Kellian Gordon: Using French in a Francophone workplace

Humanities students have many opportunities to put their skills into practice, and several  programs offer internship opportunities. We spoke to Kellian Gordon, a fourth-year French student who has just finished her internship with SOFIFRAN. SOFIFRAN supports francophone women and children in Niagara through social, economic, educational, and cultural programs. Kellian will be graduating this spring and starting her MA at the University of Toronto in the fall.

FREN4P05 French Internship is taught by Associate Professor Jean Ntakirutimana in the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Culture. Student internships may include health care, tourism, translation, community services and business.

Fourth-year French student Kellian Gordon has finished her internship with SOFIFRAN and is preparing to embark on her MA studies at University of Toronto.

I was astonished at how many doors were opened to students that are a part of the French program at Brock….This internship has allowed me to have real-life opportunities to use the French language in a Francophone workplace. I was put in an environment where I could apply the theoretical knowledge I’ve acquired throughout my courses within the French program and apply them in real life situations.

What has surprised you most about the internship?

I was pleasantly surprised at the range of co-op opportunities we were offered as they seemed to touch all interests from the medical, educational, administration, arts, entertainment or even sports management–the course seemed to have it all!

I was astonished at how many doors were opened to students that are a part of the French program at Brock. Indeed, many other comparable internships don’t have access to a developed francophone community such as the one that can be found in the Niagara region.

We had the opportunity to discover this by participating in workshops led by prominent members of the Francophone community who offered to share their professional experiences. I was thrilled because it reinforced my understanding of the plethora of opportunities that are at your fingertips when you speak French.

What was the most challenging thing that you experienced?

Public speaking has always been a challenge for me and so being the leading spokesperson of a panel was an obstacle I had to surmount. Since I aim to become a professor, I understand that this is something I will have to get accustomed to and my internship with SOFIFRAN made me realize that the journey to achieving that level of comfort can be extremely fulfilling.

I also struggled to stay afloat in managing my classes, co-op, and work schedule. Although this often made me feel discouraged, it helped me develop better organizational and technical skills to manage a busy schedule.

How has this internship prepared you for your MA at the University of Toronto?

This internship has allowed me to have real-life opportunities to use the French language optimally in a Francophone workplace.

I was put in an environment where I could apply the theoretical knowledge I’ve acquired throughout my courses within the French program and apply them in real life situations. The administrative work that I was trusted with allowed me to approach French from a business perspective and enabled me to develop thorough knowledge and vocabulary that will assist me throughout my future professional endeavours.

Overall, this internship has offered me the strength in knowing that I finished my undergrad in French studies by means of theoretical and experiential learning. The cultural activities, the intellectual encounters, and the resources available to me have all contributed to making me a suitable candidate to pursue an MA in Francophone Postcolonial Literature at the University of Toronto in September.

You mentioned organizing and moderating a panel of artists and writers as part of your SOFIFRAN work. What was the panel about?

Moderating a Black History Month panel of artists, writers and entrepreneurs that was financed by the Canadian Heritage and organized by SOFIFRAN as a part of my internship has represented for me the opening to a whole new world, the mixing of cultures, the meeting of people and sharing of diverse ideas.

In the francophone world, a process of reconciliation requires that we acknowledge the hard truths of our history. If we are sincere in our desire to create an inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous society, we must begin by making amends with the communities that have suffered injustices.

It is in this light that the panel question revolved around whether Black history month should go beyond February so that the subtleties of intercultural communication continue to be nurtured – both inside and outside Black community organizations- instead of being reduced to a month. It was incredibly humbling to be surrounded by panellists that had contributed so much to the francophone and black community. Their wisdom made the discussion that much more enriching.

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Hayley Wilhelm: Reflections on finishing a degree during a pandemic

In this special blog post, Social Media Intern, and now Brock grad, Hayley Wilhelm reflects on her experience finishing her degree in the midst of a pandemic. 

By Hayley Wilhelm (BA ’20)

As I walked through the newly built Rankin Family Pavilion at Brock University just after 2:00 pm on Friday the 13th of March, I received an email regarding the quickly spreading virus COVID-19. What I didn’t realize at the moment was that this would be my last time walking through the Brock University hallways as a student.

