Articles tagged with: experiential education

  • Reflecting on the 2022 Vancouver Field Course

    2022 Vancouver field course (GEOG/TOUR 3F93) student group with Dr. Mike Ripmeester and TA Hannah Willms (both right). Photo by Jean Kwan.

    Twenty-five students recently completed the Vancouver Field Course (GEOG/TOUR 3F93) led by Professor Mike Ripmeester and Teaching Assistant Hannah Willms. Students included representatives from numerous departments across Brock. During their ten days in Vancouver, students participated in seminars, walking seminars, self-guided explorations, and museum tours. While these activities focused on theories and concepts related to Geography and Tourism Studies, students were also challenged to reflect on their experiences during seminars and in their daily field book entries. Included among the challenges were to reflect on: how well the example of Vancouver fit with their existing knowledge of urban processes; how their experiences challenged their existing knowledge or beliefs; and, how they might attempt to define solutions to problems they encountered. During their free days, students explored the city and environs. Some went snorkeling with seals or went whale watching, others went for hikes or explored the city by bicycle, while others enjoyed the city’s shops and beaches.

    The students had an excellent time in Vancouver with Dr. Ripmeester and Hannah. Here are some of their reflections:

    “This course was an absolute incredible experience. As someone who hasn’t travelled this far from home alone for this long, I learned a lot about myself, the world around me, and met some amazing friends that will last a lifetime. I got out of my comfort zone and learned what incredible things can happen when you get out of your comfort zone.”

    “Having the field study course in Vancouver was amazing! it was such a great opportunity to have experiential learning and to firsthand explore a city both urban and rural areas. It was great to experience the way of life there, the museums, the culture, the food and of course the amazing fresh air & scenery. Thank you for this once in a lifetime experience as I got to learn, travel and enjoy!”

    “While I have had some amazing classroom-based courses with some wonderful teaching staff, being in Vancouver allowed both the participating students and staff to thrive in ways I could have never imagined. Putting bright minded individuals into the field and giving them tangible sources is the ultimate recipe for thorough and confident learners, and I sincerely hope that Brock continues to invest in opportunities such as this. I left Vancouver with lifelong friends and a long-lasting knowledge base of such a beautiful city that will inspire my personal travels and other learning opportunities for years to come.
    Also, I know that Dr. Ripmeester is extremely humble, however, he was undoubtedly the crown jewel of my experience. Having a personal connection to the location gave such a genuine feel to our learning, and truly enhanced my experience with the city.”

    The Brock student community is encouraged to look for future field courses offered by the Department in Spring/Summer 2023. Keep an eye out on our website and social media accounts for more details.

    Photo by Mike Ripmeester.

    Photo by Mike Ripmeester.

    Group of students standing outside on the Vancouver Field Course

    Photo by Mike Ripmeester.

    Students at Mary’s on Davie. Photo by Victoria Dougherty.

    Students at Future Senakw Development Site. Photo by Victoria Dougherty.

    Students at Creekside Park. Photo by Victoria Dougherty.

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
    Categories: News

  • Brock programs being developed in cannabis sciences and applied ecology

    NOTE: This is one in a series of stories highlighting projects supported by Brock’s Academic Initiatives Fund (AIF), which was established by the University in spring 2021. AIF projects will address key priorities outlined in Brock’s Institutional Strategic Plan and position the University to face the challenges of recovery from the pandemic. To read other stories in the AIF series, click here.

    Brock University’s Faculty of Mathematics and Science is in early stages of developing two new programs to meet the rising demand for careers in cannabis sciences and applied ecology.

    The development of each program has been supported in part by the Academic Initiatives Fund, which was introduced this past spring to address key priorities in Brock’s strategic plan and help position the University to face the challenges of recovery from the pandemic.

    Bachelor of Science in Cannabis Sciences

    With the introduction of the Cannabis Act in October 2018, Canada became the first developed nation to legalize the production, sale and use of cannabis for recreational purposes. Canada has since emerged as the global leader in the production and distribution of cannabis and related technologies.

    The rapid rise and expansion of the global cannabis industry has created significant demand for qualified cannabis scientists and scientific leaders to drive industry innovation forward.

