Articles by author: Milica Petkovic

  • Worlds of anime, Greek tragedy collide in Political Science course

    At first glance, most people would be hard-pressed to find the link between ancient political theory and anime.

    But Associate Professor of Political Science Stefan Dolgert successfully used the connection, which is more prominent than it appears, to engage students in his Ancient Political Theory course this winter.

    After polling his students, Dolgert used the popular anime series, Attack on Titan, to frame the course and provide modern context.

    “People are writing great tragedies all the time and producing serious, political art,” says Dolgert, who has previously taught ancient politics using the hit series The Wire, hip hop albums and kung fu. “What I try and do is have a dialogue between an ancient or classical text and something that’s happening in the present.”

    Robyn Cumiskey, a fourth-year Political Science student with a minor in Sociology, had never watched anime before the course.

    “Learning about tragedy through anime was definitely not something I ever thought I would engage with during my undergrad, but it has shown me how relevant ancient texts and the storylines and tropes they depicted remain today,” she says. “A show that requires viewers to question their understanding of humanity, morality and tragedy provokes important questions about how current global society functions, the inequalities and violence it perpetuates and the tragic nature of such.”

    The course paired six Greek tragedies with episodes from Attack on Titan, along with secondary literature on the elements of tragedy and the context of anime. To bring the animation side of things to life, Dolgert reached out to two industry experts.

    Animator Denise Rashidi worked on the most recent season of Attack on Titan. She says that when she learned about the premise of the class, she thought it was “a fantastic idea.”

    “I love the fact that such great and relevant anime storylines are integrated into their class,” says Rashidi, who joined the class virtually from Germany.

    “I was surprised to hear how many detailed technical questions they asked, whether it was about the animation process itself, little details they noticed within some of the anime they watched or in regards to my own work process,” she says. “Overall, it was super fun and enjoyable for me to answer their questions, as they seemed genuinely interested and passionate about anime. I had the impression that some of them went out of it feeling more motivated about their own career paths, which is great.”

    Darin Bristow, Supervising Producer at Pipeline Studios in Hamilton, was also surprised at the sophistication and knowledge behind the students’ questions.

    “Most of the conversation came down to what happens behind the curtain as you’re creating or adapting a production,” he says. “Because of the level of insight the students had into how animation gets produced, I spent a lot of time answering nitty-gritty questions about how shows get financed and the brand components that go into launching a series, which was great.”

    Bristow adds that he enjoyed the conversation and hopes it will continue in the future. “I felt like in many ways we were just getting started and we ran out of time, even though we went for an hour and a half,” he says.

    Cumiskey found the guest speakers both informative and encouraging.

    “They each provided insight into the intensive labour that goes into the entertainment we consume, which again demonstrated to me the importance of such media for supporting civic engagement and consciousness,” she says. “These speakers were essentially performing the same work as ancient Greek tragedians, producing work that allows individuals to engage with and question their understanding of humanity.”

    Students also explored the connections between ancient texts and anime on dedicated TikTok and Twitter accounts.

    “Because the airing of this final season of Attack on Titan was a big cultural event for a large fan base, I thought it would be great to be able to actually interact in real time as a class with the cultural conversation around that,” says Dolgert.

    Some content generated by the class, including Cumiskey’s thoughtful tweet thread about the tragic character of Levi Ackerman, was shared and liked far beyond the class audience.

    “It’s important that these cultural artifacts that are the apex of the humanities help us have conversations about the human experience,” says Dolgert. “Similarly, work like Attack on Titan prompts viewers to have thoughtful conversations about their lives and experiences and also about big existential and political questions around things like the relationship between vengeance and justice, which is, with Russia’s attack on Ukraine, certainly very topical.”

    Categories: News

  • Political science students, profs connect at virtual coffeehouse

    Brock Political Science students are connecting with their professors in a brand new way this semester.

    The inaugural POLI 101 Coffeehouse series creates opportunites for students to chat informally with a professor in a specific area of political science about interests, pathways, pitfalls and advice.

    The series is the joint effort of fourth-year Political Science major and Student Ambassador Rebecca Van Massenhoven and third-year student representative Christian Santesso, who teamed up to organize the five-event series.

    Screenshot of multiple participants in a Microsoft Teams session.

    Students gathered at a POLI 101 Coffeehouse session on March 3 to chat with Associate Professor Livianna Tossutti in the Department of Political Science.