Brock professors and officials have provided students with many online resources to help them cope with this stressful time, including mental health counsellors and extended online office hours.

The email I received informed students that Brock University would be closing for the rest of the winter semester due to the severity of the COVID-19 virus. All in-person classes, meetings and events were cancelled, and students were encouraged to stay home to reduce the spread of the disease. Many students, including myself, were left to wonder how they would continue their studies when they cannot leave their own homes. For me, working from home is very difficult as I am easily distracted and find it hard to focus for long periods. When doing course work, I usually go to the Brock library to get my work done. Now that Brock was closed and a quarantine has been put in place, I had no other choice but to try to get my work done at home. I know many students who were also in my position were anxious about how this outbreak would affect their education and their position as they enter the workforce. Thankfully, Brock professors and officials have provided students with many online resources to help them cope with this stressful time, including mental health counsellors and extended online office hours.

For first-year Brock students, this news encouraged them to leave the school’s residences early, with just over a month left in the academic term. Jayde Solomon, a first-year Kinesiology student, said that the process of moving out was “stressful and overwhelming, especially since we were expected to move out in such short notice.” She also noted that it was sad to end her first year at Brock in such a way, as she did not get to say goodbye to many of her friends.

Jayde is from the Cayman Islands and decided it would be best for her to return home to be with her family during the pandemic. Since returning, Grand Cayman has shut down its airport and is currently only allowing British Airways to come into the country. Jayde made the tough decision to end her first year early but is excited to continue her studies back on campus next year.

Since the pandemic, I think we have all realized how reliant we are on technology, and also how thankful we are for the way it allows us to still connect while being apart.

On the day Brock received the news, I had been at school to meet with my mentor Alison Innes to talk about my internship and what I was planning on getting done over the weekend. Alison had been working on producing a podcast called Foreword, where she would talk to Brock University professors about their research. At the beginning of my internship with her,

Alison had asked if I would like to be a part of her podcast and help her with planning and recording. I had happily agreed to help her with this amazing project and could not wait to begin recording. I was tasked with recording my segment called Quotable, where I would question professors on an area in their study and they would have two minutes to give a detailed answer.

This Friday ended up being my first and only recording. Many of our scheduled podcast times were now cancelled, as professors were now working hard to move the rest of their lectures, seminars and exams online. This pandemic has not only affected the students at Brock but also its professors, who are now working extra hard to ensure that their students have access to all the resources needed to complete their semester. Due to many of our guests having to reorganize their months, Alison and I have had to rethink how we would like to approach our recording and how we can still make a podcast while not being able to leave our homes. One of the methods that Alison suggested is that we rely on post-production editing to merge separate recordings into one. To do this, Alison, our guests and I will record our parts on our own and send them into Alison who will have them edited. Our editor, fourth-year student Serena Atallah, will merge the audio to make one recording. Since the pandemic, I think we have all realized how reliant we are on technology, and also how thankful we are for the way it allows us to still connect while being apart.

The fourth year IASC group, The Hierophant, pose for a group shot in Cairns Complex.

Throughout this academic year, I had been working on many things that now had no real purpose anymore, which is very stressful for me. One of those things is my fourth-year capstone project, which is a visual novel that my team and I have been creating since September. Our game was originally supposed to be taken to the Level Up student showcase in Toronto in April, but due to the pandemic, was cancelled at the end of February. This was upsetting for all of us because we did not know how else to showcase our work. Our professors worked tirelessly to find a new way for us to publicly show off our work, but with the severity of COVID-19 and the worries of it spreading in the area, they made the unfortunate decision to not host any public events for our safety and the community’s safety. Our group was now left to decide whether we think it is best to finish our work or to just polish up what we already have for grading. With many of us not wanting to go into the game industry, it’s hard to visualize the game being finished now that its purpose has completely changed.

This has got me thinking as to whether assignments are solely about assessment or if there is something more to them. Yes, we can use our work to prove our skills and to showcase ourselves in our portfolios but is there something beyond just receiving a grade.