    Residing in the Department of Biological Sciences, the Bachelor of Science in Cannabis Sciences will be the first formal cannabis-based degree program offered by an accredited university in Canada.

    “The program will provide prospective students with a comprehensive education in cannabis, cannabinoid, and endocannabinoid biology and biochemistry,” said Research Associate Jonathan Simone, an Adjunct Professor in Biological Sciences and cannabis researcher who was hired with AIF support to help with the program’s development. “Students will develop technical skills that are directly applicable to current industry needs.”

    Students of the new Bachelor of Science in Cannabis Sciences program, which aims to educate from ‘seed to sale,’ will be engaged in areas such as plant ecology and evolution, plant biology and biochemistry, soil sciences, commercial agricultural practices, chemical extraction and purification, analytical chemistry, neurobiology, pharmacology, and health sciences.

    Applied Ecology program

    A first-of-its-kind program is proposed in Applied Ecology at Brock University, building on resources, including many courses, offered in collaboration between the departments of Biological Sciences and Geography and Tourism Studies.

    Tensions between urban, agricultural and natural habitats are best understood by integrating the perspectives of geographers and biologists.

    Therefore, an interdisciplinary and a cross-department curriculum structure will leverage existing courses in both departments and eventually include a co-operative education stream.

    “There will be a lot of experiential learning built into this new honours program, such as work placements, field-based labs and project-based courses,” said Katharine Yagi, a Research Associate hired using AIF funds to develop the program.

    The Applied Ecology program will produce students with sound ecology training and field experience who can enter the workforce immediately upon graduation.

    Graduates will work for provincial, local and regional government agencies, conservation authorities, environmental consulting firms, ecological monitoring non-governmental organizations, bioremediation companies and other related areas.

    Coursework will highlight ecosystems in Niagara, including agroecosystems, which are abundant throughout the region, through species identification, survey methods and GIS mapping. An emphasis on traditional Indigenous knowledge and practices rounds out the program’s unique focus.

    Amongst all science disciplines, ecology may be the most amenable to integrating this approach. A new course will focus on the Indigenous Worldview of Ecology. Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) concepts will also be built into three other new ecology-based courses as the program’s development continues.

    TEK is the evolving knowledge acquired by Indigenous and local peoples over thousands of years about the environment and relationships between humans and nature.

    Applied Ecology will dovetail with the University’s physical presence in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve — the Niagara Escarpment — and with existing strengths in environmental sustainability, geography and biology.

    The applied nature of the program emphasizes methodologies for fieldwork and technical skills associated with data collection and report writing.

    “One thing many graduates have realized is the very steep learning curve they experience when hired as a biologist or ecologist in the industry. In my experience, this applies to everyone, including people working in government and non-government agencies,” said Yagi. “There is a definitive need for knowledgeable and skillful ecologists in the Niagara region.”

    Faculty of Mathematics and Science Dean Ejaz Ahmed believes the new programs fill important roles at Brock.

    “Supporting new programs so students can build careers in a wide range of industries is valuable to Brock and to our local and global community,” he said.

    STORY FROM THE BROCK NEWS

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Categories: News

  • Info session Thursday for Vancouver Field Course

    An upcoming field course in Vancouver aims to immerse Brock students in the geographical concepts they’ve learned about in class.

    Brock students are invited to learn more about earning credit through the Vancouver Field Course (GEOG/TOUR 3F93) at a virtual information session Thursday, Dec. 16 at 1 p.m.

    Applications will soon open for the course, which is delivered during a 10-day trip to Vancouver, B.C. It is scheduled to run from May 23 to June 3, and is offered by the Department of Geography and Tourism Studies.

    Professor Michael Ripmeester, who will teach the course, says that fieldwork was a big part of why he became a geographer, and he is excited to share that experience with students.

    “Talking about geographical concepts in the field helps students see things differently than in lecture,” says Ripmeester. “It is, for example, one thing to talk about residential segregation or neighbourhood change, but it is another to see it and walk through it. I think students are sometimes surprised by the real-world ramifications of the things that we learn about in class when they have to confront them in the real world.”

