Coming to Grips with Group Work

Already worrying about that upcoming group project on your syllabus?  Fifth year Interactive Arts and Science student Ellen Thornton brings you student advice on successfully completing university group projects.

As a new school year begins, almost every student is taking the first few weeks to look at their syllabuses and figure out their overall workload.  Typically you will see that the final mark will calculated based on a final exam, a couple of essays or labs, and some sort of a group project.  To some students, this may not be a big deal, but others may absolutely dread it based on past experiences or hearing horror stories from friends.

Fortunately, group projects don’t have to be as bad as they seem!  Here are some of the tips and tricks that I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) when it comes to working in groups over my university career.

Communicate Often

The biggest factor that will make or break any group project is how much you communicate with your group members.  Not only is it important for everyone to know exactly what their work is, but everyone needs to know who they are working with.

I once had a group presentation where no one knew each other in another class, until someone sent an email to our Brock emails.  The only problem was we never heard back from one member, so we continued our work without them.  Along comes the night before our presentation, everyone’s work is done, and we are just going over the finishing details, and the missing group member replies back asking when we were going to start working on our presentation!  Needless to say what we thought would be an easy night ended up being incredibly stressful trying to find something for them to add.

From experience I learned that it’s incredibly important to keep up communication with group members in order to make sure everyone is included.  If someone is not responding, keep sending messages in case the first one never goes through, and even try talking to your group members during class breaks or after class if you finish early.   Conversely, if you have not heard from any of your group members, try reaching out to them in order not to get left behind.  Who knows, you might even be the one who gets the project started!

Start your Work Early

The other main factor of a successful group project is starting as early as possible.

Many professors assign group projects and have students create their own groups early in the semester, to give them time to work together and juggle the rest of their classes.  However, if you are the last group to submit your work it may be tempting to wait until later in the semester to start working on it.  The biggest issue with this strategy is when exams start coming up, and everyone is spending their free time studying and completing final assignments. This makes it much harder to find a time for the entire group to come together and work on the project.

The best way to work around this problem is to meet with your group early in the semester.  If you really want to start early you can talk to your group members the day that the group is made.  At the very least you can put a face to the name of your group members, and if you’re ambitious, start coming up with general ideas for topics.  This way, everyone can begin doing their parts while their course load is still relatively light.  Who knows, the project may even be finished early and then everyone has one less assignment to worry about!

Have Fun with it!

Almost every lecture, seminar and tutorial that students will attend throughout the semester will involve the professor explaining a certain topic and having to write down as many notes as possible in order to prepare for the final exam.  While this is very informative, it can get less interesting doing the same thing week after week.

Group projects give students the opportunity to bring some excitement back into the course by letting them become experts in a certain topic and in most instances, teaching the class their findings.  It also allows for students who are part of the audience to potentially gain a better understanding of a certain topic because it was being taught in a different way than the professor would have taught it.

Some of the most memorable group presentations that I have seen while at Brock have been when a group is clearly passionate about their topic, because they got creative about how to present it, or included really interesting resources and examples.  If you are able to choose your own topic, pick something that everyone has a common interest in; or if you are assigned a topic, try to find a specific area of interest, or something you would like to continue researching.

For example, a group that was teaching the class about the evolution of technology in the everyday home talked about a “smart” litter box that connected to the owner’s phone to track their cat’s health.  Choosing such a unique and somewhat odd example kept me interested in listening to the entire presentation.  The presentation was also really helpful when I began working on my final assignment because I had learned a lot about their topic.  If everyone enjoys what they are working on, it will feel less like a tedious assignment and more like an enjoyable learning experience that the audience will immediately pick up on.

Overall, learning how to work in a group is not only an important skill for university, but it is essential to life after graduation.  In almost every career path there will be a need to work with other people, and being able to successfully work collaboratively to create quality work is incredibly valuable.  Hopefully with these tips you will be able to embrace and enjoy the opportunity to work with others and create something even better than what could have been done individually.