For me, the friendships I have made the past four years through my classes are what make the long nights doing work worth it. Completing my capstone project no longer just meant going into classes and meetings, it was about the time I got to spend with people who had the same ideals and interests as me. Although the initial purpose has changed, the enjoyment of working with this team has not.

“Overall the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting quarantine has dramatically impacted the IASC 4L00 capstone project,” says Anna Lang, producer of The Hierophant. “It has made our team focus on the larger impacts and the realization of how interconnected our team is through technology.”

Regarding the cancellation of many gaming conferences and playtest events, Anna says, “we have changed our scope, therefore the resulting end product, to ensure the safety and happiness of our entire team! While not being able to attend the LevelUp conference was disappointing, we are happy to say we have submitted The Hierophant to the ESAC Student Video Game Competition through the Entertainment Software Association of Canada.”

With the academic term coming to a slow end, professors had no choice but to move their lectures online, pushing back due dates and even having to change the format of their exams to better suit the unforeseen quarantine. While moving classes online was a very smart and flexible choice by Brock, it still caused stress on students who now feel strained to complete their studies without access to the resources provided by Brock on campus. Although we have had to move things online, professors and Brock staff members have come up with some very interesting ways to connect with students. Many professors have begun using Microsoft Teams to host their large lectures, as the app allows you to have over a hundred participants. The Brock International Instagram page hosted a talent show for its followers, where international Brock students could submit a video of their talents with the chance to win Skip the Dishes gift cards. Not only is this a great way for us to see some of the incredibly talented students at Brock, but it also brings some positive energy into this hard time.

Working from home can cause students to feel a lack of motivation and creativity which makes completing work that much more difficult.

“Something that has been difficult for me is the ability to focus and get work done at home,” says Maicy McIntyre, a third year CHYS student. “I’m the type of person who goes to the library or a Starbucks to get work done, so the quarantine has been hard for me in terms of getting work done.”

While working from home can be stressful, there are many ways you can make the most out of your quarantine period. Entrepreneur offers many great tips and tricks for those who are having to work from home during this time. One of the main tips that they note is communication. Communication is key in all work settings and in times like these it’s even more important. Having clear and concise communication with coworkers will make a huge difference in helping to distinguish what needs to be prioritized and how they should be completed. Many businesses are working from chat room style websites and applications, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom. The best part about these tools is that they allow you to have face-to-face conversations in real-time from the comfort of your own home. Thank goodness for technology!

Another great tip is to keep up with your usual everyday routines. Get up at your normal time, take a shower, get dressed, have some breakfast or coffee and find a spot to get to work. Keeping a tight schedule is essential to ensuring you stay on track, even planning out time to watch tv or read a book will be good practice and give you some time to take a break from your work. The hardest thing, and what I find the most important, is to remain positive through this whole experience. We have to remember that, although these are tough times, we are lucky to still have the opportunity to continue with our everyday tasks and keep productive. We can remain positive through many activities, such as listening to music, meditating and exercising and by safely interactive with others online. If you wish to learn some more tips and tricks to help with productivity at home, you can visit the following links to Inc., Buzzfeed and HuffPost.

The memories I’ve made at Brock and the people I have met over the years have made up for the difficult ending.

The most upsetting thing about this is that this was my last semester at Brock before I graduated, which was now cut short due to the on-going pandemic. I did not get to say goodbye to my friends in my courses or thank my teachers in person for all the support they have given me in the past four years. It’s sad to end it all this way, but the memories I’ve made at Brock and the people I have met over the years have made up for the difficult ending.

On Tuesday, March 31st, as I sat on the couch doing work with my other fourth-year roommates, Brock informed us through email that our graduation was now cancelled. Although we suspected it would end this way, it’s difficult to comprehend. Throughout our years at Brock, graduation was the final hoorah, the thing we have worked our hardest to achieve, and now we have been denied that celebratory moment. It’s hard to remain motivated or even attempt to feel that completing the rest of our studies is worth it if we don’t even get to properly graduate. Yes, we will get the diploma and the credentials, but because of the pandemic, we cannot even be acknowledged for our hard work.

