Guest lecturer talks history of Labatt’s Brewing

Author and scholar Matthew Bellamy chats with third-year History student Cody Smith while autographing a copy of his book Thursday, Nov. 21. Bellamy, an Associate Professor of History at Carleton University, was at Brock to talk about the history of Labatt’s Brewing and to launch his latest book, “Brewed in the North: A History of Labatt’s” (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019). His talk explored how entrepreneurship and bootlegging allowed Labatt’s to survive Prohibition and he answered student questions about the research process. The event was hosted by the Centre for Canadian Studies and co-sponsored by Goodman School of Business. Autographed copies of the book are available in the Campus Store.

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Classics students host annual symposium

Twenty five students, friends and faculty gathered at Brock last week for the annual Brock University Archaeology Society student symposium Nov. 23. Organized by students for students, the symposium gives undergraduates the opportunity to present essays written for Classics courses and to discuss their work. This year’s topics included gladiators, 3D photogrammetry, Virgil and Ovid, and Etruscan tombs. Pictured here are student presenters Liz Hoffer, Sarah Murray, Michael Romen, Julia Minato and Kyle Edwards. Stacy Woods and Connor Coutts, who are not pictured, also presented.

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Pipeline to a Better Way

Brock’s Walker Cultural Leaders Series and the St. Catharines-based theatre company Suitcase in Point co-sponsored a series of events on equity, inclusion and diversity Nov. 9-10. Events included a  include a staged reading of Pipeline, a 2017 play by Dominique Morisseau, the title of which refers to the widespread perception of a school-to-prison pipeline for young African American men. Read about the event in Brock News.

Brock Dramatic Arts student critic Alexandra Chubaty Boychuk wrote this piece in the lead up to the event, Pipeline to a Better Way. This article originally appeared on DARTCritics Nov. 5.

“The broad thematic strokes of race, power, and privilege aren’t just contained within the walls of the institution; it’s happening in the professional arts community too. If honest conversations are had in the community, with the intention of learning and creating safer spaces for everyone, then we can prevent situations – like the inciting incident of Pipeline – from happening in real life.”

These are the thoughts of Suitcase in Point’s outreach coordinator Marcel Stewart on why the St. Catharines-based theatre company teamed up with Brock University to produce a staged reading of Pipeline, a 2017 play by Dominique Morisseau, the title of which refers to the widespread perception of a school-to-prison pipeline for young African-American men. The reading is part of a two-day series of events called Pipeline to a Better Way, which also includes community discussions around power, privilege, race and theatre in Niagara; and a keynote address by Ravi Jain, one of the most dynamic fiures in Canadian theatre, about innovation and leadership.

The questions these events are raising are very important, but they’re hard, and personally challenging for me. I still don’t have the confidence or the knowledge to know what to say or what to do. I’m a white woman – where is my voice in this? Should I even have a voice in this, or is it not my place? How can I make a difference without perpetuating the problematic narrative of the “white saviour”? This weekend may not be able to answer those questions, but at the very least we can start discussing things that, frankly, many of us have been too afraid to talk about.

That’s where we need to start – with an awareness of the issues going on around us and an openness to having those conversations. And audience members will get a chance to ask questions – at a forum and panel discussion with artists in the St. Catharines’ community on Saturday November 9, as well as a talkback and Q&A on the 10th with Cox, Jain, and cast and creative team members of the Pipeline reading.

DART assistant professor Danielle Wilson is spearheading the event, which grew out of her interest in Morrisseau’s play and her awareness that it would be difficult to stage at DART, because it requires actors of evidently different generations, but also because the student population is mostly white. “I was interested in presenting a play about a specific population that is not often represented on stage in our department or our community,” says Wilson. “The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts is a place of both learning and artistic creation and I felt the play was a perfect fit as part of the Walker Cultural Leaders series.”

Pipeline is the story of a young Black teacher’s struggle to protect her son, Omari, after he assaults his high school teacher for aggressively singling him out to answer why a book character behaved like an “animal” and murdered a woman. Omari believes he was being asked to be the teacher’s “token responder,” and that there was a more racializing subtext beneath the teacher’s request. This spirals into a story of heartbreak, love, loss, the struggles of parenthood, and the struggles of the Black community.