    “We wanted something interactive and welcoming that could break down the barrier between professor and student and show how a political science degree can be used to its best advantage,” says Santesso. “Professors could take a step back and instead of teaching, talk about their own personal experiences, what made them fall in love with their specific field and what different opportunities political science has brought them.”

    Van Massenhoven adds that upper-year students had expressed concerns about losing out on one-on-one time with professors during the pandemic, while newer students were feeling anxious about approaching professors in person during the transition back to campus.

    She and Santesso saw the virtual sessions as a way to create networks and help bridge two divides: between professor and student, and between virtual and in-person learning.

    The organizers spread the word about the sessions via the Department’s Instagram account, emails to students and a dedicated Microsoft Teams channel. As an added incentive, students who attend three or more sessions earn a LinkedIn badge that can be displayed on their profiles.

    Second-year Political Science representative Makenzie Tavares designed the badge.Fourth-year Political Science major and Student Ambassador Rebecca Van Massenhoven helped to organized the inaugural POLI 101 Coffeehouse series.

    “The badge represents the five areas of political science discussed in the POLI 101 sessions: policy and administration, theory, international relations, comparative, and Canadian studies,” Tavares says.

    Student response to the sessions has been overwhelmingly positive, with attendees turning up from all levels of study and even outside of the department.

    “Feedback shows that students are excited to take full advantage of this opportunity,” says Santesso. “They are no longer nervous to seek advice from their professors, which builds important connections they can use in the future, all while expanding their knowledge of the fields of political science.”

    Van Massenhoven says that professors have also expressed a great deal of support and enthusiasm for the endeavour.

    “The professors say they’re happy to meet individually with students or answer emailed questions to continue these conversations,” says Van Massenhoven. “That support coming from both sides, both from the professors and from the students, really shows that these sessions are very much what students are looking for, and they’re how professors are looking to support their students as well.”

    Associate Professor Livianna Tossutti recently took part in the POLI 101 Coffeehouse. She says she wishes that she would have had a similar opportunity to connect with her professors as an undergraduate.

    “I had a blast because I got to know the students on a more personal level, learning about their career interests, what they’re thinking about and what their worries are,” says Tossutti. “I enjoyed being able to connect with them on a deeper level and having a casual opportunity to let down our guard and relate as human beings, with some lightness and humour.”

    “Christian and I are thankful for the amount of commitment that both the professors and students have shown in attending these sessions,” says Van Massenhoven. “Burnout is a little bit higher right now for everyone, so we’re thankful that people are taking the time to come and sit with us. Their response overall has been something that we really appreciate.”Tossutti also says hearing directly from students in this way about their plans and the skills and knowledge they need to attain their objectives helps her reflect on how she might support those goals in her courses.

    Dean Ingrid Makus of the Faculty of Social Sciences calls it “thrilling to see the success of this innovative project driven by students.”

    “It’s an impressive realization of our vision for the student ambassador program, which was supported by the Dean’s Discretionary Fund to both professionalize and engage students,” she says.

    The next session takes place on Thursday, March 31 from 3 to 4 p.m., when Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science Tim Heinmiller will talk about the field of policy. Register online to attend.


    Categories: Events, News

  • Global migration students connect with newcomers to Canada

    A community collaboration recently allowed Brock students to connect their classroom learning to the lived experiences of newcomers to Canada.

    At a hybrid meeting held late last term, students in Livianna Tossutti’s class on Global Migration: Canada in a Comparative Perspective had the chance to hear from newcomers studying English as a Second Language (ESL) at the Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre. The event provided an opportunity for ESL students to share insight into their motivations for emigrating and their experiences arriving in Canada and the Niagara region.

    The ESL students represented 19 countries of origin and spoke more than a dozen languages. By sharing their stories, they helped Brock students understand the human side of issues they had explored in class, including the push and pull forces that drive international migration, the experiences of temporary and permanent migrants, and Canada’s multicultural approach to integrating newcomers. The level 5/6 ESL students also had the opportunity to practise speaking English and meet new members of the local community.

    “Immigration is a complex policy domain that is the subject of myths and misunderstandings that are propagated by the media and others who don’t quite understand the area or understand immigrants and their motivations,” says Tossutti, an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science. “I think the opportunity for students to ask questions directly to newcomers and to hear the newcomers talk about their experiences helps combat some of the preconceptions that people may have had about immigrants and immigration before they entered the course.”

