Graduate Academic and International Specialists

We welcome all graduate students to discuss any matter impacting academic success in a safe and confidential space. We also draw on training and experience in supporting some of the specific academic concerns of international graduate students.

How we help

What we do

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

We are most knowledgeable in areas such as student-supervisor relationships, personal or academic barriers to progress, annual progress reports, and general academic regulations. We can also provide additional information to students regarding their registration.

What we can 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

Our expertise

Student-supervisor conflict

This is the most common reason for students seeking advice and guidance. Once we have an opportunity to hear your concerns and develop a complete academic picture, we 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 successfully complete their programs of study!

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, we can help you understand the different academic options that may be available to you. We are the right people to advise on questions regarding leaves of absence, extensions, changing programs, and voluntary withdrawal.

Issues we cannot address

There are some issues about which we are unable to advise. Here is a short list of the most common concerns.

Prospective students or admissions inquiries

Teaching or research assistantships; other questions about funding

  • Contact your Graduate Program Director

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

  • Contact your Graduate Program Director

Health and dental insurance plan

Immigration advice and study permit information

Language, learning, and writing support

Preparing an academic appeal

Wellness and counselling support

Unsure if you should talk with us 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, we recognize that specific factors (membership on a supervisory committee or research collaboration with supervisors) may cause you to feel uncomfortable approaching your graduate program director, and we encourage you to seek support where you feel most at ease. 

Your graduate specialists

Our 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”. We offer appointments on Main Campus (ES 1010) everyday and Foothills Campus (HSC G740) once a week.

Book now


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

Contact us