come from all over the world. They all have a story to tell about how they try to live up to Canadian expectations, and about how they see their own culture evaporating.”

- Clare Byrne


Nathalie Lachance wins Silver Medal for highest GPA

Nathalie Lachance, who has the highest grade-point average of all the spring 2003 graduates (4.28), wants you to know that Honours German is fun.

“Make sure you say that, because people think, Oh, German, intensity, seriousness, but honestly, it was a lot of fun,” Lachance said, “especially with my mentor, Professor Helmut Famira. You wouldn’t think a 70-year-old professor would get down on his knees to recite poetry in class, but he was unbelievable, so inspiring.”

Lachance thinks one key to her brilliant academic success is that for a decade, she was out in the “real world,” working for a living.

“I was in sales in the food industry, selling dead fish in a can,” she deadpanned. “Then I married a man whose grandparents were German Mennonites. I thought it was such an interesting culture. At first, I took German part-time at night, and that’s how I came to Concordia, but never regretted it.”

She had just come back from Halifax, where, as a new member, she attended meetings of the Canadian Association of University Teachers of German.

Since January, Lachance has been doing her MA at McGill, specializing in the work of Thomas Mann.


Victor Aldea and Shiyan Hu

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

Electrical Engineers Excel Academically

At spring convocation, Victor Aldea will receive the Phoivos Ziogas Medal for Electrical Engineering as well as the Chait Medal, and Shiyan Hu, the Computer Engineering Medal. Both students said that their undergraduate careers at Concordia were marked by “hard work.” Aldea will begin a master’s degree in electrical engineering at McGill this fall. Hu, who earned a bachelor’s degree in medicine in her native China, will pursue a master’s degree in biomedicine.

-Melanie Takefman

More great grads