    The course will help students engage with geographical theories and concepts and witness how geography can influence planning and social policy. It will cover such topics as the historical geography of Vancouver, planning and architecture, public space in the 21st century and the social and cultural geographies of the city.

    While preference is given to majors in the department approaching graduation, any Brock student with two credits from the department’s programs or permission from the instructor is eligible.

    Each student who is accepted will receive a travel award from the Faculty of Social Sciences to help cover travel expenses.

    Registration for the course is capped at 25, so students interested in the course are encouraged to email Ripmeester and to attend Thursday’s information session, where he’ll go into more detail about what the course is designed to do and what students can expect to gain from it.

    “I hope that spending time in the field and exploring a new place fuels their sense of curiosity about world, and perhaps in pursuing more Geography or Tourism courses,” he says.

    Please note that as of Sept. 7, 2021, Brock University’s vaccine mandate is in effect. Students and faculty must be fully vaccinated to participate in this field course and must provide the University with proof of vaccination status. Due to the ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19, details of this field course are subject to change.

    STORY FROM THE BROCK NEWS

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Categories: News

  • Students help WWF-Canada with fresh approaches to sharing water research

    FROM THE BROCK NEWS | by 

    When students in Julia Baird’s Research Themes in Water Resources class recently undertook a project to collect and share current research about freshwater, they had three very different audiences to impress: Baird, a curious public and the World Wildlife Fund of Canada (WWF-Canada).

    It wasn’t the first time students in the fourth-year Geography and Tourism Studies course worked with WWF-Canada on such a project, thanks in part to the WWF-Canada—Brock Partnership for Freshwater Resilience led by Baird, which officially launched last June.

    But this time around, students had access to funding to support their work-integrated learning (WIL) through Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning (CEWIL) Canada’s Innovation Hub (iHub), funded in part through the Government of Canada’s Innovative Work-Integrated Learning Initiative (IWIL).

    Students used a stipend to finance innovative projects that could help a target audience understand different issues related to freshwater resilience. The top projects also received a cash prize.

    “Students were given a list of potential questions they could answer, which WWF-Canada and I developed together,” explains Baird, an Associate Professor in Brock’s Department of Geography and Tourism Studies and the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) who also holds Canada Research Chair in Human Dimensions of Water Resources and Water Resilience. “They were then asked to choose one question and take on three tasks that, together, provided a range of knowledge mobilization products, from scholarly products such as an annotated bibliography of relevant literature to creative products intended for an audience of their choosing.”

    Baird co-developed the project with WWF-Canada to ensure that both the organization and the students reaped the maximum benefits from their work-integrated learning.

    During a Research Themes in Water Resources class, Lyndsay Bott created an infographic on salt marshes and mitigation measures that can be taken to protect them.

     

    “WWF-Canada accesses foundational and current research on specific issues of interest and students gain knowledge about water issues and skills in identifying relevant research and translating it for a partner and also for another audience of their choosing,” says Baird. “It’s a project that, for me, ticked a lot of boxes in terms of learning outcomes.”

    To keep everyone on the right track, students were encouraged to communicate with a key contact at WWF-Canada throughout the semester to ask questions and touch base.

    Emily Bowyer (BSc ’21), who majored in Biology and Geography before graduating from Brock last month, says that working directly with WWF-Canada had a strong impact on her project, a series of TikTok videos about Riparian zones and restorations.

    “My biggest takeaway from the experience was working with an organization like WWF-Canada and learning from their expertise,” says Bowyer. “It was a great opportunity to build lasting connections with professionals in my field as a student.”

    Lyndsay Bott (BSc ’21), who will start a Master of Sustainability degree at Brock in the fall, agrees.

    “It was great to see how far an organization such as WWF-Canada stretches and how passionate the staff we had as contacts were,” says Bott. “It was overall just great to be involved in the community and gain experience this way.”

    Bott’s project focused on the interactions between freshwater and coastal ecosystems and resulted in an infographic about strategies for dealing with freshwater pollutants and how they can affect coastal salt marshes.