The staged reading at Brock is being directed by Toronto-based actor, director, and producer Lisa Karen Cox, and features a cast largely made up of seasoned and emerging professional actors, with Brock students also participating onstage and behind the scenes. Of the six-person cast, five are people of colour.

Cox explains that to her, the play is about “the trauma of exclusion and ‘othering,’” especially as it relates to Black individuals: “All of the characters are suffering from feeling helpless, hopeless and exhausted,” says Cox. “While their exhaustion is palpable, so is their fight to not to be helpless and hopeless; their fight to remain afloat. It is the fight that many groups of people may feel – but as a Black mother myself, there is a specific… pressure faced by Black people, by Black mothers, especially in the United States, where this play was written; but also here, in Canada. Our Black boys are graduating at lower rates than the rest of the population; the expulsion and suspension rates they are facing is higher than the rest of the population. How do we ensure that our Black boys are successful? Well, we can start by ensuring that they receive the same compassionate treatment as everyone else. We are often driven to protect our babies out of fear, but how do you protect your baby from the system?”

In a separate conversation, I asked Ravi Jain what we can expect from his keynote address around these questions about race, exclusion, and power. Jain is the artistic director of Why Not Theatre He is nominated for the 2019 Siminovich Prize for excellence and innovation in Canadian theatre directing, and is currently co-adapting and directing a co-production of The Mahabharata for the Shaw Festival’s 2020 season.

Jain promises that his address (for which there will be ASL translation) wis not going to be a lecture about how we’re failing as a theatrical community to represent people of various backgrounds, but rather assert that different perspectives are what make art interesting.

“I’m not here to be your dad and I’m not here to tell you what you’re doing wrong,” says Jain. “I’ll tell you that your art is crap… art isn’t interesting if it doesn’t have a spectrum of experience or perspectives. That’s where I’m coming from. Not just, ‘make that person black, make that person brown, make that a woman, make that a person with different abilities and now we can be proud of ourselves that we’re OK, in the eyes of God.’”

Although the terms “equity, diversity, and inclusion” are popping up more and more in discussions around theatre and culture more broadly, Jain is not a fan: “I’m not interested in using those words anymore… The words are really meaningless. You either do it or you don’t, and how you do it demonstrates to me how invested you actually are in the conversation. You’ve just got to read shit, you got to look around, you got to wake up to what’s happening and you’re either a part of that change or you’re the thing in its way.”

Terms he likes better are “innovation” and “future”: “Why do you ask Ravi to come and talk about equity, diversity, and inclusion? Why do you not come and talk to him about innovation, and the future of Canadian theatre? They have a very different sound to them. One is broccoli, and one is chocolate cake… Innovator is meaningful. Future of theatre is meaningful.”

An event like this – broaching such culturally hot topics and putting them into dialogue with an important contemporary play that treats those topics, involving our university population and the professional arts community – puts DART’s praxis philosophy into practice. It’s the first thing that happened like it in my knowledge of the Marilyn I. Walker School. Students, faculty and staff, and audience members will have the opportunity to engage with innovators and leaders in Canadian theatre who are also people of colour. As Jain says, it’s itally important to be aware of different perspectives and experiences. I encourage you to seize this opportunity to ask questions, gain awareness, get educated, and be a part of the future of Canadian theatre.

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Classics prof on lecture tour

Professor Allison Glazebrook (right) of the Department of Classics is currently touring Western Canada for the Classical Association of Canada’s lecture tour. She will be visiting and speaking at eight institutions, including the Universities of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Alberta, Lethbridge, Victoria, British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. Glazebrook spoke at the University of Calgary’s Department of Classics and Religion on the topic of ancient Athenian male and female sexual labour on Nov. 5, where she met up with recent Brock alumna Jesse Johnston (BA ’12, MA ’15). Johnston is currently working on her PhD in Classics at Calgary.

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Día de los Muertos celebrations in Niagara

Brock students and Niagara community members are coming together to celebrate Día de los Muertos this year. Here, third-year history student Nathan Harch (left) and Fonthill resident Duncan McNaughton (right), a participant in Associate Professor of History Maria del Carmen Suescun Pozas’ community Spanish class at the Pelham Library, prepares the traditional offerings of salt and sugar for the altar. The community is invited to events in Niagara Falls now until Saturday, Nov. 2. Tickets and details can be found on Eventbrite.

