Congratulations to our graduate valedictorian, Lauren Touchant!

Posted on Monday, June 7, 2021

Lauren Touchant

My name is Lauren Touchant. I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ottawa within the Centre on Governance (COG) and the Environmental Law and Global Sustainability (CELGS). This postdoc follows the completion of my PhD in Public Administration at the University of Ottawa. In 2016, I was honoured to receive the Vanier scholarship and today I can pursue my research interests through the Alex Trebek Postdoctoral Fellowship for Water Law and Governance, co-led by the Centre for Public Law, COG and CELGS. In addition to spending most of the last few years in school, I have also been very involved in my community for the last fifteen years. I have been the President of the Vanier Community Association since 2017 and I am apart of the board of directors of several non-profits, including the national chapter of Fair Representation and the Coalition of Community Associations for Sustainable Development. Being in a leadership position, I ensure daily that I mobilize my knowledge, skills, and competencies to address current challenges in my community, which leads me to be involved in community-based research initiatives that aim to develop policy and other solutions to address complex issues such as family homelessness, emergency management and climate change, poverty reduction and food insecurity, etc.  Through my entrepreneurial nature, I navigate the world of social innovation including social entrepreneurship to develop and implement solutions. An example of this is with Incubator13 which was developed to address youth unemployment in Ottawa's east end. My role also allows me to work with a variety of organizations including governments and to be involved in the public policy process. My academic background and experiences in this field are at the core of my day-to-day community achievements, and I do not plan to stop contributing to my community. As a result of my involvement, I have had the honor to receive five community involvement awards, but past my ambition to do it for awards, nothing gives me more joy than to see the positive impact in my community.

How do you feel about becoming valedictorian?

I have to admit that I didn't expect it, but I am very honored. I feel like I have come full circle, considering that I came to Canada almost 15 years ago, and that things were not always easy. It has been a long journey and there were times that I didn’t think I would make it this far. This honor makes me proud of the journey I've taken and the obstacles I've overcome, it makes me feel like I've finally made it. This honor is also a symbol of a new chapter that I am starting, with great ambitions and the same passion that has always driven me. I hope to repay this honour by being a great ambassador for the University of Ottawa, a spokesperson for francophone and bilingual education in the minority context, a voice for young people and young women who want to achieve their dreams whether it be in university, college or apprenticeship careers.

Why did you decide to pursue a PhD in Public Administration at the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa?

I decided to apply for a doctorate in Public Administration at the University of Ottawa's School of Political Studies because, as a proud Franco-Ontarian and committed to my Francophone minority community, I wanted to study in French. Furthermore, it was important for me to have access to an academic horizon that combines the Anglophone, Francophone, and Aboriginal intellectual worlds. This was particularly special and important to me, as I have studied in both English and French, in Canada and in Europe, so I was looking for that environment in which I could continue to be exposed to a diversity of intellectual and theoretical perspectives. My choice to study public administration was simply motivated by the nature of my research questions. Furthermore, I had spent the majority of my career in political science, which was focused on international relations and political sociology, and I wanted to go further and explore institutions, people, etc. Public administration seemed to provide me the opportunity to deepen my understanding of politics.

What is your proudest accomplishment other than completing your PhD?

While I am very proud of the many accomplishments I have made in the last few years, whether that be with the Francophone community (the community in general) or the start-up of social enterprises such as Incubator13, I believe that my two greatest accomplishments are actually in development. Unfortunately, I can't share anything yet, but I believe that these are projects that will have important long-term benefits.

What is your favourite memory while pursuing your PhD?

My field research. I like to look for information at the source and meet the people who work within institutions and who are behind the programs and policies that are developed and implemented.  I have been fortunate to be able to meet with participants from all across Canada, to explore and analyze the initiatives, policies and programs that exist across the country, and most importantly to learn about the diverse communities. It is a unique and unforgettable experience to go to the source and in the field.

Are there any Faculty staff/professors you would like to highlight?

I would like to sincerely thank my thesis supervisor, Professor Louis Simard, who supported and encouraged me during my doctoral years, as well as Professor Nathalie Burlone, who offered to supervise me during research assistantships and allowed me to develop a wide range of skills. I am very grateful to both of them.

What are your future plans?

In the short term, I want to focus on my postdoctoral fellowship. It gives me the incredible opportunity to further hone my skills and knowledge, as well as develop new ones (especially on the legal side) and helps develop my academic resume by publishing and participating in conferences. I am aware that academic opportunities are limited, and that the competition is tough, so the most important thing for me is to keep my mind and options open. I have several professional projects that I would like to pursue that are intrinsically linked to research, social innovation and problem solving. I hope to continue teaching, going into the field, working with universities and various partners. My goal is to do what I love, no matter what form it takes, and be happy. I will definitely continue my community work, which I am passionate about and which is ingrained in my DNA. In any case, I have a vision and ambitions, I have projects that I want to achieve, and I am always open to opportunities that knock on the door. Life is an adventure, and I am always ready to follow it.

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