However, there are many ways to find meaning without having a ceremony. We have worked so hard in our studies and we should all be proud of the things we have accomplished during our years at University. Brock’s President Gervan Fearon perfectly sums up all of our thoughts by acknowledging that the University is “acutely aware of how special graduation day is in the lives of you and your families and friends, who have sacrificed so much and worked so hard to earn the right to walk across the stage.” He also gives us some hope with the situation in mentioning that, “the University will work on options for spring graduates to be recognized or to participate at future ceremonies.”

My roommates Gillian, Emma, Teija and I posing for pictures in our homemade graduation caps. We could not keep a straight face the whole night.

One way that my roommates and I, who have all decided to quarantine together, made up for our graduation is by hosting our own. The six of us dressed up, did our hair and makeup, and moved all of our couches to the sides of the room to make a big stage. We hung up decorations on our walls and made awards for each person. It was so much fun being able to celebrate and just make the ceremony more personal to us and make it reflect our time at Brock. With our housecoats as robes, we made homemade graduation caps from construction paper. One of my favourite moments of the night was a video we made that had all of the videos and pictures we have taken together over the last four years. It was so amazing to see how far we have come and the people we have become over the past few years together. I definitely encourage others to try hosting their own graduation, whether you have to do a group video chat or just gather with those in your home. It is such a great way to not only lift spirits, but also to celebrate what we have accomplished.

There are many ways for us to make meaning in graduation without the need of a ceremony.

There are so many things that students all over the world will miss out on due to the pandemic, and it’s really important to remember that it is okay for us to feel disappointed or unmotivated during this time because it is a hard thing to go through and almost everyone is feeling the same way right now. There are many ways for us to make meaning in graduation without the need of a ceremony. The world acknowledges that we have missed out on a huge milestone and they hear our complaints, but we cannot be angry at our government or universities, because they have no way to control the situation at hand. Within a week, we were confined to our houses and denied access to everyday activities, including school and work. It is alright to be frustrated with the situation, but we have to think about the impact these negative notions could have on ourselves and other members of our households. The Nation Interest notes that social connection can help us to gain comfort during the pandemic and that through venting we can help relieve the tension we are feeling. If you wish to read more of the Nation Interest article, it offers some other great tips to help with coping and the benefits of social connection.

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Day of Digital Humanities 2020

To celebrate Day of Digital Humanities (#DayofDH2020) today, April 29, we’re sharing a piece by Dr. Aaron Mauro, an Assistant Professor with our Centre for Digital Humanities.

Digital humanities is an exciting field at the intersection of humanities research and technology. Be sure to click through to Dr. Mauro’s original post to meet researcher and Director of the Centre Dr. Jason Hawreliak and learn how he’s applied the tools from a degree in English Language and Rhetoric to interactive media.

The surprising and wonderful thing about DH is how it takes on a local flavour wherever it is practiced. The local culture of Digital Humanities in the CDH has placed a strong emphasis on interactive media, including video games, data visualization, application development, and many others. It is a distinct brand of DH that is heavily influenced by the spirit and ethos of game development culture. The CDH at Brock is housed within Faculty of Humanities and is both a research and teaching centre. If pressed to summarize the culture of the CDH, we’d have to say that collaboration is part of everything we do.

We host two academic programs, the Interactive Arts and Science and Game Design programs, both of which are generously supported through inter-departmental, inter-faulty, and even inter-institutional collaborations. Interactive Arts and Science enjoys great support from faculty across the Faculty of Humanities as well as from Brock’s own Computer Science program, within the Faculty of Mathematics and Science.

Similarly, the Game program benefits from a great partnership with Niagara College Canada, which means our students receive both a college and university diploma. This deep collaboration between our neighbouring institutions allows our students to benefit from the superb, technically intensive, training of a college environment and the broader questions and critical training of a humanities degree.

Our students are developers and storytellers. They are critics and makers. They are burgeoning creative professionals who are interested in questions of community and collaboration, but they are also having a blast while they do it!

Our labs are expertly equipped to both develop and test games. Playtesting is a critical part of the development cycle, but it is also just a lot of fun. In some ways, playtesting is the moment when the critical and technical come together most. Students are trying to break things. They see where the failures are in the code and try to make them better.

