The University of Winnipeg’s Dr. Félix Mathieu has been awarded one of Canada’s most prestigious academic prizes.
Dr. Mathieu, who joined UWinnipeg’s Department of Political Science as an assistant professor in 2021, was honoured with the Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal in recognition of his outstanding scholastic accomplishments while a graduate student at Université du Québec à Montréal, where he completed his PhD in 2020. His doctoral thesis, Fragile Nations: Comparative Sociopolitical Trajectories, centred on the ways in which diversity is handled in federal and unitary systems of government.
“Winning this, it’s a great distinction,” said Dr. Mathieu. “You invest so much doing your PhD, put in so much energy, that obtaining this medal… I just feel grateful.”
Dr. Mathieu’s feat is particularly extraordinary given Université du Québec à Montréal presents only one gold medal for students in its PhD programs and only 86 students across Canada received gold medals in 2021.
For PhD students, the award takes into account not just the doctoral thesis, but also grades, accomplishments, and distinctions received during an individual’s period of study. Applications for the award are submitted by the student’s institution.
In fact, it’s in part due to the institutionally submitted application, and that the PhD student is then recognized by the university at which they studied, that Dr. Mathieu only recently was presented with his medal.
Dr. Mathieu initially learned in early 2022 he had won the medal, but prior commitments had kept him from returning to Montreal. Mary Simon’s appointment as Governor General and subsequent casting of new medals bearing her name also resulted in delaying Mathieu’s receiving of the honour.
For his part, Dr. Mathieu is simply overjoyed to have his work recognized.
“As a scholar, we work individually,” he said. “We are on our computers, we write books, we do our stuff, and at some point we hope that other people are interested in what you do. But when you get this kind of recognition from academia, from the university itself, without asking for it, it also tells you, ‘I’m a valuable member of this community.’”
Reflecting on his journey to the award, Dr. Mathieu acknowledged Université du Québec à Montréal’s political science professor Alain G. Gagnon, under whom he studied and with whom he forged personal and professional bonds. He said Gagnon’s guidance was integral to his growth as an academic, and Dr. Mathieu added his approach to interacting with and guiding students of his own has been influenced by Gagnon.
In addition to the Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal, Dr. Mathieu is a past recipient of the National Assembly of Quebec’s 2018 Political Book Prize and was recently named the co-editor of the Canadian Journal of Political Science.
The Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal has been awarded for more than 150 years and former Prime Minsters Pierre Trudeau and Kim Campbell, as well as Saint Boniface’s Gabrielle Roy, a French-Canadian literary icon, figure amongst the recipients. The medal was conceived by Lord Dufferin, Canada’s third Governor General in 1873 in an effort to encourage Canadian academic excellence.