PhD French Studies, Queen's University
PhD Comparative Literature, the Sorbonne
Elodie Vignon, Cotutelle student
A Cotutelle Brought Lots of Opportunities for Elodie Vignon
by Reeju Ray, December 2013
"The opportunity to pursue my degree in two countries, in two cultures, was interesting and rewarding on a personal level, but was also particularly relevant to my work in comparative literature as between these cultures. No doubt, being able to set up a cotutelle for my PhD enriched the quality and depth of ideas I was able to bring to my thesis." – Elodie Vignon
Elodie Vignon’s journey as a graduate student began at Queen’s seven years ago. She is the recipient of two doctoral degrees from Queen’s University and Paris Sorbonne University respectively. Elodie enrolled in the doctoral program in French at Queen’s after attending Queen’s as a Master’s exchange student. She had planned on pursuing doctoral studies in France but she says that the social environment at Queen’s, in addition to the intellectual milieu, drew her to apply for the doctoral program in the French Studies department. Soon after, she took on an opportunity which would give her an edge, and a challenge over others – a Cotutelle. Through her participation in the Cotutelle program Elodie became enrolled in two doctoral programs simultaneously, with supervisors in both universities, and went on to receive doctoral degrees from each.
The two degrees Elodie has received are a doctorate in French Studies from Queen’s under the supervision of Catherine Dhavernas, and one in Comparative Literature from the Sorbonne under the supervision of Mireille Calle-Gruber. As an international student, and studying comparative literature, Elodie has had an enriched learning experience. While living in different countries, cultures and languages, she has been exposed to different ways of thinking and approaching academic work. Elodie points out that the Cotutelle was the perfect choice for her academic interests. Her interest in comparative literature and her proficiency in French, English and Spanish inspired her to study “mother-daughter relationships across cultures.” Through the Cotutelle Elodie was exposed to different theoretical frameworks offered in the respective countries. She says, "Thanks to the cotutelle, I got to experience how the different feminist perspectives between France and Canada manifest." The reasons to pursue this challenging program are many, according to Elodie. "One of the best aspects of my cotutelle was having access to the great minds at two universities."
Elodie grew up in France and in Africa and the prospect of travelling and living in different places was attractive to her from an early age. After her initial stint at Queen’s, it was a relatively easy decision for Elodie to stay on. She has always been an ambitious person and habitually planned ahead. The advantages of two doctorates, according to Elodie were many. It gave her an edge in the competitive job market, increased opportunities to organise conferences internationally, and broadened the scope to publish her work. Elodie’s exceptional academic record includes several scholarships such as the Bourse et prix du Conseil Régional d’Île-de France pour les Cotutelles (Paris Sorbonne University) and the Mireille Calle-Gruber International Studies Award (Queen’s University), among others. Elodie points out that she feels honoured “to have received the Mireille Calle-Gruber International Studies Award and have the opportunity to work with Mireille Calle-Gruber as a supervisor at the Sorbonne”.
At Queen’s Elodie found an intellectually stimulating and friendly environment. One significant difference about being a graduate student at Queen’s in relation to Sorbonne is the practice of borrowing books from the university libraries. Here at Queen’s Elodie was able to loan books for an entire term, whereas in Paris she was only able to borrow five books for a period of two weeks at a stretch. The library hours were an additional bonus. The room with the fireplace in Stauffer library holds a special significance for Elodie as she spent countless hours there during her writing process. Elodie found the Queen’s campus to be an integrated space with a sense of community, quite unlike life as a graduate student in Paris. Being involved in different aspects of campus life, such as being editor of the graduate student literary journal La Revue Frontenac Review, made Elodie’s experience as a graduate student more expansive and not limited to her research.
Life after completion of her thesis got quite busy for Elodie. She went back to France and taught at an international business school in Paris, while preparing a manuscript of her thesis for publication. Elodie is now back at Queen’s as Assistant Professor in the French Studies Department and she really enjoys teaching her classes!