Students growing, researching historic gardens


Welcome to #BrockHistoricalGardens!

What roles have gardens played across time and cultures? What can gardens tell us about the past and about the societies that tended them?

This summer, two Brock University History students, Kaylin and Goran, will be asking and attempting to answer these questions as part of a directed research course, ‘Historical Gardening.’

In June they began researching, designing, planting and growing a historical garden of their choice in Brock’s community garden. Goran will be growing and researching Second World War Victory gardens, and Kaylin is growing and researching a medieval monastic garden.

Throughout the summer they will be writing about their gardening experiences and research on the Faculty of Humanities’ Instagram (#brockhistoricalgardens) and here on the Faculty’s blog.

Follow along to watch their gardens grow and the research take shape as our two student gardener/researchers explore the roles of plants in two very different time periods!


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Archaeological research project invites public participation

The Shickluna Shipyard operated from 1838 to 1891 along St. Catharines’ Twelve Mile Creek. The shipyard is pictured in 1864.

A ground-breaking research project on an abandoned plot of land will uncover an important part of St. Catharines’ past this summer, and the public is invited to participate.

Archaeological excavation at the historic Shickluna Shipyard along Twelve Mile Creek will start this July, and Brock’s Department of History is offering an archaeological fieldwork course open to students and community members.

“It will be an exciting research excavation and the first of its kind in Canada,” says Kimberly Monk, a maritime archaeologist and adjunct professor with the Department of History.

The fieldschool will run July 15 to Aug. 16. In addition to learning skills in archaeological survey and excavation, course participants will be trained in how to process artifacts and explore Niagara’s industrial heritage by visiting other key 19th century sites along the Welland Canal.

“We are delighted to involve Brock students and the Niagara community in our work at the Shickluna Shipyard,” Monk says. “They will be unearthing not only an important part of Niagara’s past, but one of Canada’s preeminent 19th century shipyards.”

“The fieldwork will answer key research questions about local and international trade, labour history, and the infrastructure of wooden shipbuilding, and highlight the connected legacies of port cities and their vital role in supporting community and economic development.”

The shipyard, one of two dozen established along the canal, was built by Maltese immigrant Lewis Shickluna, who is credited with building and repairing more than 200 ships between 1834 and 1894. In addition to the shipyard buildings and basin, he also built cottages for the workers.

Monk is hoping the team will find remains of the shipyard buildings, along with shipbuilding tools and possibly the hull of the schooner James Norris, a Welland Sailing Canal ship that was buried when the shipyard basin was filled in.

“The historic environment of the Welland Canals provides an ideal case study for understanding the maritime cultural landscape, with the potential for long-term research,” says Monk. Shipyards are an important part of the industrial landscape, where communities of skilled artisans participated in regional and global trade systems.

The two-year study of the Schikluna shipyard is being led by Monk and involves students and faculty from Brock, McMaster and Trent universities.

The project brings together experts in history, digital reconstruction and natural sciences. John Bonnett, Brock University Associate Professor of History, will be working with 3D modelling of artifacts and features found at the site. Colleen Beard, from Brock’s Map, Data and GIS library, will be contributing her extensive experience with Geographic Information Systems and the geovisualization of the historic canal.

Michael Pisarc, Professor with the Department of Geography and Tourism, will be examining paleoecological indicators to help understand climate change in Niagara. Joe Boyce, an Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences at McMaster University, will use geophysical and geo-archaeological methods to document coastline changes.

The project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Although the site will be closed to the public during excavations for safety reasons, Monk and the team are planning several open house days for interested members of the public to visit and learn more about Niagara’s important industrial heritage.

Details about the archaeological field school are available on the Department of History’s website.


This article also appeared in the Brock News.

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Highlights from Convocation June 2019

Convocation is an important celebration for all our graduates! Relive your special day with this photo montage of our Pre-Convocation Breakfast and the Convocation ceremony.


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Chantal Ross shares family story for World Refugee Day

Fourth year French student Chantal Ross shared the moving story of her uncle’s refugee experience as part of her course work. She created a graphic novel, which her uncle used to share his untold story with his own family. Chantal has shared it with us, in French and English (below) for World Refugee Day June 20. Her graphic novel was displayed as a video in the University’s Learning Commons.


En 1979, la révolution iranienne mène à la chute du Shah et à la création d’une République Islamique. Cependant, la République Islamique a mené une politique d’oppression et plusieurs personnes étaient assassinés pour leurs croyances contradictoires à ceux du Khomeiny.