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Brock grad returns to share insights on Classics

By Mackenzie Roe

The Department of Classics welcomed graduate Maureen Carroll (BA ’75) for a special event on Monday, Oct. 28. Carroll met with current undergraduate and graduate students over lunch before giving a talk to department members on the role of fertility cults, votive offerings and women’s roles in early Roman religion. In the photo, she discusses a baby rattle in the shape of a hedgehog from the Department of Classics Cypriote collection with students. This specific artifact dates back to circa 323 BCE. Carroll is currently a professor of Roman Archeology for the Department of Archeology at the University of Sheffield in the U.K. Her visit followed a public lecture she gave at Brock on Sunday, Oct. 27 for the Niagara Peninsula Archaeological Institute of America on infancy and early childhood in Rome.

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Student clubs offer many opportunities to get involved

Today’s post is brought to you by Mackenzie Roe, a third year Interactive Arts and Science student and this semester’s Social Media Intern.

Looking to get involved? Brock University offers many clubs under a vast selection of faculties that encourages students to get involved and make new experiences on campus. Clubs on campus are a great way to show the Brock community your talents and interests while also making new connections and potentially gaining helpful contacts for your future endeavors. 

Colosseum at sunset

There are a lot of great clubs that could be of interest to students within the Faculty of Humanities. One of the many great clubs on campus include BUAS (Brock University Archaeological Society) which was founded in 1989 and is one of the oldest clubs that is still thriving at Brock. The club focuses on providing students historical knowledge and allowing them to partake in archival work, as well as fun monthly movie nights, where classic movies are displayed such as 300 and Hercules. BUAS also hopes to hold events such as wine tastings, a variety of enjoyable fundraisers and even festivals focused on classical plays.

“This year we are seeking opportunities in museum curation, conservation, and archaeological excavation. We are working on getting students involved in some archival work as well as working with artifacts,” says Liz Hoffer, this year’s president.

Liz, who is the President of BUAS, stated that BUAS is extremely fortunate to be a club that is supported by their department and because of this support they can work closely with Brock University Professors and other professionals. 

Liz is enthusiastic about students joining the club because she knows the benefits that students could have if they were to get involved, such as opportunities to improve on their public speaking, networking skills and resume building.

BUAS has two symposiums which are held every year to connect with new students who wish to get involved. The first symposium takes place on Nov. 23. Students are given the opportunity to present an academic paper on a classical topic in front of peers, professors, and other members of the community. 

The second Symposium is held on March 21, where experts in classics are invited to present on a topic of their interest. This year’s theme is “Sports in the Ancient World” and BUAS is expected to have guest speakers from all over North America. 

These symposiums are a great way for Brock University students to have the opportunity to network with professionals and make connections with peers. They are an opportunity “to support students and aid them in building a resume that will make them competitive for graduate school, funding applications and beyond,” explains Liz. 

Organizing the student symposium involves planning the venue and food. Students who wish to present at the symposium must submit an abstract for an academic paper focusing on a topic of classical relevance. The submitted paper then goes through an approval process. Those that are selected will have the opportunity to present their peer reviewed paper and then their participation counts as an academic presentation.

Students who have been selected to present can list the experience on their academic resume. BUAS members organize the academic symposium need to book a venue, organize food, speak with a variety of potential presenters from all over North America as well as take cost and accommodations for the speakers selected into consideration.

Students interested in joining the BUAS are encouraged to email buarchaeologicalsociety@gmail.com or contact their social media platforms listed below. Liz also added “Students are also always welcome to come visit the department of classics”, which can be a way to get involved in the Brock University community. 

Brock University’s campus has many clubs that may be of interest to new or soon to be graduating students. Joining a club and making new connections is never too late! All of these clubs offered at Brock provide many different experiences, engagement with students and learning outcomes and promote future success, therefore it’s up to you to decide what fits your interests and join.


