Dr. Judith Plessis

Judith Plessis has devoted her forty-year career to continuing education. Her leadership of one of the largest continuing education units in Canada was built on the strong foundations of her experience as a language instructor for adults, curriculum developer, academic researcher, coordinator and program director in continuing education.


An avid lifelong learner herself, Dr. Plessis pursued a PhD while raising her young family and working at UBC. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature in 1995 (UBC) after having completed her Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature almost two decades earlier at the Université de Nantes in France.


While teaching and coordinating conversational French courses at UBC’s Centre for Continuing Education during the 1980’s, Dr. Plessis developed distance education French courses for the BC Open Learning Agency. These pioneer programs in flexible learning reached adult students in remote parts of the province and spearheaded innovative approaches to language learning. During the 1990’s, Judith developed a dynamic, multicultural vision for adult language learners as Director of the UBC Languages, Cultures and Travels division. Dr. Plessis’ commitment to French and bilingualism in Canada led to the creation of the UBC French Centre/Centre de la francophonie de UBC in 2009.


Dr. Plessis took on the leadership of UBC Continuing Studies (now Extended Learning) in 2007. As Executive Director of Continuing Studies (2007-2016), she advocated for the important role of continuing education in fostering civil society. A member of the Deans’ Committee, she participated in developing the University’s strategic plan. She expanded the diversity of UBC continuing education programs and increased greatly the number of adult and international students served by UBC. Dr. Plessis fostered interest in continuing and professional learning across the University through new alliances with Faculties and Senate approved certificates.


New partnerships with other universities, associations and community partners were key to the innovative programming by program directors who received numerous CAUCE and UPCEA programming awards during her tenure. Dr. Plessis also expanded outreach and international programs through the development of summer programs, including institutes for Canadian and international professionals and destination programs for high school students.


Dr. Plessis provided community leadership throughout her university career. As a UBC senator and member of the Tributes committee, she chaired a sub-committee instrumental in UBC’s acknowledgment of its role during the relocation of Japanese Canadian students during WWII.


Dr. Plessis’ research, presentations and publications about continuing education, language acquisition and women writers and filmmakers have fostered conversations in Canada, the US, the UK, France, Australia and New Zealand.





– Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, bestowed by the French Government, 2019

– CAUCE Lifetime Honorary membership Award, for regional and national contributions to continuing education, 2019

– UPCEA literary award (honorable mention) for publishing Transformations: a history of UBC Continuing Studies, 2013

– CAUCE Programming Award as Program Director for Understanding Wine, a continuing education program, 2008



Selected Publications and Papers


Research Publications

“Leadership in Continuing Education: Leveraging Student-Centered Narratives,” Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education, co-authored with Dr. Marilyn Miller, CJUCE Journal: Vol. 40, No. 2, Fall 2014.

Transformations: A History of UBC Continuing Studies, publisher and foreword. Authors: Dr. Scott McLean and Dr. Eric Damer, Rhino Press, 2012. Free online version at https://extendedlearning.ubc.ca/about-us/mission-history/our-history/75-anniversary-book

“Reconstructing Myths: a Role for Adult Educators,” published by Education-Line, based on presentation with Dr. Marilyn Miller at SCUTREA (Standing Conference on University Teaching and Research in the Education of Adults) Conference, Warwick, England, 2010.

Women Filmmakers: Refocusing, co-edited and written with Dr. Jacqueline Levitin (SFU) and Dr. Valerie Raoul (UBC), UBC Press, 2002 and Routledge Press, 2003.

Published Language Acquisition Textbooks (including audio and video)

French 201 (co-author with Dr. Francis Andrew, Éléonore Tremblay and Jean-Guy Trépanier), first-year university credit course, Open Learning Agency, 1990.

French 030 (co-author with Christine Bernard), Intermediate Conversational Course, Open Learning Institute, 1981.

French 020 (co-author with Lise Maynard), beginner conversational course, Open Learning Institute, 1980.

Selected Academic Presentations Since 2006

March 2016: “Internationalization of Higher Education: Creating Global Citizens,” invited speaker at Presidents’ Forum, International Day, Dali University, China.

November 2015: “Leadership in Continuing Education in North America,” AARE (Australian Association for Research in Education) Conference, Perth, Australia.

September 2015: “Telling Your Story: Methods, Media and Metrics,” co-presented with Peter Moroney and Mary Holmes for CAUCE (Canadian Association for University Continuing Education) Western Deans Symposium, Vancouver, BC.

October 2014: “Planning the Stakes: A Financial Framework for Sustaining Non-Profit Programs in Profit-Driven Times,” co-presented with Mary Holmes, UPCEA (University Professional and Continuing Education Association) Conference, Las Vegas, USA.

April 2014: “University Visioning and Lifelong learning: A Leadership Role for a Central Continuing Education Unit,” co-presented with Mary Holmes, for UALL (University Association of Lifelong Learning) Conference, London, England.

February 2014: CAUCE invited speaker: “University Partnerships and Consortia,” Canadian Association of University Continuing Educators, Deans and Directors, Toronto, Ontario.

May 2013: “Transformations: Telling the Stories of 75 years of Innovation at UBC,” co-presented with Scott McLean (University of Calgary), for CAUCE (Canadian Association for University Continuing Education) Conference, Montreal, Quebec.

March 2013: “Is Lifelong Learning the New Holy Grail for Universities?” UALL (Universities Association of Lifelong Learning) Conference, Durham, England.

March 2011: “Empowering Part-time Learners: Roles for Adult Educators,” co-presented with Marilyn Miller (University of Regina), for UALL (Universities Association of Lifelong Learning) Conference, Stirling, Scotland.

March 2009: “Thinking Creatively about Partnerships.” UCEA (University Continuing Education Association), Institute of Deans and Directors, UCEA panel, Boston, Massachusetts.

January 2009: “Leadership in Continuing Education,” Guest Lecture by videoconference, Faculty of Education, University of Regina.

May 2008: “Downtown Deans Part II: Sharing a Transforming Opportunity,” CAUCE (Canadian Association of University Continuing Educators) Conference, London, Ontario.

April 2008: “Globalization of the Higher Education Market” panel, UCEA (University Continuing Education Association) Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana.

November 2006: “Rosenstrasse and New German Cinema,” XIII Biennial Film and History Association Conference, Melbourne, Australia.

November 2006: “French Across the Curriculum,” (AARE) Australian Association for Research in Education Conference, Adelaide, Australia.