Mon oncle, pacifiste et contre la guerre d’Iran-Irak, avait besoin de fuir son pays pour le Canada sinon la mort aurait été inévitable. Pendant le cours de FREN 4V65, j’ai créé une bande dessinée pour démontrer l’expérience vécue de mon oncle de manière visuelle. C’est important de noter que même si l’histoire est basée sur les expériences réelles de mon oncle, c’est encore une histoire autofictive (une histoire qui est principalement basée sur des faits réels, mais qui contient aussi des aspects non-réels).

L’ambiance du BD est très triste, tout en restant optimiste. Pendant toute l’histoire, Vahid voulait simplement revoir ses frères et arriver au Canada pour vivre en paix. L’ambiance serait démontrée à travers l’écriture, les paroles et les couleurs (notamment le rouge, le bleu, le mauve et le jaune).

C’est important de noter que les réfugiés viennent non seulement d’Iran, mais tout autour du monde pour des raisons variantes. Des citoyens doivent quitter leur pays d’origine à cause de la guerre, du gouvernement, une pénurie de nourriture, etc. Par exemple, plusieurs personnes quittent encore aujourd’hui la Syrie à cause de la guerre et un gouvernement oppressif. En outre, en ce moment mille personnes du Honduras et du Guatemala ont choisi de quitter leur pays. Ils espèrent obtenir une meilleure vie aux États-Unis et ont quittés leur pays d’origine.

Donc, à mon avis, la bande dessinée que j’ai créée est très pertinente, car j’ai eu l’occasion de démontrer la vie non seulement de mon oncle, mais de plusieurs réfugiés tout autour du monde. De plus, les lecteurs auront l’occasion de comprendre leurs obstacles, ressentir l’empathie et obtenir des connaissances par rapport au monde global (et non seulement occidental).

Chantal Ross, FREN 4V56



In 1979, the Iranian revolution led to the fall of the Shah and the creation of an Islamic Republic. However, the Islamic Republic pursued a policy of oppression and several people were murdered for beliefs that opposed those of the Khomeini.

My uncle, a pacifist against the Iran-Iraq war, needed to flee his country for Canada otherwise death would have been inevitable. During the course of FREN 4V65, I created a graphic novel to demonstrate the experience of my uncle in a visual way. It is important to note that even though the story is based on my uncle’s actual experiences, it is still an autofiction (a story that is mostly based on real facts but also contains fantastical elements). The mood of the graphic novel is very sad, while remaining optimistic. Throughout the story, Vahid simply wanted to see his brothers again and come to Canada to live in peace. This hybridity of hope in a time of danger is demonstrated through the writing, the conversations between characters and the colors (namely the use of red, blue, purple and yellow). It is important to note that refugees do not only arrive from Iran, but all around the world for a variety of reasons. Citizens must leave their country of origin because of war, government, food shortage, etc. For example, many people are still leaving Syria today because of the war and due to an oppressive government. In addition, right now a thousand people from Honduras and Guatemala have chosen to leave their country. They hope to get a better life in the United States.  In my opinion, the comic book I created is very relevant because I had the opportunity to demonstrate the life not only of my uncle, but of many refugees all around the world. In addition, readers will have the opportunity to understand their barriers, feel empathy, and gain insights from the global (and not just Western) world.

Chantal Ross, FREN 4V56

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Keegan Bruce: Humanities grad lauded for drive to give back

Keegan Bruce was recognized at Friday’s Convocation ceremony with the Spirit of Brock award for the contributions she has made to the Brock and Niagara community.

Caring about others has been a hallmark of Keegan Bruce’s time at Brock.

And during the University’s Friday, June 14 Convocation ceremony, she was recognized for those efforts.

Just before crossing the stage to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree, Bruce was presented with the undergraduate Spirit of Brock award for the Faculty of Humanities.

Bruce began volunteering with OPIRG (Ontario Public Interest Research Group) at Brock during her third year. The organization was going through some challenges and Bruce embraced the opportunity to get the wider community involved with OPIRG initiatives.

Elisabeth Zimmerman, of Brock’s Board of Trustees, presents Keegan Bruce with the Spirit of Brock award for the Faculty of Humanities.

She was particularly involved in organizing OPIRG’s Free Store, which aims to find new homes for unwanted goods. The group collects donated items in good quality and redistributes them for free through the store.

“I tried to educate myself about my privilege and work that knowledge into a lot of the work I was doing at Brock and my approach to scholarship,” she says. “I have a lot of privilege, so why not use that to work with organizations and help people with less privilege?”

Bruce came to Brock planning to study Biology but switched to Classics her first year. She has been a peer mentor in the Department of Classics for the past two years, helping her fellow undergraduate students with essay writing and Greek and Latin languages.