Listed below are all student clubs that might be of interest to students within the Faculty of Humanities;

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Brock University Archaeological Society (BUAS):

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brock_society

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brocku_archaeology/

Email: buarchaeologicalsociety@gmail.com

Other link(s): https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/buas

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Westmarches Club:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1742828119373436/

Email: brockwestmarches@outlook.com

Other link(s): https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/westmarches

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Game Research & Development Club:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/GameResearch/about/?section=long_desc&tab=page_info

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Brock_GRDC

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brock_grdc/

Email: gamedevelopmentresearch@gmail.com

Other link(s): https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/gameresearch

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Brock Photography Club:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PhotographyBU

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrockPhotoClub

Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/brockphotoclub/

Email: brockphotographyclub@gmail.com

Other link(s): https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/brockphotographyclub

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Brock Musical Theatre:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brockmusicaltheatre/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brockmusicalt

Website: http://www.brockmusicaltheatre.com/

Email: brockmusicaltheatre@hotmail.com

Other link(s): https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/BMT

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Brock Art Collective:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/197378030398322/?ref=bookmarks

Email: brockartcollective@gmail.com

Other link(s): https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/brockartcollective

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Brock Dance:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrockDanceClub

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brockdance

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brockdance/

Website: http://brockdance.com/index.html

Email: brockdance5678@gmail.com

Other link(s):https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/brockdance

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Brock Improv:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrockImprovClub

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrockImprov

Email: brockimprov@gmail.com

Other link(s):https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/improv

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Creative Writing Club:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrockUniversityCreativeWritingClub/

Email: brockwriters@gmail.com

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Brock Philosophy Club:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/137209639660208/

Other link(s): https://brocku.ca/humanities/philosophy/philosophy-students-club/

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Brock English Students’ Association:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrockESA

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brockESA

Email: brocku.esa@gmail.com

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Brock University Historical Society:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brockhistoricalsociety/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrockHistorical

Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/BrockHistoricalSociety/

Website: https://brockubuhs.wordpress.com/news/

Email: brocku.buhs@gmail.com

Other link(s): https://brocku.ca/humanities/history/buhs/

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Brock Italian Club (BIC):

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/104751056301433/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brockitalclub

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brockitalianclub/

Email: brockitalianclub@gmail.com

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Brock French Club:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brockfrenchclub/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrockFrenchClub

Other: https://experiencebu.brocku.ca/organization/frenchclub

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Brock German Club:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/isaacbrockgermanclub/

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Parlanchín (Spanish Conversation & Cultural Exchange):

Email: parlanchin.brocku@gmail.com

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GAME students getting inside look at future of virtual reality

Fourth-year GAME student Mervin Hocson tries out Stormland, a new virtual reality game launched Wednesday at Oculus Connect 6 in San Jose.

The future of virtual reality (VR) goes well beyond gaming, and Brock students are primed to be a part of it.

“The best way to predict the next generation of VR is to build it,” said Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist at Facebook Reality Labs in his keynote address at Oculus Connect 6, a conference taking place this week in San Jose. “VR is in a good place right now. Realistically, we are still close to the beginning of what is going to be the biggest technological revolution of our time.”

That message was music to the ears of the Brock University GAME program students Adam Henderson, Kyle Jones, Gabor CSeh, Mehran Mansour Feizi, Robbie Jolley and Mervin Hocson, who were in the room as Abrash gave his address Wednesday.

Abrash predicts that VR has as much long-term potential as the personal computer and will become the most creative and collaborative environment that has ever existed.

Fourth-year GAME student Mehran Mansour Feizi (right) shares some of his design work with Tim Salvitti, Senior Community Developer at Insomniac Games, at OC6.

VR already goes far beyond gaming. Companies like Hilton, Nestle, Walmart and Ford are using the technology to provide training, build empathy, tour factories and accelerate vehicle design. Johnson & Johnson Institute is using VR to accelerate and improve surgeon training.

The fourth-year GAME students Henderson, Jones, CSeh, Mansour Feizi, Jolley and Hocson were invited to the important conference by Oculus, the Facebook-owned company that is leading the way in VR technology. The students’ VR design studio Digital Details, launched as part of a course project along with classmates Dylan Doyle, Caldon Bowden and Nick Anger, caught the attention of an Oculus startup program aimed at post-secondary students.

The six fourth-years spent two days at Oculus Connect getting a taste of the future and realizing how ready they are to embrace the challenges and opportunities ahead.

“For any student who’s interested in games, the best thing you can do is be ready to show you know how to make games by actually making them,” said Mike Daly, Lead Designer with Insomniac Games who was at OC6 for the release of Stormland. “For VR games specifically, getting exposure to what’s out there in VR is really useful, and then using something like Unity to make your own prototypes is the quickest and best path to success.”

