Cultural understanding begins at home for Vanier Scholar

(Edmonton) As a former track and field coach, University of Alberta doctoral student Janine Tine knows a few things about challenges and competitions.

But the challenge before her—the one that forms the basis for her being one of 10 recently announced Vanier Canada Graduate Scholars from the U of A—is as much personal as it is professional. The married Métis grad student with two children, one just three months old, is exploring how bicultural children are raised and understood by their parents—and how the information can be used by early childhood educators to ease this group’s transition into school.

Tine is among top faculty, staff and students being recognized at the university’s annual Celebrate! Teaching. Learning. Research event Sept. 19. All are welcome to attend the event.

Tine says that with a growing number of immigrants to Canada, the likelihood of intercultural marriages to Canadian-born spouses creates an opportunity for parents to identify how they are raising their children, and how their culturally constructed home environment transfers to school.

“There are taken-for-granted ideas of how children should be raised. It’s something you can’t necessarily articulate; you just think, ‘Well, this is just the way it should be,’” said Tine. “In my research I want to draw out, through interviews, parents’ understandings and views—their parental ethno-theories—so that these can be taken into the context of the early childhood classroom.”

Married to a Senegalese Canadian, Tine says she understands first-hand the transactional process of raising children in a bicultural environment. Among the several couples she will interview, she’s hoping to document the experiences of another Aboriginal person in a bicultural relationship to understand how two people, both from rapidly increasing populations, navigate child-rearing.

“I think there needs to be a better understanding of how these groups, immigrants and Aboriginal people, can work together and learn from each other,” she said.

Her U of A experience has been rewarding. Initially attracted to the university because of its reputation for excellence, she returned to work on her PhD at the urging of professors in the Faculty of Education. She feels fortunate to receive the Vanier award and feels a sense of responsibility to move forward and create opportunities for others.

“I’d like to give back by encouraging other people to step up to leadership positions. Sometimes people don’t take those positions unless someone provides them with the encouragement to do so.”

Her U of A experience has also been replete with leadership opportunities, including working on the Elementary Education Department Council, facilitating the first annual Alliance Pipeline Young Women's Circle of Leadership program and organizing the first annual Elders’ Forum for the Canadian Indigenous Language and Literacy Educational Studies on campus.

“I do have a passion for the Aboriginal culture. I believe success can be achieved by opportunities to both celebrate culture and further education,” she said. “That’s probably why there’s a trickling of Aboriginal culture throughout my research and in my activities.”

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, a $150,000 award that funds recipients’ research over three years, was developed, according to Vanier’s website, to “attract and retain world-class doctoral students and to establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning.” Tine hopes her research and her roles of student, academic and mother will encourage others to pursue graduate studies alongside family duties.

“Pursuing my PhD but still wanting to be there for my children and my husband—I think sometimes women think it isn’t possible, but it is,” she said. “It’s challenging… but that’s where I can be seen as a role model in that it is possible to do both.”