For other resources about group projects or other assignments check out Brock’s A-Z Learning Services

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Welcome Back!

Welcome back to Brock!


The first few weeks of term are busy, and we know you have a lot of information coming at you. Here are a few links that will help you get your semester started right.

Did you miss first year academic orientation? You can find the PowerPoint on our website under “Student Resources.”

Need to speak to an Academic Advisor about your courses? Here’s how to connect with Liz Hay and Michael Gicante.

Want to keep up to date with the latest Faculty, department, and program events? Check ExperienceBU.

Unsure where your classes are? Find all the campus maps you need here. Don’t forget about the campus app!

Looking for your course syllabus, readings, and handouts? They might be on Sakai. Login to Sakai with your Brock ID here.

Plan ahead! Find all the key dates, including holidays, course drop/add, and exams here.

Need to find the room number or meeting time for a course? Check the timetable online.

And finally, join us on social to keep up with latest news and events.  You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Academic Orientation for New Students

Are you starting at Brock this fall? Don’t forget to register for Academic Orientation on September 4th! You’ll find out all you need to know to get your semester off to a great start.

Register online at ExperienceBU with your BrockID:

If you have been accepted to general Humanities or to a specific Humanities program, please come to our Faculty orientation session on Tuesday, September 4 at 10:00 in the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre.

The Faculty of Humanities includes the following undergraduate programs and departments:

  • Centre for Canadian Studies
  • Department of Classics
  • Centre for Digital Humanities (IASC and GAME programs)
  • Department of English(includes Writing and Rhetoric and Creative Writing programs)
  • Department of History
  • Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (MARS)
  • Department of Modern Languages, Literatures & Cultures (includes French, Italian, Spanish, German)
  • Department of Philosophy
  • Department of Dramatic Arts
  • Department of Music
  • Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture
  • Department of Visual Arts

You can find other O-Week events at

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Studying James Joyce in Italy

English MA students Jerika Sanderson (left) and Monica Sousa (right) spent a week studying James Joyce with scholars from around the world. A highlight of their experience was meeting the director of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation, Fritz Senn.

Brock MA students Monica Sousa and Jerika Sanderson have returned from a week of summer school— in Italy.

The two students were among this year’s participants in the annual Trieste Joyce School, held in the university town of Trieste in northeastern Italy.

The school brings together poets, authors and Joyce scholars from around the world each summer to participate in a week of seminars, lectures and cultural events.

Sousa and Sanderson attended daily lectures and seminars specific to Joyce texts each day of the week-long school.

The two learned about the opportunity while taking a fourth year English course on James Joyce’s Ulysses with Professor Tim Conley and were inspired to apply after hearing more about it from students who had attended in previous years.

“Other participants were all different ages, had different educational backgrounds, and were from different countries, so there was a huge range of perspectives on the topics we discussed,” says Sanderson, who, along with Sousa, participated in afternoon seminars on Ulysses at the school.

“I enjoyed hearing the perspectives of other students in the seminars I attended, but also the thoughts of Fritz Senn, a big name in Joyce studies and Director of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation,” says Sousa.

In addition to their academic activities, the students also participated in a variety of cultural activities, including poetry readings, walking tours of Trieste, attending an Italian opera, and a dinner at the Slovenian border.

Joyce spent nearly 11 years between 1904 and 1920 in self-imposed exile in Trieste, where he immersed himself in the daily social, cultural, and political life of the city and forged important literary friendships.

While there, Joyce finished Dubliners and wrote A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Exiles. He also began Ulysses. The city was also a source of inspiration for Finnegans Wake.

“It’s a fantastic experience, and I’ve sent a few other Brock students to the school in the past,” says English Professor Tim Conley, who has taught at the school twice. “Students always come back very pleased and enriched.”

Although Sousa won’t be working on Joyce when she starts her PhD at York University in September, she values the experience of learning how to apply different theories to literature.