It was Digital Detail’s VR game Magehem — designed and built by the Brock students — that led them to the conference, where they were able to show off the game to some of the top brands in the VR industry.

“Game development has a huge part that is theory and a huge part that is skill and ultimately you can’t do one without the other,” said Daly. “Lots of different skills are needed throughout the game industry.”

By the end of the first day of the event, the students were already thinking about the flexibility and adaptability of what they were learning in the joint Brock University-Niagara College GAME program.

“One of the things that Brock is really heavy on is teaching us to be ‘tools agnostic,’” says Henderson. “We learn the principles behind designing things, rather than being a taught a software platform. Then the Niagara College side is much more about tool mastery. You begin to see ways to transfer your skills to pretty much anything.” This includes important project management skills that can be applied to other projects.

“We’re learning the very basics of it so when a new system comes out, we have the knowledge already to be able to learn the tools,” said Jones.

The students are excited about the newest advances in VR technology and how things like virtual meetings and designing 3D objects in VR can impact their game design. They’re unanimous that being at the conference has been a beneficial experience.

“Just being here has prepared us to think about what we’re going to make with this technology,” said Mansour Feizi. “We get to be ahead of others who will be working with VR later.”

Kyle Jones, Robbie Jolley, Mervin Hocson, Gábor CSeh, Adam Henderson, Mehran Mansour Feizi at Oculus Connect 6 in San Jose.

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Making the most of seminars

Rick Castle (BA ’16, MA ’18 in Classics) has been both a student and a Teaching Assistant (TA) at Brock. During his three years as a TA, Rick has taught about 180 students, most of them in first year courses, in the Department of Classics seminars. In this post, Rick draws on his experience of seminars from both the student and TA perspectives to offer you insight on how to make the most of your seminar experience.

If you’ve just graduated high school, coming back to university after a break, or attending university as a mature student, you might be unfamiliar with Brock’s lecture and seminar system. You might be nervous about the idea of sitting in lecture or seminar, not knowing what to expect, or what will be expected of you. If that’s the case, then take the next few minutes to learn a little bit about what you can expect from your lecture and seminar experience.

My name is Rick Castle. I was a student at Brock for 8 years. For the 5 years of my undergrad, I was a student who attended seminars and learned from TAs and instructors, and for almost 3 years I was a TA and master’s student in Classics who taught undergraduates. My goal is to make you less anxious and more excited for your first classes in the Humanities, and at the end, I’d like to share 3 helpful tips that I found crucial to making my seminar experiences enjoyable and successful, and hopefully, you will too.

Rick Castle (far right) with fellow grad students at TAs Esther Knegt and Francesca Patten at the 2018 Classics graduate student conference.

Any student coming to university for the first time, or coming back after a long break can have difficulty adjusting to the lecture and seminar format of a typical humanities course. Whereas a high school student is consistently part of a 20-30 person class, a first-year lecture hall may be filled with as many as a few hundred students. Because of this, students may have trouble talking to their professors one-on-one. To remedy this issue, Brock’s Humanities’ lectures are also supplemented by smaller seminars. A seminar is similar to the high school classroom format, where about 20 students discuss the topic presented in that week’s lecture with one TA or Teaching Assistant. Typically, the instructor will cover a big topic during the week’s lecture, and your seminar will meet once a week for an hour to break down that week’s lecture with a conversation guided by the TA. A TA is usually a graduate student, an Master’s or PhD student teaching the material that they were taught during their undergraduate experience. In this case, the TA understands your position as a student because they were in the exact same position years prior.

A TA will be your primary point of contact in any course that includes a seminar component.

While instructors teach the material, TAs are often responsible for marking the work that you submit, but are also responsible for making sure that their students understand the material to the best of their ability. In an average first-year course, the seminar component accounts for about 20% of your final grade, including a participation grade given for how often you are present and the quality of the seminar’s discussion.

Your TA however, will likely also be marking the other components of your grade, like essays and exams. It’s important then, to talk to your TAs! If anything about the course is unclear or troubling to you, such as when an assignment is due, or what’s expected from an assignment, you can talk to your TA for clarification.

TAs are there to further your understanding of the material and to be a tool for you to succeed, so make sure you take advantage of this resource.

