Education graduate wins two doctoral thesis awards

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Amira El Masri
Amira El Masri

York University Faculty of Education PhD graduate Amira El Masri has been recognized for outstanding research in the field of comparative and international education with two national awards.

El Masri was recently awarded the Michel Laferrière Research Award for the best doctoral thesis by the Comparative and International Education Society of Canada (CIESC), and the George Geiss Award by the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education (CSSHE).

“I am truly honoured to be recognized by two academic societies that have been home to many great scholars, researchers and thinkers who have worked relentlessly and collaboratively to facilitate, promote and share research in higher education and comparative and international education,” she said.

El Masri’s dissertation explores Ontario’s international education policy-making context for the period 2005 to mid-2017 while also taking into account the announcement of the new policy document, “Ontario’s International Postsecondary Education Strategy 2018: Educating Global Citizens.”

By adopting discourse analysis, El Masri analyzed data from various sources, including international education stories in the three highest-circulation newspapers in Ontario. She reviewed 415 articles, conducted 23 interviews with policy actors and read 195 policy documents.

Her study aims to provide an analysis of how international education as a discourse flows and changes across time and space, its social, cultural and historical construction and the multiplicity of actors that mobilize it, creating disparities and inequities within this discourse space.

“International education in Ontario is not a policy problem per se,” El Masri explained. “Instead, it is constructed as a policy solution to problems beyond the postsecondary education and the education sector, such as immigration, innovation, economy, foreign affairs and trade.”

Growing up in Jordan, El Masri was always intrigued to learn more about other cultures and languages, which influenced her interest in the field of international education. “My education in comparative literature and then my work as an English as a second language (ESL) instructor and administrator further introduced me to the world beyond national boundaries” she said.

El Masri’s areas of research are postsecondary education and public policy focusing on international education policies and international students’ experiences. During her PhD studies, she worked as a research assistant on projects focusing on different aspects of international and comparative education.

“At York, I got the chance to learn from great scholars and work with great minds who broadened my horizons and inspired me along the way,” she said. “My research idea matured through classroom discussions, hallway chats, and endless communication with my supervisor, Roopa Desai Trilokekar, who was the backbone of my research journey with her critical insights, endless support and commitment for excellence.”

El Masri has has provided consultancy services to postsecondary education institutions working on developing internationalization. She is currently working at York International where she provides support for the development of internationalization and global engagement strategies.

“In my 25 years of teaching and advising students, 12 of which have been in our Faculty, I have not come across a more outstanding student than Amira El-Masri,” said Trilokekar. “Her work, as the two awards she has won substantiate, is a stellar example of research excellence, one that stands apart for its significance, substance and distinctiveness.”