    Baird says students exceeded her expectations with their work on the projects, whether they were building on existing strengths or taking the opportunity to try out something new, as well as the final results, which included social media pieces, high school lesson plans, short videos and ArcGIS StoryMaps.

    Carol Ng (BA ’21), who also graduated last month, decided to appeal to kids with a cartoon-based Instagram post on beavers and freshwater quality, featuring an original character, Billy the Beaver.

    “It was targeted to children, and it was just such an engaging series. Billy looks for a new home and finds one that is not quite right but by building a dam it benefits not only him but also some fish friends he meets,” says Baird. “It’s cute but also takes rather complex research results and shares them at an entirely appropriate level for children.”

    Anugraha Udas (BA ’21), who created an educational video on Riparian restoration project monitoring, says the assignment provided a unique way of showcasing skills outside of the typical academic environment.

    “Through my experience in drone videography and contemporary videography, I was able to create an educational video that everyone could understand and enjoy,” says Udas, who will start a master’s degree in spatial analysis at Ryerson University in the fall to pursue research interests that were crystallized in the recent Brock course. “This is something that a typical essay would not be able to recreate.”

    Cara Krezek, Brock’s Director of Co-op, Career and Experiential Education, as well as President of CEWIL Canada, says Brock has become known for these types of course experiences.

    “These innovative, engaging experiences allow students to bridge their learning to meaningful work that is useable by industry,” says Krezek. “CEWIL Canada has invested in innovative WIL projects across the country and this project met the criteria for a grant as it used technology, was innovative and funded quality student experiences.”

    In the end, the projects had a strong impact on both the partners at WWF-Canada and the students, who learned about issues and gained crucial experience in the field.

    “Based on the feedback from WWF-Canada, they identified some new, innovative ways to communicate their messaging around freshwater issues from the student projects,” says Baird. “I’m grateful that WWF-Canada has been interested in and sees the value of maintaining this course-based project as part of our partnership.”

    STORY FROM THE BROCK NEWS

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Categories: News

  • Co-op grads reach next steps despite pandemic challenges

    As a storm of uncertainty churned around them, two recent Brock grads used skills from their co-op studies to stay on course.

    Michelle Pearce and Yunzhuo (Sebastian) Wang knew their enrolment in Brock’s Co-op Education program would give them a leg up when it came to pursuing their goals, but they could not have imagined how much that experience would help them stay on track in the economic uncertainty that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Wang, who graduated with his Master of Business Administration during Brock’s Fall Convocation on Friday, Oct. 16, came to the University with his sights set on a career in finance. After completing the in-class portion of his education, the Xi’an, China, native began a co-op work term at Meridian Credit Union as a financial planning and analysis analyst.

    Many hours of interview preparation, resumé review and further acclimation to the Canadian job market with co-op’s talent performance consultants helped Wang to secure the role.

    Brock student Michelle Pearce

    Michelle Pearce used her co-op studies to gain experience in the environmental job sector and figure out which graduate program to apply for.

    “I didn’t have any Canadian work experience, and co-op let me get my foot in the workplace door,” he said.

    When physical distancing regulations shut many businesses, Wang, 26, was able to continue his work remotely and ultimately earn a full-time job with the organization.

    “The work term was the perfect way for me to learn about Meridian and get to know people there,” he said. “My preparation and the lessons I received from the co-op team made it much more straightforward to secure a full-time role in my field at a time when it was tougher to do so.”

    In addition to the job he accepted, Wang also received offers from two other financial firms, a sign, he said, that co-op students are more in-demand due to their readiness to tackle and adapt to a variety of situations.

    While Wang focused on the financial industry, Pearce, of Guelph, concentrated on the environmental sector. The 22-year-old Geography graduate, who received her bachelor’s degree Friday, completed her work terms with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as a horticulture and forestry survey student.

    While there, she began to explore and interact with various environmental roles she saw as potential paths for her future.

    “Seeing the different jobs available helped me to realize how much I liked working in an environmental setting and to figure out which master’s program I would need to complete to make that possible,” Pearce said. She ultimately was accepted to Brock’s Master of Earth Sciences program.

    The pandemic affected Pierce’s final undergraduate work term, although she too said the lessons she learned from the University’s Co-op Education team are beneficial going forward.

