Media releases

  • Brock Homestay program connects hosts with international students

    MEDIA RELEASE: 29 November 2018 – R00212

    When Lara Lorge’s two sons moved out, the extra room in her home left a void.

    At first, the quiet space was a welcome change for Lorge, an Outreach Worker with Niagara Public Health, but she soon realized she needed more in her life.

    When a longtime friend mentioned fond memories of interacting with students from around the world as part of a Brock University Homestay program, Lorge discovered what was missing.

    Her decision was also timely. Brock has experienced a record level of international student enrolment over the past year, creating a need for more student accommodation.

    In October, Lorge was paired with Yuki Sato, from Kobe, Japan and Yiming Yuan from Nanchang, China, both currently studying Level 3 English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at Brock.

    A longstanding program at the institution, Homestay connects Canadian families with incoming international ESL students as they adapt to the lifestyle and demands of being a student in Canada.

    Lorge, who will host Sato and Yuan for 14 weeks, already appreciates the positive influence the students have had on her life.

    “It’s been good to have the energy here,” she said. “We find a lot of humour in trying to understand each other through the language barrier.

    A typical day involves the students making their own breakfast before catching the bus to and from school. ESL students attend five hours of English classes daily to increase their language proficiency.

    When they return home, Sato and Yuan have dinner with Lorge and pack lunches for the next day. They often spend the evening talking and learning more about each other.

    “It’s been a good experience,” said Yuan. “Lara always spends time talking with me, and we have lots of fun living together.”

    Even though their time in her home has been brief, Lorge has learned a great deal about her guests’ culture, enjoying trips to the market together to make dishes that would make them feel at home.

    “At first we had difficulties communicating with each other, but as we learned to understand each other, it has been more enjoyable,” said Sato.

    Lorge has also noticed a significant improvement in the students’ English, as well as their comfort level living thousands of kilometres away from home.

    Participating in the Homestay program is a great way for Canadian families to learn about other cultures and give back to the community. Host families are compensated with $800 per month to cover the additional cost of food and electricity throughout the student’s stay.

    “I wish I had the room when my sons were younger to open their world view and expose them to new things,” said Lorge.

    Residents living in the St. Catharines and Thorold area who are interested in learning more about the Homestay program are invited to an information session at the Brock University International Centre on Thursday, Jan. 17 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the Global Commons.

    To apply, residents must complete an online application. Questions can be sent to, or phone 905-688-5550 x5029.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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    Categories: Media releases

  • Mature female STEM students face many barriers

    MEDIA RELEASE: 28 November 2018 – R00211

    Mature female students pursuing Canadian university degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects face discrimination and other barriers, says a Brock-authored Canadian Commission for UNESCO research report.

    “Most women return to school because they know they have the capacity and ability to contribute to society,” says the report, researched and written by Brock University Professor of Biology Liette Vasseur and Brock Biology master’s student Heather VanVolkenburg.

    “These people are usually highly motivated and efficient in their studies, in part because of their level of maturity,” says the report, which also applies to women in college programs in the trades. “Unfortunately, they face several barriers that they most likely never anticipated.”

    These barriers include things like inadequate daycare, ineligibility for scholarships and a belief that mature female students won’t produce as much research because of family commitments, says the report, titled “The Non-Linear Paths of Women in STEM: The Barriers in the Current System of Professional Training.”

    The report defines ‘mature students’ as being 25 years of age and older.

    Vasseur, who holds the UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability: From Local to Global, presented the report at a conference in Ottawa Tuesday, Nov. 27. Following Vasseur’s keynote address, a panel discussion was held on equity and inclusion in post-secondary STEM learning that included Canada’s Chief Science Advisor Mona Nemer.

    The report identifies six reasons why people don’t pursue a ‘linear’ university educational path, which typically moves from undergraduate to master’s to PhD with no or little break:

    • New career options
    • Need for more credentials
    • Delay due to family reasons
    • Need for family support
    • Career prospect improvement
    • Self-interest

    Unlike their male counterparts, many female mature students delayed further studies because of a widespread perception that raising a family and pursuing academic degrees and careers were incompatible goals, says the report.

    This perception results in an “unconscious bias” that manifests itself in many ways, explains Vasseur.

    “One woman told me she was given a less-important research project because it was believed that she wouldn’t return the next year, as she was expecting,” says Vasseur.

    In another case, a mature woman had a similar experience, but in her case she was given a less-important project because she was close to retirement age.

    Female students with young children may find it difficult or impossible to attend an 8 a.m. or evening class when daycare centres open at 8:30 or 9 a.m. and end by 5 or 6 p.m., Vasseur says.

    Regarding financial support, the report notes that many student scholarship and employment opportunities are limited to people 30 years old and under. There are similar age caps in some postgraduate employment recruitment and retention programs.

    Ironically, despite these and other barriers, mature female students have a graduation rate of 70 per cent, compared to a graduation rate of 56 per cent for male mature students, says the report.

    And, the graduation rate of all mature students was four times higher than for young students in the years leading into 2015, says the report.

    Most universities are not particularly welcoming to mature students in general, says Vasseur.

    That’s because many universities in Canada were set up in the 1950s and 60s for a new generation of youth who needed to be educated in a booming post-war job market.

    The report makes a number of recommendations, including:

    • Improve information for mature students, especially on things like specific awards
    • Take work experience more into account for mature student admissions
    • Offer more online options, especially for early morning or evening classes
    • Train professors and admissions staff on unconscious bias
    • Remove age limits for scholarships and student employment programs

    The report, “The Non-Linear Paths of Women in STEM: The Barriers in the Current System of Professional Training,” can be found on the Canadian Commission for UNESCO website.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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    Categories: Media releases