Graduate Academic and International Specialists

Graduate Academic and International Specialists

The Graduate Academic and International Specialist team at FGS welcomes all graduate students to discuss any matter impacting academic success in a safe and confidential space. The team draws on training and experience in supporting all graduate students, and can also address some of the specific academic concerns of international graduate students.

How FGS can help

What the Graduate Academic and International Specialists do

FGS’ graduate specialists advise students based on knowledge of graduate policy and experience in issue resolution.

The team is most knowledgeable in areas such as student-supervisor relationships, personal or academic barriers to progress, annual progress reports, and general academic regulations. The team can also provide information to students regarding their registration and refer students to other helpful resources and supports across campus.

What you can get help with

  • Supervisor conflict
  • Policies and responsibilities regarding supervision
  • Issues impacting graduate studies
  • Failed first attempt at candidacy or thesis defense
  • Barriers to timely completion
  • Procedures for leave of absence or extension requests
  • Your rights as a student
  • Challenges with meeting your financial obligations

Areas of expertise

Student-supervisor conflict

This is the most common reason for students seeking advice and guidance. Once the team has an opportunity to hear your concerns and develop a complete academic picture, they can offer ideas and options that range from simple issue resolution strategies or coaching, to more involved conflict resolution processes. The vast majority of students encountering conflict go on to complete their programs of study successfully!

Academic options

Sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned. Whether the concern is related to a difficult personal circumstance or a specific academic challenge you are facing within the university, the team at FGS can help you understand the different academic options that may be available to you. The Graduate Academic and International Specialists are the right people to advise on questions regarding leaves of absence, extensions, changing programs, and voluntary withdrawal.

Where to go for additional help

There may be topics that fall outside of the FGS Advisors’ scope of advising. However, they can help students navigate resources and offer referral to experts across the campus who can advise appropriately. Here is a short-list of the most common concerns and who can help:

Resources to navigate serious events (e.g., political upheaval, social unrest, natural disasters etc.)

Teaching or research assistantships and other questions about funding

Courses (selection, advanced/transfer credit, grades, term work) and degree requirements

Health and dental insurance plan

Immigration advice and study permit information

Language, learning, and writing support

Preparing an academic appeal

Accessible, equitable and supportive learning environment for students

Impartial, independent third-party support on campus

Protected disclosures and research integrity issues

Sexual and gender-based violence support

Wellness and counselling support

Unsure if you should talk with FGS or someone else?

Start with your graduate program

Many students benefit from speaking with their graduate program director about challenges they are facing. Your graduate program director is a great resource because they hold discipline- and department-specific knowledge that may provide you with valuable insight or options to help you determine your next steps. Your graduate program (i.e, the director, administrators, or your supervisor) is often the best starting point for asking questions about courses, graduate assistantships, funding, and completing program requirements.

However, specific factors (membership on a supervisory committee or research collaboration with supervisors) may cause you to feel uncomfortable approaching your graduate program director, and the team at FGS encourages you to seek support where you feel most at ease. 

Your graduate specialists

Graduate Academic and International Specialists work with students from all backgrounds and programs, and are highly experienced in providing support tailored to each students' needs. 

Yan Zhang, Graduate Academic and International Specialist

Yan Zhang

Yan holds a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Calgary, an MA in English Language and literature and a BA in English Education in China.

With over twenty years’ working experiences as an advisor, faculty member and instructor in both Canada and China, Yan has accumulated rich experience in advising students on complex and non-routine academic issues. Yan has been supporting and advising more than one hundred graduate students per year at FGS.

When she’s not working with students, Yan loves to spend time swimming and reading with her family.

Marisa Norona, Graduate Academic and International Specialist

Marisa Norona

Marisa holds a MA in French Linguistics from the University of British Columbia and a BA in French Language, also from the University of British Columbia. She has over 15 years of experience working in International Education in post-secondary education and holds the designation of Regulated International Student Immigration Advisor (RISIA), enabling her to advise on immigration matters pertaining to temporary residents in the student category.

When not supporting students, Marisa enjoys many athletic pursuits, the outdoors, and spending quality time with her husband and three children.

Contact us

Book an appointment

To view available times and book an appointment, please log into the Learning and Advising Portal, click on "Faculty of Graduate Studies", select “Book by Appointment Type”. Appointments are available either via Zoom or in-person, on Main Campus (MT 230), on select days.

Book now


Not sure if FGS is the right place to go? Don’t see any available appointments online?

Contact FGS