    “The co-op team taught me how to prepare for and be flexible in the tasks and timelines I faced during my work term this summer, and how to comply with new distancing guidelines. It all helped me to settle more easily into my master’s studies this fall,” she said.

    Despite significant global change, the pair were happy to mark Brock’s Virtual Convocation and celebrate what they have achieved so far.

    “It was sad to not be there in person, but my mom and I watched together, and I am looking forward to joining with my classmates to celebrate when restrictions are lifted,” said Pearce.

    “I celebrated with a few friends, and I will share the stream with my family back home as well,” said Wang.

    As both grads return to the tasks and assignments of the fall, each emphasized the role co-op has played in their lives, especially during such a tumultuous few months.

    Co-op helped me to figure out where I wanted to go and how to get there even when the world was changing,” said Pearce.

    “The service from co-op is second to none,” said Wang. “I’m so relieved that I have been able to secure a full-time job in my field and I could not have done that without the support of the entire co-op team.”

    To learn more about Brock’s Co-op Education opportunities, visit the Co-op website.

    Story reposted from The Brock News

    Tags: , , , ,
    Categories: News

  • Brock students find alarming amounts of plastic in sand at St. Catharines beach

    A day at the beach doesn’t often involve lab work, but for a group of Brock University fourth-year Geography students tasked with assessing plastic waste on the shores of Lake Ontario last fall, it was just that.

    Back in October, students from Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Michael Pisaric’s GEOG 4P26 class visited Sunset Beach in north St. Catharines to measure the quantity of plastics turning up in the sand.

    Students measured out plots on the beach and sifted through the sand to collect as many tiny pieces of plastic as they could. They compiled their findings in lab reports for the end of the Fall Term.

    The results are now in, and they’re alarming.

    In one sample alone, one square metre of the beach yielded 665 individual pieces of plastic material.

    Pisaric called the amount and variety of plastics collected in the samples “striking.”

    “I think much of the discussion concerning plastics in the environment has been focused on the oceans and we are quickly understanding that plastic pollution is also an important issue closer to home in the Great Lakes,” said Pisaric, who is also Chair of the Geography and Tourism Studies Department. “This small study of a single beach on Lake Ontario clearly shows the prevalence of plastic pollution in our own backyard is a serious problem.”

    Emily Bowyer, a third-year student from Mississauga majoring in Geography and Biology who participated in the field collection, described it as “an opportunity to see the magnitude of the problems in the environment first-hand.”

    Another surprise to the team was the prevalence of nurdles — small plastic pellets used in the manufacture of many different goods.

    Investigation during the course uncovered a 2013 Toronto Star article that suggested nurdles may have made their way into Lake Ontario via the Humber River during a factory fire.

    “It is interesting to speculate that the prevalence of nurdles we noted in our samples may have originated on the other side of Lake Ontario,” Pisaric said.

    The professor plans to run a similar investigation when the course is offered again next fall to address some of the questions that cropped up in light of the results of the students’ labs.

    “Perhaps next time around I will have the students compare the beaches on Lake Ontario with a beach on Lake Erie,” he said. “Are similar quantities of plastics occurring in both areas? Do the types of plastic differ between the two lake environments?”

    Carolyn Finlayson, Experiential Education Co-ordinator for the Faculty of Social Sciences, attended the field trip and witnessed how interested casual beach visitors were in the students’ activities.

    “It’s a wonderful example of the larger impact experiential learning can have on our Niagara community and our students,” she said. “By working at the beach that day for their lab, students were able to start conversations with beachgoers about their use of plastic and its impact on the shorelines they enjoy.”

    Cara Krezek, Director of Co-op, Career and Experiential Education, said these were exactly the types of courses the University envisioned when it committed to expanding experiential learning so all students had access to meaningful experiences in their programs.

    “Courses like these take our students into a real-world setting and allow them to apply their knowledge, learn new skills and reflect on how they can take these experiences forward to a future career path,” Krezek said. “I am certain these students will never forget their findings and it will change the way they interact with plastics.”

