Dan Cohen

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An economic geographer trying to understand how school markets are created by state power, Killam and Vanier scholar Dan Cohen explains that "we have to stop thinking about how people behave in markets as entirely driven by the actions of the individuals who exist within them."

 
The spread of education reform models
Faculty of Arts
Jamie Peck
Toronto
Canada
 

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Before pursuing my PhD I spent several years working as a municipal bureaucrat. While I found the job fulfilling, there were also questions I was unable to ask within the boundaries of my job. Returning to school at UBC has allowed me to pursue the questions I have wanted to ask for a long time.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

The Department of Geography at UBC is a fantastic place with faculty who I respect greatly. In particular, I was excited about the opportunity to study with my supervisor, Dr. Jamie Peck.

In fields like education, policy changes can have dramatic impacts on people's lives; therefore, I think it is extremely important to understand why these changes happen.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

You always hear people say it, but Vancouver really is a beautiful city.

What do you hope to accomplish with your research?

As someone who has worked in policy, I have experienced the pressure to produce quick fixes with few resources. Because of this I want to better understand why certain ideas become dominant and the impacts of their travel to different sites. In fields like education, policy changes can have dramatic impacts on people's lives; therefore I think it is extremely important to understand why these changes happen.

What has winning a major award meant to you?

It means that I can now undertake the research project that I envisioned, traveling with the policies I am studying in order to understand how and why they move.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

From my Master's degree I learned the importance of being flexible. Don't allow yourself to get tied up in how you envisioned your project. Be open to shifting directions.