University of Lethbridge master’s student Francis Ayotte (BA ’23) discovered his passion when, during his undergraduate studies, he switched from digital audio arts to political science. Here, he discovered an enthusiasm for writing and researching, paving the way for his exploration of nationalism and political identity in his MA thesis.

My research is based on nationalism and political identity, particularly as they relate to democracy. I hope to look into questions of self-determination and political autonomy for minority nationalist movements. Although I have just started this research, my biggest takeaway thus far is how often I have altered the research question and plans for the thesis as I expand my knowledge and refine the proposal. While it is certainly messy, it keeps me engaged and constantly interested, and that is part of the fun of researching!

Meet Francis | Artist. Friendly. Open.
Program: Master of Arts | Major: Political Science
Hometown: Calgary, AB

Why did you choose ULethbridge?

I chose ULethbridge because of the presence of friends and family in the area. I also enjoyed talking with professors in the faculty, and luckily, one faculty member (my supervisor, Stephanie Kerr) had very similar academic interests to mine and was quick to be responsive and helpful.

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Did you know what you wanted to study before you came to ULethbridge?

It changed quite drastically. I entered ULethbridge in the digital audio arts program. During COVID I switched to political science, as I found an appreciation for writing and researching through music history courses and wanted to branch out to topics I found important and interesting.

What is your research based on?

My research is based on nationalism and political identity, particularly as they relate to democracy. I hope to look into questions of self-determination and political autonomy for minority nationalist movements. The case study I use is the Basque Country in Spain. Although I just started this fall, I was recently able to attend my first conference in September (Prairie Political Science Association) and present a paper and its findings, which I hope to publish in the near future! Again, although I have just started, my biggest takeaway thus far is how often I have altered the research question and plans for the thesis as I expand my knowledge and refine the proposal. While it is certainly messy, it keeps me engaged and constantly interested, and that is part of the fun of researching!

What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience?

I think my most memorable experience was the whole process of overcoming COVID and finishing my degree on a high note by making it onto the Dean's Honour List in my last term. It will always stick with me. I did my best and remember most of those 4000-level courses because they were so inspiring and interesting to grapple with as they pushed me to think about things on my own and think critically.

How have your professors impacted your education?

My professors have had a massive impact. One of the primary reasons I felt comfortable continuing into a master's degree here was that I knew the political science faculty members were so open to discussing ideas and hearing me out on questions, and helping me out when I asked. My supervisor, when I first mentioned I was interested in grad school, was extremely helpful and responsive, providing me with plenty of resources to start thinking about what that would look like.

Francis has an unbounded curiosity and a passion for learning, that drives him to seek out new puzzles and explore new connections. – Dr. Stephanie Kerr, Department of Political Science

Have you received any scholarships and awards?

I have received several awards as an undergraduate and a few as I begin my graduate studies. They have been crucial to my success in getting to where I am now. Especially with rising costs, being able to focus on research and school has become harder and harder. Without those awards, I don't think I would be where I am today.

In your free time, what do you like to do? What are your favourite hobbies?

I mostly end up creating music, as I will always have a love and appreciation for production and composition. In the digital audio arts program, I was able to refine those skills, though nowadays it is more of a hobby.

What are the top three things you like to do in Lethbridge or around Lethbridge?

  • I like to go to coffee shops (Sonder and the Penny)
  • I enjoy going to the theatre to watch new movies at the mall.
  • I love hiking through the coulees in the summer

What are your hopes/plans for the future?

I hope to move on to a PhD in political science as soon as I finish my master’s. I hope to someday do ethnographic research, likely in Latin America, on related topics such as identity building and sub-state nationalist movements and how they relate to the process of democracy.

What advice would you like to give those about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?

Go along for the ride! As I understand it, most students end up switching majors at some point during their time at university, and it is a good thing! I definitely had no idea I would find political and social science to be as interesting and engaging as it is. And I would never have figured that out without experimenting with other courses and fields.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

COVID and the loneliness and isolation everyone felt definitely took a huge toll on me physically. Seeing that I could get through that and finish my degree has been a big motivator for me.

Quick Answers

Favourite class: POLI-4300 Terrorism and Extremism
Favourite social activity at ULethbridge: Just getting to talk about ideas with peers
Favourite place to study: During undergrad, the library. During grad studies, the grad student office.
What are three awesome things about you? I love composing music. I can play three instruments. I love to take trips to go hiking in the Rockies and Waterton.

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