    Emily Bowyer, Pravin Rajayagam and Dakota Schnierle, students in a fourth-year Geography course at Brock, sift through sand on Sunset Beach in St. Catharines to find out how many plastics are washing up on the beach.

    STORY FROM THE BROCK NEWS

    Other Media Coverage

    Brock students find alarming amounts of plastic at St. Catharines beach: Extensive media coverage was given to an experiential learning exercise led by Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Michael Pisaric that saw Brock students uncover more than 2,000 pieces of plastic on St. Catharines’ Sunset Beach. The story was featured in the St. Catharines Standard, CBC, CHCH, Newstalk 610 CKTB and Coastal News Today.

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Categories: News

  • Experience Expo to combine career fairs from across campus

    Though she was hesitant to attend, Candice da Silva knew the difference a job fair could make in the life of a student who came prepared.

    Equipped with her resumé, the Maple, Ont. native visited last year’s Recreation and Leisure job fair and turned the outing into two jobs with the Township of King.

    With a new format this year that combines five career fairs from around the University, da Silva hopes others will come to the Tuesday Jan. 28 Experience Expo event ready to showcase their skills.

    Candice da Silva

    “The fair is a really great place to get an idea of what types of jobs are out there,” she said. “I was looking specifically for something closer to home, and there were several great options, including the Township of King, which hired me as a camp counsellor and then a program facilitator.”

    Hosted by Co-op, Career and Experiential Education (CCEE), the Department of Geography and Tourism, and the Department of Recreation and Leisure, the two-hour event aims to connect students directly with employers who are offering jobs and co-op work terms.

    For Cara Krezek, Director of CCEE, the event represents a chance to bring numerous on- and off-campus partners together and to encourage students to seek out their next steps.

    “We know students are focused on part-time, full-time, on-campus and summer employment and that often those interests and opportunities overlap,” she said. “By bringing together industry partners at the University, we have streamlined our students’ ability to find jobs that align with their current and future needs.”

    Running from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Experience Expo is free to all current Brock students and will welcome more than 30 employers to the Ian Beddis Gymnasium where they will set up information booths, facilitate networking opportunities, host on-the-spot interviews and run 20-minute fireside chats.

    With the fair also welcoming employers looking to hire co-op students for the Summer and Fall terms and bilingual (English and French) employees, there are positions available for students from any Faculty who come ready to explore diverse career opportunities.

    To prepare, Krezek said participants should treat the two-hour event as though they were heading to a job interview.

    “We hope they will dress professionally and bring an up-to-date resumé,” she said. “But beyond those basic requirements, it’s also important to prepare an ‘elevator pitch’ about who they are and what skills and experiences they have as well as to research the employers who will be at the event.”

    Prior to the event, staff in CareerZone are available to help students prepare for a variety of the crucial skills necessary when beginning career exploration.

    With so many resources available, both before and during the fair, da Silva hopes students will embrace the opportunity to explore such a wide range of options.

    “As intimidating as it can feel to introduce yourself to a potential employer, everyone there is super friendly and they want to connect with you,” she said. If you do your homework beforehand and come prepared, you will have a great experience.”

    More information about the event, including a full list of employers and a link for registration, can be found on the ExperienceBU website.

    STORY FROM THE BROCK NEWS

    Tags: , ,
    Categories: News

  • Geography student studies why some people live on the road

    STORY FROM THE TORONTO STAR | DEC 6, 2018

    Graduate student in the driver's seat of a van she bought for research

    Brock University graduate student Stephanie Murray studied movible communities in a van she bought on Kijiji. Photo by Stephanie Murray.

    When Stephanie Murray, a Geography master’s student at Brock University, set out on a two-month long journey across North America to study nomads and vanlife culture, she didn’t expect to find herself learning to surf, contributing to a documentary film, or being surrounded by a pack of angry stray dogs. But she quickly learned that life on the road is full of unexpected twists and turns.

    An avid traveller, Murray stumbled onto vanlife culture. She was fascinated by the people she met, and quickly realized that although nomads living in vans had been around for years, no one had studied them yet.

    “I knew there was a gap in academia that I could fill,” Murray says. “But if I wanted to truly study this culture, I needed to be able to live and move like they did.”