    Tossutti has taught the class four times and worked closely with staff at Folk Arts to create this experience each time, whether in person or virtually. She says the benefits to students are immediately clear after each session.

    “Readings on migration can be heavily laden with statistical data or dense legal language that only tell one part of the story,” says Tossutti. “Getting the first-hand narratives from people who have been through the experience is an integral part of the learning experience for my students. Some of the theories and concepts discussed in the course begin to make sense after this session.”

    Ramneet Sahota, a fourth-year Political Science major from Brampton, says the meeting helped shape her understanding of the course material, particularly around integration.

    “Throughout the course, we have learned about integration and what steps host countries can take to ensure there is meaningful integration for newcomers in society,” she says. “Having this experience and directly speaking to newcomers made me understand the real-life implications of the integration process and how important meaningful integration and community resources can be.”

    Sahota says she was struck by the openness of the ESL students and by their outlook on the future.

    “My biggest takeaway from this experience was the optimism shown by the students and how willing they were to engage in conversation with our class,” she says. “It was really inspiring to see them engage with our class while they were still in the process of learning English, as this did not prevent them from answering all our questions and offering meaningful insight on their experiences.”

    Taher Matus (BA ’21), Folk Arts Mentorship Co-ordinator and Communications Chair, says it was great to see ESL students sharing their stories.

    “Having studied sociology myself, it was really a cool event to put together the terminology with faces and real-life experiences, using all the theories the students learn to try to understand different stories,” says the Brock alumnus. “I think it helped Brock students really see the barriers that all newcomers face, and maybe, moving forward, they can use their knowledge to help newcomers in society wherever they see them.”

    LINC/ESL instructor and Brock Applied Linguistics graduate Lisa Smith (MA ’17) has been working with ESL students in different capacities for nearly a decade.

    “It was a very positive experience,” she says of the meeting. “It gave my ESL students an opportunity to use their language skills and boost their confidence. I also felt that they were very engaged, and even those who are sometimes more reluctant to speak were inspired to share their stories.”

    Smith, who previously taught high school, prepared her students by sharing narratives from other newcomers and helping each student define personal boundaries and comfort levels. Brock students also submitted their questions in advance so the ESL students had time to consider their responses.

    Josefina Pérez (IELT ’98), Community Connections Program Co-ordinator at Folk Arts, says the event characterized what she calls the “two-way street of integration.”

    “It’s not only about newcomers arriving and coming here to settle, it’s also about the community welcoming them,” she says. “I think we managed to create a space where the two sides could interact in a safe way and there was genuine interest on both parts.”

    Pérez also says working with Tossutti and building Folk Arts’ relationship with her over the years has helped foster a sense of shared purpose.

    “It was not our first time working with Livianna, so that foundation of trust was already established,” she says. “I always remember Livianna’s research in welcoming communities — that’s what she teaches and researches, and it’s critical to have such allies in the community.”

    Pérez, who learned English at Brock when she first came to Niagara, says the conversation had some truly memorable moments.

    “There was the opportunity for our students to ask the Brock students about how they saw newcomers and what were they prepared to do in welcoming new Canadians, and that was very moving,” she says. “We hope we can co-ordinate more activities like this one.”

    Sahota’s strong impressions from the encounter led her to take up an internship at the Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre that started in January to prepare her for a future career in immigration law.

    “I decided it was important for me to work in the community before I enter the legal field, and working in a centre that provides resources for newcomers seemed like the perfect match for me,” she says. “Also, being a first-generation Canadian, I have seen the gap that exists between newcomers and those who are already integrated into Canadian society. Having this experience, I wanted to work in a placement that will allow me to somehow bridge this gap, even if it is on a small scale.”

    Indeed, helping students engage with the local community is a key part of Tossutti’s overall teaching philosophy.

    “These encounters are a window to the global diversity of backgrounds and lived experiences in Niagara,” she says. “After graduation, our students will assume leadership positions in Niagara and beyond, so I am hoping they will apply their enhanced understanding of diversity to their chosen professions.”

    Categories: News

  • Assistant Professor Joanne Heritz’s research shows lags and promise in municipal-Indigenous relations

    A new research paper suggests relations between municipalities and urban Indigenous populations can provide a means of enacting changes recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) if appropriate steps are taken.