Seminars may seem daunting to some, as it usually requires students to speak about material or readings with which they are not entirely familiar and to do so in front of other students. However, it is crucial to understand that a seminar is meant to be a learning environment. Every student is in the same situation of learning this new material and can help each other understand better. The TA as well is in a position to help you and your peers succeed.

If you find participating in seminar difficult for any reason, talk to your TA one-on-one.

Most TAs are flexible when it comes to accommodating student needs, and with the instructor’s permission, can make seminar a more enjoyable, less stressful experience for you. Similarly, TAs understand that the university experience is a transitional one, and that problems can arise outside of academic life. If you find that you are dealing with issues in your life that make it more difficult to focus on schoolwork, let your TA know that you may need an extension or other accommodation. Every TA wants to see their students do well, and with the instructor’s permission, they can work with you to make sure that you don’t sacrifice academic success while dealing with life’s challenges.

TAs even have office hours once a week, which are often located in their department. During this hour, or by appointment, you can meet with your TA to discuss anything course-related. You can ask for clarification on course material, tips for writing essays, how best to go about doing assignments, about the program and department in general and more!

Over 3 years as a TA, I taught about 180 students, most of whom were first years, and from my experience as both a student and TA at Brock, I offer 3 tips to have a successful and fun seminar experience:

  • Show up to every seminar and hand in all your work. Seems like a basic tip, and in some ways it is, but it results in a world of benefits. By attending seminar, you will learn more about the material than a student who doesn’t. This will be so beneficial to you when exam time rolls around, and often, your TA will be able to provide insight into how to prepare for exams and how to write essays – information that instructors does not often provide. Also keep in mind that for every seminar that you do not attend, and assignment that you do not hand in, you throw away free marks that could boost your total grade, and your total average.
  • Get to know your TA. As I mentioned before, TAs are responsible for determining the majority of your grade, so talking to them about coursework and visiting them at office hours for advice can only improve the way in which you approach the material, and thus improve your grade. TAs have years of experience in the class material, and will be able to help you more than your peers and tend to be more available for consultation than the instructor.
  • Have fun. There’s nothing more boring and uninteresting than listening to an instructor drone on and on. Because the seminar class sizes are smaller than lectures, TAs can and should prepare activities to help their students learn. When you have fun in the classroom, even if it’s just by playing a silly game, you tend to retain whatever you learn for longer. Encourage your TAs to do class activities if they don’t already – university might be challenging, but it should never be boring.
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Community gardening and the Second World War

By Goran Irandost
HIST4P50 #BrockHistoricalGardens 

Goran and Kaylin will be providing free tours of their historical gardens on Wednesday, Aug. 28 from 4:15 to 5 pm. Come by and learn more about their plants and gardening process and taste some of the results!

Some of the plots in Brock’s community garden.

A community garden is exactly what its name implies; a piece of land gardened by a group of people. The types of gardens within these pieces of land may vary, but nonetheless, based on some research and my own personal experience, these community gardens typically involve individuals who work with one another to help each other succeed in their harvests. The very idea of a community garden can be dated back to the late eighteenth century in which owners would allocate certain pieces of land to tenants for the purpose of gardening.[1] Similar to the victory gardens that have been discussed throughout the following course, these early community gardens were focused on growing produce to supplement one’s diet.[2] The purpose of many of these gardens was to be self-sufficient; vegetables such as potatoes were of great significance as they were relatively easy to grow and an important part of one’s diet during this period.[3]

Edward Meyer Children’s School victory gardens on First Avenue, New York NY, 1944.

Although community gardens can be traced back to Europe in the eighteenth century, its popularity truly rose during the first and second World Wars. Countries such as Britain and the United States emphasized a need to grow one’s own vegetables to help maintain a healthy diet during the war. A great deal of effort was made to promote efficient gardening techniques and create a large enough supply that would help ease the effects of the rations on certain foods. Additionally, these gardens were linked to the war itself through the use of propaganda campaigns that focused on establishing these victory gardens as patriotic and for the good of the country. The extent of these campaigns were far-reaching and had a tremendous impact on society as millions of gardens were grown during the second World War alone. It is important to note that these governments did not trust their citizens knowledge of proper gardening techniques, and although both the United States and Britain promoted such teachings, the community gardens were another way to nullify these limitations and truly maximize harvests as individuals could help one another maintain the health of their crops.[4]

American Girl Scouts tend a victory garden.