    “Lola” in the field during her two-month research journey across North America. Photo by Stephanie Murray.

    Using funding from Brock and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant, she purchased a used van on Kijiji. Naming it Lola, she converted the vehicle into 66 square feet of living space. Then, over the summer of 2017, she drove to the west coast of the United States to attend “van gatherings,” events where people who live and travel in their vans get together to socialize and support one another. It’s a diverse group, says Murray. “One of the couples I spoke to worked remotely in IT, another couple ran a blog, and one of the other vanlifers was making money from a book he’d written. They’re a pretty talented bunch.”

    She was out to discover their motivation for giving up conventional lives and instead choosing a highly mobile lifestyle. “Our society is oriented towards people who stay in one place, and van nomads help to call that way of thinking into question.”

    “I have encountered so much kindness on the road,” Murray added. “People have welcomed me into their homes and helped me with my van, with no expectation of anything in return. And while the vanlifers I interviewed took up this lifestyle for a variety of reasons, they were united by a desire to choose their own path, rather than the one that’s handed down to them.”

    Murray was thankful that she received the full backing of the University during her time on the road.

    “Brock supported me fully from day one. And that support meant that I was able to do this research in the way it needed to be done — in person, on the road. I lived and moved alongside the people I was studying, and never once did I have to make any compromises that would have hurt the quality of my research. The University made sure I had the resources to do it right.”

    Master's student in the field during trip across north america. Standing in the foggy mountains.

    Research doesn’t have to happen in the lab. Photo by Stephanie Murray.

    Murray’s faculty supervisor and the Graduate Program Director of Geography at Brock,  Dr. David Butz, believed her research was novel and important, given today’s mobile society. Becoming a van nomad herself was pivotal.

    “This research strategy — and life choice — gives her research an unusually strong experiential and autobiographical component, which is rare in ‘mobilities’ research, and which adds to the distinctiveness and potential significance of her research,” says Butz. “We also felt Stephanie’s unusual research project, while logistically complicated, was worth supporting. We were confident about her capabilities based on her history with the University. At Brock, we encourage applications from good students and we’re willing to put funding behind that — and provide them with mentoring to apply for external funding.  Brock can offer lots of personalized attention to students.”

    Research doesn’t have to happen in a lab. There are interesting and exciting things going on around us everywhere, and at Brock University, unique postgraduate research projects in the community are encouraged.

    For her part, Murray is grateful for the support she received from Brock. “This research changed the course of my life, and it showed me that it’s possible to turn your passion into a ground-breaking research project,” she said. “If you have a clear vision of what you want to discover, Brock can help you on that pursuit.”

    Interested in studying in the Master of Arts in Geography program at Brock? Apply by February 15 to start next September.


    Story reposted from The Toronto Star

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Categories: News

  • Geography and Tourism students put skills to the test in central Ontario

    A crisp fall breeze and the smell of pine recently welcomed Daniel Marshall into a different type of learning environment.

    The fourth-year Geography student can normally be found deep in the Mackenzie Chown Complex learning about physical geography. But, during this year’s fall Reading Week, an experiential education trip took him out of his comfort zone and into the field.

    Along with 34 other participants from the Geography and Tourism Department’s Physical Geography and Human Geography and Tourism Studies field courses, Marshall took part in a weeklong experiential learning exercise in central Ontario. The annual trip is designed to connect in-class learning with practical on-site research skills that are necessary for all geographers.

    “Sometimes in the classroom you lose focus on what you are actually studying,” Marshall said. “To be in the field and make the observations myself and get my feet muddy allowed everything to come full circle.”

    While the human geographers and tourism students went into Peterborough to gather data, Marshall and his fellow physical geographers went further afield to places such as Lochlin, Ont., where they collected soil and water samples.

    “We brought a specialized tool and took a sample from about four metres down,” he said. “We got a core that, if interpreted in a lab, could have given us 10,000 years worth of data about the area.”

    The ability to conduct applied research and maintain detailed field notes is a skill Geography and Tourism Studies Department Chair Michael Pisaric considers invaluable.