“My favourite part of being at Brock has always been the Classics department,” she says. “It’s always been such an open and welcoming place.”

Bruce was inspired by the department’s enthusiasm for their subjects, and especially enjoyed her Latin classes. She found her courses with Classics Professor Allison Glazebrook particularly engaging, as their themes connected with current social justice issues.

“Keegan is one of the top and most spirited students in the Classics program,” says Angus Smith, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Classics. “She participates in our peer mentoring program as one of our mentors, has presented her own academic work at our student symposium on multiple occasions and has helped to promote our program.”

Bruce will continue her passions for Latin and social justice this fall as she begins a SSHRC-funded Master of Arts at Western University, where she will be studying ideas of Roman masculinity through the poetry of Catallus.

While her time at Brock has come to an end, Bruce says she will take with her inspiration from her professors, who have shown impressive enthusiasm for their subjects.

“Just knowing that my enthusiasm for something can spark enthusiasm in someone else is so motivating,” she says. “I just want to help at least one person follow their dreams.”

This story originally appeared in the Brock News.

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Robin Guard: Brock’s oldest-ever grad to break his own record at 95

The crowd gave Robin Guard a standing ovation on June 9, 2017 when he broke his own record as Brock University’s oldest-ever graduate. He’ll break that record again on Friday, June 14 when he earns a Classics degree at the age of 95.

When Robin Guard earns his third Brock University degree Friday, he’ll be breaking the record for the oldest-ever graduate — again.

Guard (BA ’15) initially broke the record in June 2017 when he graduated with a master’s in History at the age of 93. Although he won’t be in attendance for the Faculty of Humanities Convocation ceremony Friday, he’ll graduate with an undergraduate degree in Classics — this time at the age of 95.

Learning has been a lifelong pursuit for Guard, who earned a degree in electrical engineering from Royal Hollaway, University London in the early 1950s and worked in the nuclear power field for more than 30 years.

“My career has always involved learning,” he said. “When they de-classified the secrets of atomic energy, I joined the staff of Britain’s first nuclear power station and struggled with nuclear physics.”

Originally from the UK, Guard and his late wife Barbara immigrated to Montreal in the mid-1960s before moving to Toronto with their four children in 1980 following the collapse of the nuclear industry. They retired to Niagara three years later, establishing Gwennol Farms, a 15-acre organic vegetable and sheep farm which the couple ran for 15 years.

After losing his wife to cancer, Guard looked for a new project to help him through the difficult time. Learning he could take courses at Brock for free because of his age, he decided to switch from highly technical engineering subjects to studying the humanities.

His first Brock degree was in English Literature in 2015, followed by the master’s in History in 2017, and now the Classics degree he’s set to receive.

One of his Classics courses was in senior Latin with Professor Carol Merriam, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities.

“When Robin took my class, the other students were at first bemused by this much older man in their midst, but soon accepted him as a classmate on the same mission and with the same concerns,” she said. “They were all together in dealing with difficult language and material, and the rest of the class soon came to rely on Robin to ask the technical questions that would lead to greater clarity for everyone.”

Guard said he appreciates the way others accepted him as a student.

“I am so grateful for the fact that Brock’s professors, sometimes half my age, treated me like any student, with no concessions,” he said.

When Guard started taking courses, he wasn’t sure how he would fit in as a mature student, but he formed close friendships with two other mature students, Allan Edgington (BA ’15, MA ’17) and Pat O’Hara (BA ’07, BA ’16). The trio, who call themselves the ‘Three Old Farts,’ brought valuable perspectives from their lived experiences to classroom discussions and provided support and mentorship to younger students.

“There’s no doubt that any talents I have are due to my dear parents, both born in the 19th century and whom I never really thanked enough,” said Guard, who was born between the two World Wars and grew up during the Great Depression.

“We were dirt poor and living off the land,” he said. “My mother was the ambitious one. She sent me to a remarkable one-man school where I learned things they don’t teach any more.

This will be Guard’s last degree from Brock, as he has decided that rather than continue his studies, it is time to record some of his own history. Having lived through nearly a century of history, Guard is drawing on what he has learned about writing and studying history to write his autobiography.

“Throughout his academic career at Brock, Robin’s endless curiosity has driven him to examine details and connections,” Merriam said. “When they’re older, students who have been with him in classes will remember his example and continue to pursue learning in their own later years — as will many of the professors who have taught him.”


This story first appeared in the Brock News.