    In “Municipal-Indigenous Relations in Ontario: Initiatives in Brantford, Hamilton, and Niagara,” which will soon appear in the Journal of Canadian Studies, Brock University Assistant Professor of Political Science Joanne Heritz analyzes the current level of engagement with and representation of urban Indigenous populations in the single-tier municipalities of Hamilton and Brantford, and the upper tier of the two-tiered municipality of Niagara Region.

    The study looks at three key areas: government interface, Indigenous culture as a municipal asset and economic and social development. Contrasting these three categories, Heritz shows that while municipalities can be policy innovators with formal mechanisms for Indigenous inclusion, some — including Niagara — need more focus and action.

    “Some municipalities are taking the initiative in building relations with urban Indigenous Peoples by creating Indigenous Advisory Committees and responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action,” says Heritz, noting that Hamilton has implemented an urban Indigenous strategy and has had an Aboriginal Advisory Committee in place for almost 20 years. “But others have yet to develop urban Indigenous policies.”

    The paper’s findings are in keeping with two previous studies Heritz has completed in this area, looking first at select urban centres across Canada and then at numerous municipalities in Saskatchewan. Because the provinces have no mandates related to urban Indigenous populations, each municipality has approached Indigenous relations in its own way.

    “Over half of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples live in urban centres and their numbers are growing, yet they are proportionately underrepresented in policy processes at the local level of government — even in municipalities that have significantly higher Indigenous populations,” says Heritz. “There are also comparatively few programs and services available for urban Indigenous Peoples.”

    Heritz also finds that the overall size of the municipality, rather than their proportionate population of Indigenous peoples, is often the biggest factor in the level of engagement shown.

    “Large municipalities like Hamilton, with proportionately lower Indigenous populations, have been most innovative in initiating Indigenous justice and health services,” Heritz says. “Compared to Hamilton, Niagara Region is lagging in building formal relations with Indigenous Peoples such as Indigenous advisory committees.”

    Heritz hopes her research will help municipalities understand the need to take up specific Calls to Action from the TRC. She gives the example of intercultural competency, or Indigenous awareness training, and notes that some municipalities provide education for management staff but not frontline workers, citing issues like shift considerations and budgetary concerns. But she adds that her interviews for the study took place prior to the pandemic and the broad uptake of digital platforms and asynchronous training options, which might be leveraged to overcome such challenges.

    She thinks the municipalities that have moved forward with formal policy processes to engage Indigenous communities can demonstrate for other municipal governments how to create meaningful and effective mechanisms by which Indigenous voices can be heard.

    “There are responsibilities for municipalities specifically included in the TRC’s Calls to Action,” says Heritz. “Displaying an Indigenous flag, making an Indigenous land acknowledgement or removing a statue are just the beginning of the responsibilities Canadians need to take to build relations with Indigenous Peoples in local government.”

    Heritz’s next phase of research will cover the provincial capitals of Atlantic Canada, where Indigenous-identity populations are increasing significantly and the process of “coming to terms with municipal-Indigenous relations-building” is just beginning, she says.

    Categories: News

  • Dec. 3 – Survival Governance in a Hotter World: Can China Lead?

    The Department of Political Science presents

    Survival Governance in a Hotter World: Can China Lead?

    A talk with Professor Peter Drahos on his provocative and necessary new book, Survival Governance: Energy and Climate Change in the Chinese Century (OUP, 2021).

    December 3 from 2-3 p.m. via Zoom

    Information poster and link to register here.

    Categories: Events, News

  • Stories of homelessness shared with community thanks to foundation laid by Political Science grad

    Madeleine Jones-Aceituno’s fourth year of university helped inspire change in her career trajectory — and perhaps in the community.

    It was in early 2020, as part of her POLI 4P95 winter internship placement, that Jones-Aceituno (BA ’20) spent time laying the foundation for a project that would see stories of social housing and homelessness shared with the Niagara community.

    The Living Library would welcome seven ‘Living Book’ participants to open up about their experiences of homelessness or accessing Niagara Regional Housing or Homelessness Services with members of the public. But just two days prior to the event date, the COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a halt.

    The timing was heartbreaking for Jones-Aceituno, who was eager to share the important messages the Living Library had to offer.

    Now, nearly 20 months later, she was thrilled to see the project come to fruition, albeit in an online form.

