Doctoral students celebrate an “invaluable” experience following ATLAS Agora 2023

Photos of ATLAS Agora PhD students
Some of the international PhD students who participated in ATLAS Agora 2023.

It was the week the world came to Osgoode. And the 21 doctoral students from six countries who participated in the unique international ATLAS Agora Summer School from June 2 to 9 are taking home lessons that will benefit their careers for years to come.

“It was truly invaluable,” said Osgoode PhD student Ọláolúwa Òní. “From the opportunity to share stories with similarly situated doctoral candidates from different parts of the world, to the opportunity to immerse myself in different interdisciplinary fields, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”

The intellectual stimulation was sterling, said participants. But others also remarked on the emotional impact of mingling and exchanging ideas with colleagues again after the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Being engaged in doctoral studies alone can be a very isolating, even without a pandemic, said Kerry Watkins, who chose to pursue doctoral studies at Osgoode after a career as a police officer and investigator.

“Attending the Agora allowed me to connect with other people engaged in the same process,” he said. “I found it to be a value-added experience, particularly having the opportunity to hear about other people’s work and their related challenges.”

The Agora was also a welcome relief for doctoral student Odelia Bay, who said she found pursuing her studies extremely difficult during the pandemic in her role as a single mother with a disability.

“This was an important way of coming back to the academic community and my work,” she said, “and it was nice to be in a very supportive and welcoming environment.”

“I think it’s terrific that we had the opportunity to meet and work with colleagues from all over the world,” she added, “and I’m really glad that Osgoode hosted it this time because in the past it was out of reach for me.”

Many of the students said the Agora’s PhD dissertation workshops this year were especially valuable because, in a new twist, they presented someone else’s work instead of their own. In the process, they gained new perspectives on their research.

The series of interdisciplinary lectures presented by Osgoode professors throughout the week had a similar impact, said Òní.

“They opened my mind to how different fields and theories of law can inform my PhD dissertation,” she said. “The sessions on writing and book publishing also prompted me to begin to think about future plans for my research.”

Osgoode PhD student Ephraim Ajijola said display of Osgoode’s depth of legal knowledge gave him renewed pride in being a student at the law school.

“That’s one of the reasons I came to Osgoode,” he said. “You feel proud you have these professors around you.”

Looking back on the week, he said, “it was no doubt useful, no doubt impactful and something you’ll carry with you for a long time.”

This year’s Agora Summer School, which has been run since 2008 by the Association of Transnational Law Schools (ATLAS), involved students from Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Law in Israel, Erasmus School of Law in the Netherlands, the University of Antwerp Faculty of Law in Belgium, the Sutherland School of Law at University College Dublin in Ireland, Université de Montréal Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Law at the University of Graz in Austria. The theme for this year’s event was “Interdisciplinary and Public Facing Approaches to Legal Research.”