Graduate Studies honours Professor Pat Armstrong with Postdoctoral Supervisor Award

York University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) honoured Professor Pat Armstrong with the Faculty’s inaugural Postdoctoral Supervisor of the Year Award. The newly established award recognizes professors who demonstrate exemplary support for postdoctoral scholars at York University, exceeding general supervisory expectations.

Armstrong was presented the award at the Postdoctoral Welcome Reception on Sept. 13, joined by friends and colleagues. The event also welcomed roughly 25 new postdocs to York University, in anticipation for National Postdoc Appreciation Week being held Sept. 18 to 22.

Fahim Quadir, interim dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, Professor Pat Armstrong, and Postdoctoral Fellow Rachel Barken
Fahim Quadir, interim dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, Professor Pat Armstrong and Postdoctoral Fellow Rachel Barken

“Postdoc Appreciation Week, like this event, is a chance for Canadian universities to pause and reflect in a more formal way on something we at FGS and at York are aware of year-round, but are always glad to have a chance to address more directly – that is, the outstanding and incredibly important role that postdocs play not just here at York, but across all Canadian universities and within academic culture more broadly,” said Fahim Quadir, interim dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Armstrong was recognized for embodying a culture of support for postdoctoral scholars at the University. She is a Distinguished Research Professor in sociology and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Her research focuses on the fields of social policy, of women, work and health and social services.

“I’ve had the incredible privilege of learning so much from my postdocs over the years here at York,” she said.

Since 2000, Armstrong has supervised at least 14 postdocs, with another beginning their fellowship this month. Her former postdocs have a remarkable track record of going onto successful research careers in academia and beyond.

In her letter of nomination for her supervisor, Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellow Rachel Barken noted: “Dr. Armstrong provides postdoctoral fellows with outstanding opportunities to build strong research and funding records as well as professional networks, thus positioning them well for excellence in their future careers. Her commitment to engaged co-learning allows postdoctoral fellows to learn how to write for funders, academic audiences and broader publics, to think through relationships between theory, methods and outcomes, and to build a strong, funded research program with impact.”

Armstrong added four lessons in her remarks that she thinks are valuable to current and prospective postdoctoral supervisors: work with remarkable people; sort out what your postdoctoral fellowship structure is going to be like; define writing, presentation and authorship procedures; and have fun.

She also had words for new postdocs in the room, and said: “This is a time where you really have an opportunity to write, to connect with people, and to explore additional ideas. You’ve got that thesis done, and now you can think about what you’re going to tell the world about it.”

The Postdoctoral Supervisor of the Year Award accepts nominations annually to recognize professors who: serve as role models for intellectual leadership and professionalism in research; provide an exemplary environment of support for professional skill development in research; promote and model a climate of respect and collegiality; and offer advocacy and guidance in long-term personal, professional and career development.

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