    A joint initiative by the Niagara Falls Public Library, Niagara Region and Niagara Regional Housing, the Virtual Living Library — Stories of Housing and Home launched on the Niagara Falls Public Library’s website Oct. 20.

    The website includes participants from the Lived Experience Advisory Group and the Niagara Regional Housing Tenant’s Advisory Committee and is available virtually for viewing and interaction.

    Jones-Aceituno says that working on the project, including preparing and conducting interviews with participants, helped her see beyond stereotypes about homelessness. She hopes that visitors to the Living Library website will have a similar experience.

    “Homelessness can happen to anyone at any time, as one of the participants actually helped me understand,” she says. “It is not something someone chooses for themselves. Social programming such as Housing and Homelessness Services are extremely valuable and necessary.”

    Jeffrey Sinclair, Homelessness Action Plan Advisor in Community Services at the Niagara Region, who supervised Jones-Aceituno during her time with the project, said her contributions have not been forgotten.

    “Madeleine’s work created the foundation for the partners to complete the project a year later as a virtual Living Library,” he says. “Niagara Regional Homelessness Services and Housing Services strive to provide meaningful experiential education opportunities when we engage with post-secondary students, and because affordable housing and homelessness are priority issues in the community, we’re finding students coming forward who are really passionate about these issues.”

    Laura Martin, Manager of Community Development and Programming at the Niagara Falls Public Library, agrees.

    “The framework Madeleine helped build for the original project created a road map for Living Libraries that enabled both the transition to this virtual presentation and future Living Library collaborations, either virtual or in person,” she says. “We appreciate that foundational work, which will empower other organizations to bring their lived experiences into a Living Library.”

    After graduating in June 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, with a minor in History, Jones-Aceituno is pursuing a teaching certificate at the University of Ottawa with a focus on supporting marginalized communities.

    “I chose to become a member of the Urban Communities Cohort (UCC), so all of my classes are taught with a social justice lens focusing on racism, classism, ableism and more,” she says. “My experience with Niagara Region Homelessness Services had a huge impact on me when I chose the cohort, and it has enhanced and transferred over to my learning.”

    Joanne Heritz, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and a researcher with a strong interest in housing issues in Niagara, says there are benefits on all sides when students have the chance to engage practically with the concepts they have studied for years.

    “The experiential education aspect of 4P95 Internship creates opportunities for Political Science students to partner with a variety of social services, legal and political organizations to link the knowledge and skills they have acquired in their undergraduate studies to real life situations,” says Heritz, who supervised the Living Library project from the Brock side. “It also provides a keen source of talent for partners in our community who are seeking assistance with short-term projects.”

    Sinclair says the benefits of the Living Library project are also many and varied for different stakeholders.

    “This is a really important initiative because it allows for people with direct experience of either homelessness or community housing to share their stories and perspectives on these topics,” he says. “It helps us better design programs and policies to meet the needs of the community members they are intended to benefit, and it helps increase understanding by addressing biases, stigma and misunderstandings that other community members may have.”

    Cara Krezek, Director of Co-op, Career and Experiential Education at Brock, is always pleased to see how students’ experiential learning opportunities contribute to building their skills and enhancing their knowledge of course materials through applications in real-world settings.

    “It opens the students’ minds to new pathways for their career and their learning,” says Krezek. “When students encounter an experience that excites them, it can light a spark of passion that they follow which is where they find purposeful work that they enjoy and excel at.”

    With her theoretical background in Political Science, History and now Education, Jones-Aceituno hopes to have an impact on policy and practice.

    “With an understanding of the past and attempting to unravel where our present systemic barriers stem from, I hope to work to change education in Ontario,” she says. “I am very passionate about equality within education and believe that my experience in the UCC, learning politics at the undergraduate level and my experience with Niagara Regional Housing and Homelessness Services have given me the tools to do so, perhaps at the curricula level.”

    Categories: News

  • Congratulations Felisia Milana

    For Felisia Milana (BA ’20, MA ’21), being awarded the graduate student Board of Trustees Spirit of Brock Medal from the institution that has inspired her since she was a child feels like “the perfect farewell.”

    “When I found out I would receive the Spirit of Brock medal, I had a moment of reflection on what the past five years at Brock have given me and all that has been accomplished during that time,” says Milana, who was born and raised in St. Catharines and completed both her undergraduate and master’s degree in Political Science at Brock. “I could not feel more honoured to be the recipient.”

