BU student wins national award for thesis

May 8, 2018

BRANDON – A Brandon University (BU) Master of Education student has become the second BU winner in three years of a prestigious national award recognizing an outstanding master’s thesis.

Ebenezer Duncan-Williams is the recipient of the Margaret Haughey Award for the best master’s thesis in Educational Administration, presented by the Canadian Association for the Study of Educational Administration. The award was won by BU student Ayodeji Osiname in 2016.

Head and shoulders shot of Duncan-Williams standing in front of a white background

Ebenezer Duncan-Williams is the winner of the Margaret Haughey Award for the best master’s thesis in Educational Administration.

Receiving this prestigious award is amazing and it proves that with hard work and dedication from both educators and students, people can do great things,” said Duncan-Williams, who successfully defended his thesis in October 2017 and will receive his degree at Convocation on June 1, 2018.

Duncan-Williams’ thesis focused on developing an educational framework for young people who are in the justice system or are at risk of offending. With experience working in community corrections, youth intervention and education, Duncan-Williams had found resources in place for people with diagnosed medical conditions but none for those with no diagnosed root cause for their behaviour.

“I argued that where a young person is failing in school because of their choices, or other non-medical sources which often lead to poor life outcomes, educators must be radical and transformative in their desire to advocate for better life outcomes of the young people,” said Duncan-Williams, who lives in Winnipeg and works with youth for Manitoba Corrections.

Dr. Jacqueline Kirk, who is the Duncan-Williams’ thesis supervisor and the Chair of BU’s Department of Leadership and Educational Administration, said his research will give educators resources to help them reach a wider group of students.

“Ebenezer’s work makes an important contribution to the Education literature,” Kirk said. “Youth who are marginalized by their connection to the criminal justice system or by their risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system are challenged to find equitable opportunities in the Canadian school system. …

“Ebenezer’s thesis assists in building an understanding of the human potential of students in this situation and helps educators to be able to gain a vision for inviting them into learning communities, for recognizing their strengths, and for helping them to flourish.”

Duncan-Williams was raised in Ghana and moved to Manitoba from England, starting in the BU’s Master of Education program in 2014. Kirk has been impressed by Duncan-Williams’ commitment to his education and his family as well as the way he jumped enthusiastically into his new life in Canada. Kirk said that Duncan-Williams taught himself to swim so that he could take his children swimming, learned to skate by going out on the river by the Forks in Winnipeg each day, and taught himself to play guitar before forming a band in his church.

“For me, it was exciting to have the opportunity to work with Ebenezer Duncan-Williams,” Kirk said. “He is a strong student, a deep thinker, a kind friend, and in my opinion a remarkable person. He is interested in pursuing a PhD in the future and I am confident that he will be successful in that pursuit.”

Duncan-Williams’ thesis committee of Drs. Cathryn Smith, Alexa Okrainec, and Burcu Yaman Ntelioglou challenged him to make his thesis the best it could be, assisting him in developing a framework that merged his own prior knowledge with the findings from his study. One of the committee members, as part of her feedback to the first draft of his final document, took the time to develop a 3D model of his conceptual framework to help him critique and create a more complex design, helping to lead him to his final framework.

“It is extremely rewarding, not only to see one of our students achieve great success, but also to see the dedication of our faculty in helping out students to achieve their goals,” said Dr. Heather Duncan, Dean of Education at BU. “I applaud Ebenezer in his accomplishment and commend Dr. Kirk and the other faculty members for their efforts in helping our students reach their full potential.”

Duncan-Williams says the path has been challenging. His arrival in Canada meant delaying his goal of earning a PhD as he would be expected to complete a master’s degree here first. He also needed an extension in his visa to have time to complete his thesis. He said the caring of the faculty and staff at BU helped him to overcome those challenges.

“I was blessed to have the support and guidance of the most amazing and dedicated educator in the person of Professor Jackie Kirk,” Duncan-Williams said. “Despite the many challenges I faced as an international student in the areas of finance, access, food, health and general immigration limitations, I was able to make good of the resources I had. Small universities like BU continuously punch above their weight because of the profound, intentional, and obligatory resolve of educators to be accessible to their students. I have been involved in two small universities, and for both, I received awards for my thesis. I recommend Brandon University to all future world changers.”