Dr. Jean Michel Montsion is an assistant professor in the International Studies Program at Glendon College (he also happens to teach my Monday morning class). Dr. JM is an engaging lecturer with an effervescent personality, who is helpful and approachable outside of the lecture hall. This past week, we sat down to discuss the IS Program, university life, and a little bit of his life story.
EP: In two sentences, what is International Studies?
JM: International Studies is an interdisciplinary field that looks at issues above and below the state level. The idea is to understand complex issues, rather than to try and give a brief, snappy explanation about them.
EP: Tell me something interesting about yourself.
JM: I’ve had many lives before becoming a professor, including singing, performing, training civilian police of West Africa, and even starting to train for a marathon.
EP: Wow! Now I’m curious… How did you become an IS professor?
JM: I didn’t have a clear path, but through various working experiences, I realized how I was missing teaching. For me, being a professor enables me to combine a passion for research and a passion for teaching, allowing me to be part of a great institution as well.
EP: Why are you passionate about IS?
JM: I’m not a big fan of “why” questions, I’m more interested in “how” questions. When I find something interesting, I want to know everything about it, and that’s where the “how” and the passion comes in … I want to understand everyday life experiences that shock my own prejudices and redefine normality.
EP: How can a student judge if the International Studies Program is right for them?
JM: You’re getting different perspectives from geography, from law, from political science, from sociology, from anthropology, from economics, and you’re getting a method to combine these insights. Look at the [courses], [and make sure you are] passionate about something.
EP: How can students really succeed in this program? Do you have any tips?
JM: Create your own tips – it’s university! The whole point is that you are responsible for your learning, so you have to be engaged with your professors, you have to be passionate about your assignments, and you have to be involved in your community.
EP: Any last pieces of wisdom?
JM: If you want to buy durian, make sure it’s frozen before you transport it to your house*.
Also, don’t consider your university learning as separate from your life. It’s all linked together – the brain is a wonder. At the oddest moment, five years after your studies, you’ll wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about methodologies for no reason. But in the same way, everything else you do in life will inform your learning in university, and will create a path for where you’re going.
This post is part of the 2 Sentences Series. Every answer given by the interviewee must be 2 sentences or less. This time, however, I needed to make an exception for Dr. JM’s last response. It was too good to shorten!