“The school offered me an opportunity to learn about new works and approaches that suit my interests and will come in handy to me as a graduate student,” says Sousa.

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Student Spotlight: Victoria Reid explores the human form in her award-winning art

Victoria Reid was recently honoured for her artwork, which was on display at Rodman Hall Art Centre as part of the Turnin’ this Car Around exhibition in April.

The eye-catching pieces were hard to miss.

Made from everyday materials, the headless human forms could be seen cascaded down a wall within Rodman Hall Art Centre, drawing attention and sparking conversations among visitors.

Created by Victoria Reid, the pieces were featured during the VISA 4F06 Honours exhibition, Turnin’ this Car Around, in April, but continue to earn the young artist praise.

Visual arts graduate Victoria Reid has been awarded the inaugural Marilyn I. Walker Textile Art Award.

The June graduate was chosen to receive the inaugural Marilyn I. Walker Textile Art Award for her work. The honour is given to a graduating student for a piece of textile art and is intended to support the student’s continued artistic development.

Reid’s figures, made from yarn, fabric scraps, plaster and packing tape, challenge the viewer to see bodies as objects taking up space.

“The bodies are not human without their contents,” says Reid. “These sculptures embrace the oddity and the awkwardness of the human body, focusing on the fact that we are weird masses of matter and, together with soul, we become beings.”

Reid says for as long as she can remember, she has been intrigued by textiles.

“They have so much personality and can be handled with a variety of different methods to morph them into something new,” she says.

It was her grandmother who taught her how to weave, stitch, sew, knit and crochet at an early age.

Reid applied these more traditional ways of working with textiles to new ideas to create her award-winning work and cites Walker’s own work as inspiration.

“Marilyn I. Walker’s piece in the first floor hall inspired me greatly this year with the variety in colour and texture, and the stitching together of different fabric patterns and materials,” she says.

Reid’s pieces are cast from her own body and lend drama to the philosophical question of the mind-body dichotomy, writes Associate Professor Derek Knight in the exhibition catalogue.

“References to the human body are rarely benign and Reid is no different when she describes her plaster figures as symbolizing the existential dilemma between spiritual life and physical existence,” he writes.

Reid will be continuing her arts education this fall at the University of Western Ontario, where she is enrolled in a Master of Library and Information Science program to study Collections and Archive Management.

“I want my future career to work with, influence and inform my art practice,” says Reid, who continues to create, show and sell her art. She is also working with Brock Visual Resources Librarian Lesley Bell for the summer.

“Being awarded the Marilyn I Walker Textile art award means so much to me,” Reid says. “Working with textiles in my art is what I do and being awarded for something that I have worked hard on and put so much energy into is a great feeling. It makes me feel not only proud of myself, but thankful for all of the friends, family, peers and instructors who have helped and supported me along the way.”

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Visual arts professor among those honored for contributions to the arts

Visual Arts Associate Professor Derek Knight.

Visual Arts Associate Professor Derek Knight.

A Brock professor known for his contributions to arts education was honoured for his longstanding efforts at last week’s 2018 St. Catharines Arts Awards.

Visual Arts Associate Professor Derek Knight was presented the Arts in Education Award at the June 4 celebration.

“I am thrilled and humbled by this recognition, and thankful to those dear colleagues who took the initiative to nominate me,” says Knight.

“My various roles at Brock over my 30-year tenure as a teacher, art historian, curator and administrator have provided me with many opportunities to interact with the community in both profound and lasting ways.”

Knight served on the Rodman Hall Art Centre Advisory Board from 2003 to 2015, and on the User Committee in support of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.

He currently teaches courses in 20th century European and North American art history and contemporary art and theory, and works with MA students in the Studies in Comparative Literatures and Arts program.

Knight is also a past director of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

“When I assumed the directorship, our objective then was to plan and build a state of the art facility in support of innovative studio or performance degree programs and history or cultural theory degrees,” says Knight.

“The impact of this transformative project on the University and community at large has been profound. It remains a testament to our collective efforts and to the legacy of Mrs. Walker, our remarkable benefactor.”