    “The field courses provide our students with hands-on experience that allows them to put their training and academic studies into practice by connecting first-hand the classroom learning they have done to the real world,” he said.

    Longstanding teaching assistant Darren Platakis, who has worked with countless students in his 10 years helping with the trip, echoed the sentiment.

    “Seeing the growth in their confidence, whether it’s conducting face-to-face interviews or using a new piece of equipment, is very satisfying,” he said.

    Gaining practical experience with tools of the trade provides students with a leg up for when their studies are completed.

    “Nobody wants to hire an advisor who has no field experience,” Marshall said. “An exercise like this makes you more marketable as a person.”

    With days of working to develop useful skills came a sense of unity among participants on the department-wide trip.

    “At the end of the day, we were all reunited as a large group and it was nice to be together,” he said. “We had a few large outdoor gatherings around the fire pits and shared stories of our day. It gave us the opportunity to become a close-knit group and contributed to the closeness of the department as a whole.”

    The work of the students in the area has also led to lasting conservation efforts in the local community.

    “Because of the work of previous classes from Brock, the Lochlin Esker and Wetlands site we visited has achieved Provincially Significant Wetland and Area of Natural and Scientific Interest status,” he said.

    For Marshall, the most eye-opening portion of the week was seeing the way the concepts learned in the classroom actually existed in the environment.

    “You can read as much as you want on a topic, but until you’re actually looking at that feature or talking to those people, there is a huge divide between what the textbooks say and the actual observations you make in the field,” he said. “It really worked for me to help close that gap and approach things in a more well-rounded way.”

    As he prepares to use his newfound experience to take on a thesis and apply for master’s programs, Marshall hopes that others will consider studying Geography as well.

    “Geography is everything and how it’s related,” he said. “Anyone who likes nature, the environment or being outside already loves geography. So, why not study it as well?”

    Visit the department’s website to learn more about Brock University’s Geography and Tourism experiential opportunities.

    Reposted from The Brock News.

    Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
    Categories: News

  • Opportunities abroad to be highlighted at International Mobility Fair

    A world of possibilities awaits students of Brock University.

    To highlight the learning opportunities available across the globe through the University’s partnerships, Brock International Services is hosting its annual International Mobility Fair on Wednesday, Oct. 24. from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Market Hall.

    “Students will learn about how they can travel abroad while earning academic credits, discover new cultures and gain skills relevant for today’s workforce,” said Sandra Gruosso, Associate Director of Brock International Services.

    Fourth-year Sport Management student Emma Chamberland first participated in the Exchange program last fall, attending Linnaeus University in Växjö, Sweden.

    “I chose to study abroad mainly because of my desire for adventure,” she said. “I wanted to enrich my university experience by doing something unique and outside of my comfort zone.”

    While shorter opportunities as little as one week are available, Chamberland loved the idea of living in a different country for an extended period of time and immersed herself in the local culture for a full term.

    “You learn about all the little things that make those places special,” she said.

    Having her courses taught in English also helped her to adapt without feeling overwhelmed.

    Chamberland loved the experience so much that she participated in another exchange just months later in early 2018, attending the University of South Australia in Adelaide.

    While Brock University students have access to more than 100 international partner institutions offering semester or full-year exchanges, short-term or summer programs, and internships, a dedicated team within Brock International Services guides students through the process to ensure they’re making the right decision.

    When Jonah Graham, a fourth-year BA Tourism and the Environment student, researched international mobility opportunities, his goal was to gain more relevant work experience.

    From May to December 2017, Graham participated in a six-month academic exchange and internship program offered through the University of Florida and Walt Disney World Resort.

    “The opportunity to learn about my field from a new perspective and experience working for a recognized member of my industry was invaluable,” he said.

    Graham was able to take courses in lodging operations and management, as well as an internship in leisure services, resort and destination development, and corporate communications.

    His Florida internship helped him see that his degree cannot be defined just by his time in the classroom, but as a compilation of his experiences throughout his studies.

    Both Chamberland and Graham agreed that studying abroad is a life-changing opportunity that broadened their horizons personally, academically and professionally.

    Reposted from The Brock News.

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Categories: News