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International collaboration brings Niagara history to new audiences

Associate Professor of History Maria del Carmen Suescun Pozas (third from left) was in Colombia for the launch of the Spanish edition of “The Forgotten Peace: Mediation in Niagara Falls” by Michael Small (University of Ottawa Press, 2009).


In April 1914, the United States was on the brink of war with Mexico. The governments of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile brought the two countries together in an international peace conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The event dropped out of memory until 2009, when author and diplomat Michael Small published “The Forgotten Peace: Mediation at Niagara Falls” (University of Ottawa Press, 2009).

Now, with the help of Brock’s Associate Professor of History Maria del Carmen Suescun Pozas, Seedling for Change in Society and Environment, and Brock students, the story of the ABC (Argentina, Brazil and Chile) Peace Conference is now available in Spanish.

Students in Latin American history classes over the past two years have been researching the history of the ABC Peace Conference and sharing their research with the community through the 2017 Share Peace, Discover Niagara River conference series and an upcoming peace exhibit in September.

The Spanish-language book, titled El A. B. C. de una paz olvidad: Tiempo de Mediación en Canadá, 1914, was officially launched in Bogota, Columbia on May 5. Suescun Pozas was on hand for conversation about the book at the Feria Internacional del Libro de Bogotá, alongside other dignitaries and scholars.

The English-language book is available to download as an open access book from the University of Ottawa Press.

The book is part of the Huitzil Series with the Canadian Lugar Comun Editorial, edited by Suescun Pozas.

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Ontario high school Classics students gather at Brock

Brock’s Thistle hallway was awash in history last week during the Ontario Student Classics Competition (OSCC). Now in its 51st year, the event brings together high school students from across Ontario for friendly competitions in Greek, Latin, history, archaeology, theatre, arts and athletics. Over the past academic year, students spent free time creating detailed school displays showcasing their art and activities. In addition to the creative competition, students also faced off in written and oral Greek and Latin contests, as well as history and mythology contests. While some students took on Quaerite Summa, a “Reach for the Top” style competition, that tested their knowledge of all aspects of the ancient world, others participated in simulated archaeology digs outside Vallee residence. Athletic competitions included discus throwing, a mini marathon, swimming and the popular annual chariot race around the Brock circle. Students also got a taste of university life by experiencing lectures given by professors in the Classics Department and staying in residence for the duration of the competition. Held May 2 to 5, this year’s event was hosted by the University of Toronto Schools.

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Students pitch their digital portfolios to industry pros

Anna Lang, a third year Interactive Arts and Science student, right, was one of 17 students to present their multimedia portfolios to a team of industry experts in a Dragon’s Den-style panel on April 10.

Rather than pitching a product or business, students in IASC 3P97 Interactive Media Portfolio pitched themselves as aspiring creative professionals. Students worked with their instructor, Adrian Thiessen, and presentation coach Shane McCafferty of Rocketship Park to create digital online portfolios showcasing their experiences and capabilities. Students demonstrated diverse skills in creative writing, game design, photography, entrepreneurship, and a wide variety of technical skills. Many of them will soon be looking for freelance or employment positions, or even starting their own businesses, and appreciated the opportunity to focus test their portfolios with experts from Brock and the wider community.

Panelists included Brock experts and Center for Digital Humanities community partners:  Mike Ferguson (Morro Motion), Jim Squires (Rocketship Park), Steve Boese (Innovate Niagara), David Evans (Falling Squirrels Studio), Allison Smith (AE Smith Writing), Tom Brown (FA Servers), Cassie Price (Brock’s Goodman Venture Development), Justin Howe (Brock’s Centre for Digital Humanities), and Alison Innes (Brock’s Faculty of Humanities).

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Students, community experience history together

Associate Professor Elizabeth Vlossak, center, donned period costume to lead an historical cooking demonstration with the help of fourth year student Kaitlyn Carter (right).  More than fifty students and community members came together at the Niagara Falls Military Museum on Saturday, April 6 to explore new ways of doing history and fostering community connections.

Student History Day: History Beyond the Classroom, organized by The History Lab, Seedling for Change in History, Associate Professors Maria Del Carmen Suescun Pozas and Elizabeth Vlossak, and the Niagara Falls Military Museum featured workshops, presentations, and tours exploring local history. The day included a tour of Lundy’s Lane, led by Sherman Zavitz, official historian of the City of Niagara Falls, and the launch of the latest edition of Brock’s undergraduate history journal The General. Members of the Brock University Historical Society spoke about the club’s activities and students’ innovative course work. By bringing together members of local historical organizations, Brock students, and faculty, the event opened military history to diverse voices, perspectives and ways of doing history.

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