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photo by Mico Mazza

A GROUP OF eight professors is working on implementing the University of Ottawa’s first PhD communication program, which will be entirely bilingual. This program will be the first of its kind in Canada, likely to be ready by 2014.

“We are looking forward to this program with much enthusiasm because there are many possibilities, which right now are not there because we lack this program,” said Fernando Andacht, chair of graduate studies in the Department of Communication at the U of O and one of the professors working on the program.

Martine Lagacé, chair of the department, said the Faculty of Communication has grown substantially since its inception and there is now high demand for a PhD program.

“Looking at the history of the department, this is a natural development,” she said. “Now is the time to get a PhD in place. Many students at the graduate level are asking for a PhD program—there’s a demand.”

Lagacé said there has been tremendous support from communication professors in the department and they recently approved the program idea, meaning the proposal can be submitted to the Faculty of Communication. It also has to be approved by the graduate faculty and the University Senate before it is launched.

“This project is generating a lot of enthusiasm from colleagues,” said Lagacé. “It’s a work in progress and there are many steps ahead.”

The program will offer half of its courses in French and half in English—fluent bilingualism will be a requirement for applicants.
“We will welcome students not only that are strong in terms of academic marks, but also their ability to fluently function in French and English,” said Lagacé. “The courses offered won’t be duplicated in the other language.”

Andacht and Lagacé said because the program is bilingual, it will add value to the degree and help widen the students’ knowledge of their chosen topic.

“We’re not just trying to be linguistic,” said Andacht. “This is going to be a bridge between the Francophone theoretical traditions and the Anglophone.”

“I think the idea is really to enrich the student perspective before anything else,” added Lagacé. “Being able to reach research in both languages is a huge opportunity for positioning yourself in the research world.”

The professors agreed that for North America’s biggest bilingual university, this program is an important step that will further improve U of O’s reputation.

“I simply see this project, into which so much energy has already been put, as a natural fulfillment of the university’s mission,” said Andacht. “We are sending the people who have completed this PhD into a world with more open doors.”

—Jane Lytvynenko