The Senior Doctoral Fellows for 2013/2014 are:

James Corcoran


James Corcoran is a doctoral candidate in the Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning Department at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) – University of Toronto. James has been an ESL/EFL teacher and teacher educator for the past 12 years. He has taught academic English extensively at a post-secondary level in Brazil, Canada and Mexico. James is currently a writing instructor at both the English Language Writing Support Centre as well as the OISE Student Support Centre. James’ most recent research project investigates challenges facing Mexican scientists attempting to write research articles in English for publication in international journals.

Lecture Abstract:
Publish (in English) or Perish: A Case Study of Emerging Mexican Scientists

The global domination of English as an International Language of Science (EILS) has placed what many have termed an “inequitable” burden on non-native English-speaking (NNES) scholars when compared to their native English-speaking counterparts (Clavero, 2010; Hammel, 2007; Lillis & Curry, 2010). While barriers to NNES scientists’ academic writing for publication have been the subject of several recent studies (Flowerdew, 2007; Hanauer & Englander, 2013), little research has focused on the impact of the domination of EILS on current and (especially) emerging scholars’ writing and publication practices in Latin American universities.

James’ talk highlights findings from a comparative case study of Mexican doctoral students and faculty attempting to publish articles in field-specific English language journals in order to obtain academic advancement. Participants were part of an intensive academic writing course offered in Canada and Mexico aimed at mitigating academic writing barriers faced by emerging Mexican scientists. Initial findings from the study, including major barriers to publication (L1-L2 transfer issues; insufficient knowledge of publishing norms; time constraints) and the implications these findings raise for English for Academic Purposes practitioners will be explored, including a potential model for a critical yet pragmatic approach to the teaching of academic writing for publication.


Isaac Darko


Isaac Darko, a native of Ghana, is a fourth-year PhD student with the departments of Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice Education (OISE) and the School of Environment at the University of Toronto. A teacher, researcher and activist, Isaac spends most of his time – academic and professional – with youth and children teaching and engaging conversations around equity, race, Indigenous knowledge, spirituality, education/schooling, environmental sustainability, health, governance, and information communication technology. He occasionally speaks at African-Canadian community events where he raises consciousness on parental, educational and cultural challenges that African immigrants, especially parents, face in Canada. His current PhD research examines the value of Indigenous African philosophies in promoting good environmental stewardship practices, good governance and improved health education in Africa.

Lecture Abstract:
Teaching Environment Africa: Critical Look at Current Environmental Pedagogy Within Some African States

This seminar will address several pressing concerns around environmental education within some African countries. It will seek to raise fundamental questions on the role of Indigenous epistemologies in educating Africans. It will also examine some philosophies in the form of proverbs, adages, folktales, traditions, songs, poems and spirituality and how they can play significant roles in shaping policies and attitudes towards environmental stewardship. It will further look at how African philosophies can get practically integrated within African school systems.


Laura Kwak

Laura J. Kwak is a PhD candidate in the department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice in Education (HSSSJE) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto. She is also a collaborative student with the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto. She researches, writes and teaches on sociology of race and ethnicity, feminist epistemologies, and social and political theories. Her dissertation “The Rise of Racial Conservatism in Multicultural Canada and the Post-Racial United States” looks at how Asian political conservatives have played key governmental and legislative roles in the U.S. and Canada since the post-war era. The project charts how Asian American political figures shape and are shaped by shifting racial formations. This work contributes to a fuller understanding of political incorporation and how newcomers and minorities have been significantly engaged in Canadian and U.S. politics. She has guest lectured on Asian American politics in neoconservative times at the University of California, Berkeley and has presented her work in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Her doctoral work has been supported by two Ontario Graduate Scholarships (OGS) as well as scholarships from the Asian Canadian Studies Graduate Fund, University of British Columbia and the Anita Affeldt Award, Association of Asian American Studies (AAAS).

Lecture Abstract:
The Rise of Racial Conservatism in Multicultural Canada

For this presentation, Laura will focus on the rise of racial conservatism in multicultural Canada. She locates this emergence at the nexus of two increasingly potent ideas of the 21st century: the crisis of multiculturalism and postracialism.

Since the post-war era, Asian leaders have played key governmental and legislative roles in the U.S. and Canada and many of them have been politically conservative. In both countries, racial conservatives hold positions in an array of rightist organizations speaking on issues not limited to affirmative action, immigration and homeland security. Yet there continue to be grave assumptions about the relationship between race and partisan politics. We need to rethink the “identity-to-politics” link and consider how identifications vary in their consistency (Lee T. 2008).