Knight nurtured a legacy of productive relationships among the departments making up the arts school, says current MIWSFPA Director David Vivian.

“Through all aspects of the development and building of our school and leading to the opening of the facility in 2015, Derek has been a generous, indefatigable mentor to us.”

Also presented during last week’s celebration was the Emerging Artist Award, sponsored by Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

The honour’s two recipients included Markino Jareb, a multidisciplinary visual artist and DJ whose work has been described as an “intersection of street culture, the dance floor and the gallery walls,” and Jessica Wilson, a multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter who has performed in theatre, as a soloist with various Canadian symphony orchestras and at various acoustic shows across Niagara.

Also recognized during the event was Shauna MacLeod, founder and director of the Willow Community, who received the Jury’s Pick Award for her exceptional commitment to the arts in St. Catharines. The non-profit arts organization, based at Rodman Hall, provides free artistic training and exhibition opportunities to community members with lived experience of mental health and addiction.

The Arts Awards have promoted St. Catharines artists and cultural industries and honoured cultural leader since 2005. Recipients receive $500 to support their work and a certificate or a hand-crafted award.

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English prof appointed new Associate Dean in the Faculty of Humanities

Professor Neta Gordon will begin her term as the Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Curriculum in the Faculty of Humanities on July 1.

In her new role as Associate Dean, Undergraduate Student Affairs and Curriculum in the Faculty of Humanities, Professor Neta Gordon looks forward to supporting students and programs.

“The first-year space is often a difficult one to negotiate, especially for students who are new to the ever-changing university,” says Gordon, who starts the new role on Sunday, July 1. “A lot of my interest in the undergraduate experience emerges from thinking about how to make that space lively and productive.”

A Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, Gordon has taught first-year students almost every year since arriving at Brock in 2002. Her teaching has been recognized with the Brock University Faculty of Humanities Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2011.

Gordon’s experience as a Chair of the Department of English Language and Literature taught her the importance of setting up conditions so that faculty can do their best, she says, and she looks forward to encouraging connections between disciplines.

“I think students gain so much from serendipitous interdisciplinarity,” she says. “I’d also like to encourage more knowledge sharing among my colleagues about our teaching experiences and our pedagogy.”

In addition to serving two terms as department chair, Gordon has served on the Academic Review Committee, the BUFA Negotiating Committee and Grievance Panel, and the Undergraduate Student Affairs Committee of Senate.

“Dr. Gordon has extensive administration experience at Brock which will stand her in good stead as Associate Dean,” says Dean Carol Merriam. “I am very pleased that Dr. Gordon will now turn her impressive talents to the work of the Faculty of Humanities in this new role.”

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English student Rebecca Alcock becomes Brock’s 100,000th grad

Rebecca Alcock

Rebecca Alcock celebrates becoming Brock's 100,000th graduate.

English Language and Literature student Rebecca Alcock became Brock’s 100,000th graduate at Spring Convocation on Friday, June 8. Read all about it in the Brock News and see our photos on Facebook!

Kicking off the next 100,000 graduates with the Faculty of Humanities!

Kicking off the next 100,000 graduates with the Faculty of Humanities!

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Award-winning prof not shy to tackle difficult topics

Department of Classics Professor Allison Glazebrook was honoured with the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching at Friday's Spring Convocation ceremony.

Department of Classics Professor Allison Glazebrook was honoured with the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching at Friday's Spring Convocation ceremony.

For Professor Allison Glazebrook, teaching is about creating a dialogue with students.

The recipient of this year’s Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Faculty of Humanities believes teaching is about fostering a community of learners who support each other while learning how to disagree respectfully.

“I value an inclusive classroom that engages and empowers students,” says Glazebrook, a professor in the Department of Classics. “I am always game to try new teaching methods and embrace the challenges teaching offers. It is as much about my own growth as the growth of my students.”