The recent rise in popularity of community gardens can be attributed to a variety of reasons that are fairly different than what had occurred during both the World Wars. The need for an alternate source of food still persists, but according to Rachel Obordo of the Guardian, these community gardens are important in providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables in areas that are lacking economically.[5] Additionally, these community gardens also provide opportunities for individuals to socialize and engage in a group activity that rewards hard work with both a good harvest and important life skills.[6] In the age of social media and video games, it is sometimes necessary to re-connect with the more simplistic aspects of life in order to find a new and better perspective on life. These community gardens provide just that and its recent popularity can be understood as simply a way to reconnect with others on a more personal level.

Torosian Park community garden, St. Catharines, ON.

There are several community gardens in both the Niagara and St.Catharines regions. There exists some gardens in Niagara Falls that focus on growing fresh produce to donate to others in times of emergency. These gardens are promoted on the “Project Share” website and are a great way to help feed those in need through their emergency food program (link for website).[7] Unfortunately, I have only had the opportunity to visit one community garden prior to taking the following course. This garden was located in St.Catharines near Ventura Drive and was a community filled with local residents who all grew their own plants as an alternative fresh food source. I have a few cousins that had resided in that area who had a garden on that plot. In my very first observations of this community garden, it was very apparent how much my cousins relied upon one another to maintain the quality of their plants as they consistently watered and nurtured each other crops throughout the summer. They did such things not because they were asked to do so, but because helping one another makes working within a community garden far more enjoyable and much easier.

Having experienced life in a community garden, I cannot say that I have not enjoyed my time thus far. From the beginning of the course to the present day, I have not had a single bad experience working in my garden. My interactions with the other gardeners on the plot have been limited, but the help I have received from my professor and coworkers has been a key part of my gardens success.

I have been unable to tend to my garden as often as I would like throughout the summer due to a busy schedule. On a good week, I have visited the garden between two or three times, but most of the time I have only been able to attend once a week as part of the routine check-up. This has probably impacted the growth of my plants on some level. However, Professor Vlossak has been kind enough to water my plants upon her visits to the garden which has been a great help. She has also provided some natural fertilizer to help with the growth of my tomato plants which had looked slightly unhealthy.

Additionally, some of my coworkers were very helpful in the early stages of planning for my garden. These co-workers all have years of experience in gardening and provided information in regards to which plants were good to grow (the late start to the course had me slightly worried), and what to expect throughout the whole process.

Additionally, I have come to really enjoy conversations regarding gardening in general as it is not an exact science; people utilize many different methods and grow plants in their own unique way. One of the more interesting stories came from a coworker who stated that they played music for their plants on a regular basis. They did not promote this as a useful gardening technique, but simply something they found to be enjoyable and part of their growing process.

With all that has been learned throughout this course, the only thing preventing me from joining a community garden is the lack of time I have had to properly look after my garden. As someone that tries to enjoy new experiences, gardening has been both peaceful and extremely informative and is something that I look forward to continuing in my home in the future.


[1] N, Flavell.  “Urban Allotment Gardens in the Eighteenth Century: The Case of Sheffield.” The Agricultural History Review 51, no. 1 (2003): 96.

[2] Ibd 103-104

[3] Ibd 104

[4] Ginn, Franklin, Ginn. “Dig for Victory! New histories of Wartime Gardening in Britain.Journal of  Historical Geography. 298

[5] Rachel Obordo. “Fresh, Free and Beautiful: The Rise of Urban Gardening”. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/07/fresh-free-and-beautiful-the-rise-of-urban-gardening

[6] Ibd

[7]“Community Gardens”. https://www.projectshare.ca/community-gardens


Bibliography

Ginn, Franklin. “Dig for Victory! New histories of Wartime Gardening in Britain. Journal of  Historical Geography

Flavell, N. “Urban Allotment Gardens in the Eighteenth Century: The Case of Sheffield.” The  Agricultural History Review 51, no. 1 (2003): 95-106. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40275844.

Rachel Obordo. “Fresh, Free and Beautiful: The Rise of Urban Gardening”. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/07/fresh-free-and-beautiful-the-rise-of-urban-gardening

“Community Gardens”. https://www.projectshare.ca/community-gardens

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