While the fields of critical race theory and American studies have investigated both formal and informal racial politics of the fastest-growing and increasingly heterogeneous demographic group, Laura’s research has revealed that the role of the racial conservative figure in this political landscape, specifically the Asian American/Canadian political conservative, is virtually unexamined. She investigates this absence.

Her dissertation produces an alternative archive of Asian Canadian relationships to party politics at the federal level specifically within the ten-year period between 2004 and 2013. This work has also revealed the complex relationship that Asian immigrants have had to the Canadian political Right since the John A. MacDonald administration to the current reign of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Rather than focus on histories of political and legislative exclusion, Laura’s work examines how Asian political conservatives have participated in introducing and debating critical legislation as well as domestic and foreign policies. She examines such political activities as critical sites for exploring the continued salience and shifting meanings of race in multicultural Canada and “postracial” America.


Benjamin Landsee

Benjamin Landsee is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Toronto, working under the supervision of Professor Melanie Newton. Ben’s dissertation examines Haitian migration to and from Cuba in the twentieth century, focusing on the often transformative experiences of labour and travel abroad. Ben is currently instructing courses for Caribbean Studies and the Department of History at the University of Toronto.

Lecture Abstract:
Revolutionary Inheritances: Haitians, Race and Nation in Cuba and Haiti 1930-1960s

Beginning in the first decade of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of Haitians migrated to eastern Cuba to cut cane in the booming sugar industry. Over time, many Haitians created durable links to Cuba through marriage to Cuban women and ownership of small-scale coffee fincas, concentrated almost completely in eastern Cuba.

Despite the longstanding presence of this community, Haitians were generally seen as non-Cuban even if they had been born in Cuba. In fact, the Haitian community provided a stereotype for Cubans to utilize in setting the boundaries of its multiracial nationality. Afro-Cuban practices deemed unacceptable were marked as “Haitian,” and Haitians were themselves marginalized and subject to repression and deportation. Benjamin explores how Haitians lived during this period as transnational workers and how experiences abroad shaped their understanding of their community and its place in the Caribbean.

Haitian migrants were confronted by two highly nationalistic states during the period of study: Cuba prior to and during the 1959 Revolution and post-American occupation Haiti, through the beginning of the Francois Duvalier regime. Benjamin’s thesis is particularly interested in exploring how the Cuban Revolution’s programs aligned with earlier treatment of Haitians, including the harsh immigration laws of the 1930s and 1940s. This project is concerned with how Haitians carried experiences of racialized discrimination with them in their labour migrations and how Haitians understood their migrations and experiences in a Caribbean context.

In addition to these important questions, Benjamin also examines the rich flow of ideas between the two islands, focusing on the emergence of the Afro-Cuban Studies movement in Cuba and the folklore and negritude movements in Haiti.


Melanie Viglas


Melanie Viglas is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy program in the department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto (OISE). Her research interests include exploring the benefits of mindfulness in education as well as self-regulation and prosocial behaviour in early childhood. She is a registered Early Childhood Educator and a certified teacher with the Ontario College of Teachers. After teaching kindergarten for 5 years, she returned to OISE to pursue her doctoral studies in the PhD Early Learning Cohort program. Her research study involved implementing an age-appropriate mindfulness-based program in four kindergarten classrooms to explore its impact on young children’s self-regulation and prosocial behaviour.

Lecture Abstract:
Mindfulness-Based Programs in Early Childhood: Improving Self-Regulation and Prosocial Behaviour

Mindfulness is a heightened way of paying attention and of being present in our awareness of experiences in each moment. It can be applied to sensory experiences, thoughts and emotions by using sustained attention to notice our experience without reacting, or judging it as good or bad.

Mindfulness-based programs designed specifically for classrooms are only now beginning to emerge and research exploring the efficacy of these programs is demonstrating how their implementation into classrooms is associated with various positive outcomes such as better self-regulation and social emotional skills. Self-regulation and social emotional skills develop in early childhood and are believed to foster prosocial behaviour. Empathy is an important social emotional skill developing in early childhood and is believed to motivate prosocial behaviours such as helping, comforting and sharing.

Children in early childhood settings rely on the development of self-regulation and prosocial behaviour to make healthy adjustments to the expectations in the classroom; however, no studies have yet been published showing the efficacy of implementing a mindfulness-based program in an early childhood setting.

Melanie’s doctoral research explores whether receiving a mindfulness-based program in kindergarten influenced children’s self-regulation and prosocial behaviours. She adapted and implemented a mindfulness-based program designed for classrooms called Mindful Schools. Melanie had been trained and certified to deliver this program and used her knowledge and past experiences of working with this age group as a kindergarten teacher to make adaptations to the program to meet the children’s developmental needs.