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Brock students celebrate Black History in Niagara

By Elizabeth Vlossak, Associate Professor of History

On Sunday, Feb. 9th, more than thirty Brock students, staff and faculty members of the Seedling for Change in History Brock Collective (SCH) enjoyed an academic community engagement field trip to the R. Nathaniel Dett Memorial Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church in Niagara Falls to celebrate Black History and Heritage.

Twenty-eight students enrolled in HIST3P00 (Ideas and Culture Since 1800) and HIST2P09 (Modern Latin America), including international exchange students from Australia, England, India, Mexico and the Islas Canarias in Spain, and students with Colombian, Ecuadorian, Egyptian, and Polish ancestry, attended the annual fundraising event to support the restoration and preservation of the Chapel, built in 1836, and formally recognized as a National Historic Site on the Underground Railroad in 1999. A special service, led by the  Reverend Lois Dix, was followed by a luncheon, ‘social hour’ and gospel concert featuring the legendary Big John ‘T Bone’ Little. The group also met local historian, curator, advocate and educator of Black history in Niagara Dr. Wilma Morrison, watched the film Wilma: The Story of a Black Canadian, directed and produced by award-winning filmmaker Ayo Adewumi, and made a significant contribution to the fundraiser.

This was the second of three field trips organized by SCH to celebrate African Heritage Month.

On Feb. 8th students and community partners visited the Underground Railroad Heritage Center in Niagara Falls, New York where they were given a special tour by Salladin Allah, a direct descendant of Josiah Henson.

On Saturday, February 29, students will attend the official opening of ‘Black Military History of Niagara,’ a new permanent exhibit at the Niagara Military Museum, and participate in ‘The Making of the Exhibit’ workshops. They will also attend a special screening of Honour Before Glory, a documentary film written, produced, and directed by Anthony Sherwood, about Canada’s only all-Black battalion, the No. 2 Construction Battalion.

The field trips have been a collaboration with Mexican-born Canadian Salomé Torres and Quebecer Joël Marier, owners of the HI-Niagara Falls Youth Hostel and champions of local Black history since the hostel’s opening in 2015, and The History Lab. They have been generously funded by the Dean’s Discretionary Fund for the Faculty of Humanities.

The SCH field trips are open to all Brock students, students on leave, faculty, staff, friends and family.

For more information please contact the Seedling for Change in History Brock Collective at: |


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Mackenzie Roe: Behind-the-scenes experience in social media

By Mackenzie Roe

Over the past semester, I had the opportunity to participate as this year’s Social Media Intern for the Faculty of Humanities at Brock University. As a Social Media Intern, I was able to manage Brock University Faculty of Humanity’s social media accounts, conduct interviews with professors and professionals and gain important skills for my future.

Mackenzie Roe

As my first assignment, I was tasked to write a blog post about all the clubs that the department of Humanities offers at Brock University. Through the process of creating the blog posts I reached out to individuals who represented the clubs in which I was writing about which included conducting an interview with Liz Hoffer, the president of the Brock University Archaeological Society. Creating blog posts was a unique experience as I was obtaining small pieces of information which I was able to connect into a cohesive story for students at Brock University. It was almost like I was building a story from the ground up. Through the process of creating blog posts, I also was tasked to contact Administrative Assistants to confirm if clubs were still active or not. The blog posts help to clarify what clubs were removed, added or still running during this school year. Reaching out to representatives of the clubs helped to improve my personal interviewing skills and fostered an interesting story for both students and faculty to read.

On Oct. 9, I was given the opportunity to take over the Faculty of Humanities Twitter account. I was tasked to live tweet about a workshop MiniWarGaming was holding and inform students about the ventures and passions of the company. At the workshop, I had to actively listen to the presentation so I was able to capture, highlight and summarize the necessary information and then formulate it into a twitter post. Live tweeting the workshop allowed those who could not attend the presentation the ability to receive a detailed recap of the event. This task improved my listening skills and also required speed, accuracy and time management to accurately relay the important information to those who follow the Brock Humanities Twitter account.

I was tasked to film the Fall 2019 Convocation and to create a video that captured all the important moments of our graduating students. This video was meant to compile the experience so students can remember their accomplishments for a lifetime. This entailed filming the event for several hours and attempting to capture the right angles. Time management was key, as three days after the event the video was due. The editing process had to be done in a quick but professional manner. The video was then published and displayed on Brock Youtube channel for students to watch and reminisce. This task helped me to improve my filming skills and relied heavily on efficient time management and video editing skills.

