New leadership for SdBI  

Concordia welcomes Geneviève Rail

By Anna Sarkissian

After commuting to Ottawa for the past 10 years, Geneviève Rail is happily settled at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute. “Cycling to Concordia over the summer was like nirvana,” she said. Magnifying glass

After commuting to Ottawa for the past 10 years, Geneviève Rail is happily settled at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute. “Cycling to Concordia over the summer was like nirvana,” she said.

Geneviève Rail fell in love with the spirit of Concordia – that's what brought her here. As the new Principal of Simone de Beauvoir Institute (SdBI), she has already rolled up her sleeves and set to work on new initiatives.

"Arriving here, I noticed that everyone is so vibrant. It's like a mushroom cloud of ideas," she said. "The institute is more than just a department. It’s a haven for feminist students and scholars, with excellent links to the community."

During a reception on the 11th floor of the EV Building on Nov. 11, faculty, staff, students and members of the administration, including President Judith Woodsworth, Provost David Graham and Vice-President, Research and Graduate Studies Louise Dandurand, officially welcomed Rail to Concordia.

Sociology professor Marc Lafrance talked about meeting Rail, who was his teacher at the University of Ottawa.

He spoke frankly about her significant influence on his academic career and her "almost uncanny knack for creating rich and diverse networks of like-minded researchers across Canada and Quebec."

"The institute really could not have asked for a better leader," Lafrance said.

Born in Ottawa, Rail completed her BA in sociology and a master's in human kinetics at Université Laval before receiving a full scholarship for her PhD in sociology of physical activity and health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After teaching at Laurentian University in Sudbury for five years, she joined the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa.

There, she served on the Joint Strategic Planning Committee for the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Faculty of Medicine and was a member of the Women's Studies Program Committee.

Rail was also instrumental in the development of numerous master's and PhD programs in socio-cultural studies of physical activity and health, women's health, physical activity and health sciences, and more. She served as Director of Graduate Studies for two years before becoming the Faculty's Associate Dean (Research).

Her research is centered on the intersection of race, culture, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. She examines conceptualizations of women’s bodies and health, how they are influenced by science and medicine. This semester, Rail is teaching a course called Health Issues: A Feminist Perspective.

Rail came to Concordia at a time when the SdBI is in transition. After negotiations with the other partners involved in the minor in interdisciplinary studies in sexuality, which is offered jointly by the Faculties of Fine Arts and Arts and Science, a new major is on the horizon. If approved by Senate, students in the major would be housed at the SdBI. There are also plans for a master's in women’s studies and a doctoral degree in gender and sexuality studies.

"The institute has a lot of potential. We have all the raw materials. My vision is to push forward on all fronts," Rail said, which includes revamping the curriculum, organizing regular research seminars, and bringing top scholars to Concordia in various speaker series.

Rail acknowledges that it's challenging to propose ideas for growth during an economic downturn. But she's confident that the university will see that the programs are viable and can strengthen Concordia's international profile.

"If we're creative, there are ways to make it happen. These obstacles are not insurmountable," she said.


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