Glazebrook, who was honoured with the teaching award at Friday’s Spring Convocation ceremony, encourages regular discussion in her classes and offers students options in how they demonstrate research literacy and competency in their final assignments.

Carol Merriam, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, awards Professor Allison Glazebrook with the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Friday, June 8 Spring Convocation ceremony.

Carol Merriam, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, awards Professor Allison Glazebrook with the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Friday, June 8 Spring Convocation ceremony.

“As a professor of Humanities,” she says, “my goal is for students to come out of my classes with greater confidence in their abilities as thinkers, public speakers and writers, as well as enthusiasm for learning in general.”

Glazebrook takes teaching beyond the classroom, supporting students in their yearly scholarly symposium, mentoring students and twice leading summer study tours of Greece.

“She has a reputation for excellent mentorship both in and outside of the classroom,” says Department Chair and Associate Professor Angus Smith. “Her teaching brings her influential research into the classroom.”

Glazebrook’s research focuses on women, gender, sexuality and slavery in the Ancient Greek world, and particularly on how prostitution affected women’s lives across ancient Athenian society. She doesn’t shy away from teaching these difficult topics in her courses.

“Such material provides an opportunity for thinking critically about topics that remain controversial or socially problematic today,” she says.

Incorporating her research into her teaching and involving students in her research by examining texts and images in class with students has also led her to many new projects.

“Letters and evaluations from her students and colleagues demonstrate how well respected she is as an educator,” says Associate Dean Brian Power.

“It is clear to the Office of the Dean that Professor Glazebrook embodies all the qualities we value as educators in the Humanities.”

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History prof appointed Interim Director of MIWSFPA

Associate Professor of History Elizabeth Vlossak will take on the role of Interim Director of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts on July 1.

Associate Professor of History Elizabeth Vlossak will take on the role of Interim Director of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts on July 1.

Associate Professor of History Elizabeth Vlossak will be become Interim Director of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts on July 1 when current Director David Vivian begins a year-long sabbatical.

“I’m really looking forward to continuing to strengthen our community partnerships and perhaps develop new ones,” says Vlossak. “I’m thinking of ways to bridge the Humanities so that there is more interaction and collaboration between the MIWSFPA and other departments on the main campus.”

Being a historian, Vlossak says she loves how “the city’s past has been preserved in a way that is relevant to the present, while also looking to the future,” in terms of the MIWSFPA building. But the school isn’t just the building. “It’s the people — students, faculty and staff — doing incredible work that enriches Brock as well as St. Catharines and the Niagara region.”

Vlossak’s research area is 20th century European history, with particular interest in cultural history during the two world wars, women’s history, gender and nationalism, and memory and the politics of commemoration.

She is a founding member and Associate Fellow of The History Lab, a collaboration with the Niagara Falls Military Museum, Seedling for Change in History, and Associate Professor Maria del Carmen Suescun Pozas.

Vlossak has also consulted with the Department of Dramatic Arts on two Mainstage productions, Ring Around the Moon (2006) and The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (2016), sharing her research specialization with students and contributing to their successful performances.

“The executive of the school is particularly excited by Associate Professor Vlossak’s record of community engagement through undertakings such as The History Lab,” says Vivian. “We look forward to her contribution to existing programming and relationship building with our community partners, as well as her unique new initiatives.”

“I’m very pleased that Professor Vlossak is willing to take on the role of Interim Director of the MIWSFPA,” says Faculty of Humanities Dean Carol Merriam. “Professor Vlossak is an active, energetic, and imaginative teacher and scholar, and will bring those same qualities to the work of the School.”

Vivian, Associate Professor with the Department of Dramatic Arts, has been Director of the MIWSFPA since 2016. He teaches theatrical design, production and stagecraft in addition to designing sets and costumes for Mainstage productions.

“The directorship is an unusual job involving work with faculty, staff, students and external partners, and Professor Vivian has balanced all of these demands very effectively,” says Merriam. “I wish him well of his rightly-deserved sabbatical.”

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