On Oct. 21, I created my first news story for Brock University Faculty of Humanities. The news story captured an accomplishment of a retired Brock University professor; Angus Somerville. He had been working on creating the textbook Viking-Age: A Reader, which his new edition would replace the chapter on women with one that focuses more broadly on gender. The chapter hoped to open new discussions on gender and analyzed gender roles in the Viking world. The writing of this news story improved my writing skills, and also required investigation skills and time management.

During the week of Nov. 11-15, I was given the opportunity to manage all the Brock University Faculty of Humanities social media accounts. I was given the ability to curate all the content released on every platform during that week. This required writing and proofreading skills, effective time management, and the ability to be available at short notice to make any adjustments needed for posts.

In conclusion, I am extremely grateful for the experiences, skills and knowledge I have obtained over the course of this internship. Alison Innes’ mentorship has helped to foster and improve skills that I can use in the future. Seeing both the passion and skills Alison uses for as the social media coordinator for the department was a great eye-opener to what exactly goes into Brock University Faculty of Humanities social media platforms. The skills I have learned for both completing tasks and watching Alison will continue to help me in the future. I would like the thank Alison for the opportunity as I have seen my existing skills grow immensely and some new ones take form as well. This internship opportunity will continue to help me grow in my future endeavours and I will always be thankful for this position as a Social Media Intern.

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Bringing the ancient world to life in CLAS1P92

Ancient history may have a reputation for being dry, but one Brock University professor has found a way to show it is anything but.

Students Leslie Czegeny, Kyle Edwards and Liz Hoffer took Associate Professor of Classics Katharine von Stackelberg’s Roman Civilization class (CLAS1P92). Von Stackelberg brings the ancient world to life for students using a role-playing game (RPG).

Katharine von Stackelberg, an associate professor in the Department of Classics, noticed the difficulty students sometimes had with reading ancient sources.

This inspired her to find a more engaging way to learn about Roman history.

“The sources are dense; they’re written in a style that’s not very accessible for modern readers, but they’re absolutely essential reading to understand the impact of the arc of Roman history,” she says. “I was looking for ways to get students to engage with primary sources.”

A long-time fan of role-playing games, von Stackelberg wondered if such a game might help the 380 students in her Roman Civilization course better understand the complexities and nuances of Roman society while building relationships with their peers.

Von Stackelberg found the popular role-playing game, Reacting to the Past, pegged to elite male figures of history and major events. Wanting something that reflected the complexity of the ancient world and that would allow students to examine how things actually functioned in ancient society, von Stackelberg settled on family structure for her role-playing game.

“The game really puts into context what was happening; for example, various religious practices were reserved for various statuses and genders,” says third-year student Liz Hoffer. “You can read about it in a book or put yourself in that perspective and really understand what it meant.”

Students in each seminar were divided into three family groups (familia) and took on characters reflecting the different social levels of the ancient Roman family. Students whose character died came back as slaves or freed people, reflecting the changes that happened to the Roman family through history.

“It helped to enhance learning because you were carrying over something you were talking about in lecture into seminar, and then you were actively role playing it,” says student Leslie Czegeny. “Even though I was a slave character, I was involved in the familia’s decision making. You had to know about the other roles in your family. You couldn’t be a passive member”

Each week’s seminar dealt with a particular theme, such as the economy, religion, military or funerary practices. The familiae were faced with various challenges and had to make decisions based on what they were learning in lecture and in their readings.

“A lot of writings are by and about men, so you have to filter through everything and think about what it means for you as a slave’s perspective,” says student Kyle Edwards, whose own role was that of a Roman mother. “Slaves never got to write their own biographies. You have to filter through and figure out how it applies to your character.”

Seminars often lead to passionate discussions, as students felt invested in their characters and familia, says Hoffer.

“You had to be actively involved in seminar,” she says. “It was an amazing way to get to know people in your class and even lead to making new friends and meeting up outside of class.”

Originally published in the Brock News.

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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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