    Milana was named the graduate recipient Friday, Oct. 15 during Brock’s 110th Convocation ceremony. It came after she had previously received the Faculty of Social Sciences Graduate Student Researcher Award, the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) Community and Engagement Award and the David C. Murray Scholarship in Political Science.

    In addition to working as a research assistant and a volunteer dance teacher assistant, and providing service on the Brock Student Conduct Council from 2018-21 to work on restorative justice for students during her time at Brock, Milana also became an award-winning teaching assistant (TA), receiving the Novice TA Award from the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation last year.

    “During my time as a TA, I wanted to highlight the importance of acknowledging human emotion in the university setting and to let students know that asking for support was normal and I would be there to help them through it,” says Milana. “Each class, I spent time checking in with students, and I sent reminders on assignments, was available to schedule meetings when needed and really made it known that I cared for their success.”

    Milana says her graduate experience was shaped by two Indigenous Spirituality courses that she took in her fourth year, which changed her understanding of her own privilege and gave her a new appreciation for Indigenous communities and traditions.

    “One of my Political Science professors suggested that I look at restorative versus conventional approaches to justice with attention to Indigenous offenders in preparing my MA application,” she says. “Once I found out that Indigenous Peoples made up five per cent of the general Canadian population but accounted for 30 per cent of the federal incarceration population, I knew something wasn’t right and it seemed necessary to research it further.”

    Milana completed her major research paper under the supervision of Assistant Professor Liam Midzain-Gobin. She says he gave her valuable insight into how to “respectfully come into this space as a white-settler researcher and do work that aims to help the Indigenous population as an ally,” something she plans to carry forward as an aspiring lawyer.

    While Milana says she can’t pin down a single favourite memory of her time at Brock, her involvement with the GSA stands out as a highlight of her last year as a student.

    “I wanted to join student government in university but was too nervous during my undergraduate degree, so I’m so glad I took that leap this year and feel very grateful for my time on the GSA Board of Directors throughout my year of graduate studies,” says Milana, who served as a Faculty representative, Deputy Returning Officer, Vice-Chair of the Board and Board Chair. “It was such a great experience to work with a group of knowledgeable students who strive for the best interest of current graduate students and future cohorts to come.”

    Categories: News

  • Professor Goodman creates a unique educational experience for her students

    Brock University students will be on the front lines of a landmark election, the first entirely digital vote with end-to-end verifiability held by a Canadian municipality.

    The mock vote, which will focus on pizza, is non-binding and non-political — but that doesn’t make it any less significant in the rapidly changing digital-voting landscape. The project is part of Nicole Goodman’s Canadian Politics in the Digital Age course.

    “Our course is all about the impact of digital technology on politics in Canada, and for the Service Learning assignment, students are examining how technology is changing elections, notably through online voting,” says Goodman, an Associate Professor in Brock’s Department of Political Science who holds a Chancellor’s Chair for Research Excellence for her work in this area. “In the last municipal election in 2018, four companies had market share among municipalities, but now at least 14 are bidding on contracts in the run-up to the 2022 election. The nature of the market is changing significantly, largely in response to COVID-19 and the pressures that it has put on governments to offer more accessible voting.”

    To create a unique educational experience for her students, Goodman has joined forces with Woolwich Township and Neuvote to host and analyze a mock election.

    Between Tuesday, Oct. 12 and Friday, Oct. 15, residents of Woolwich will use Neuvote’s voting platform with end-to-end verifiability, which allows individual users to confirm that their votes were correctly received, to participate in the mock election.

    Brock students will also take part in voting and then assess the entire process from the standpoint of both policy analysts and private consultants, zeroing in on one key issue and preparing a report with their findings and actionable recommendations for both public- and private-sector partners.

    Working in groups, the students will examine the election’s accessibility, security and privacy, turnout and convenience, election evaluation and user experience.

    “I’m excited to partner with Brock University in this mock election and experiential learning project,” says Jeff Smith, Clerk for Woolwich Township. “We are reviewing ways to provide an exceptional election experience for our voters, and we welcome the feedback and analysis provided by students for the 2022 municipal and school board elections.”

    Any voters from Woolwich Township and beyond who would like to participate in the mock election are encouraged to check the Woolwich Township website for more information.

    Matthew Heuman, CEO at Neuvote, says he is eager to see how regular voters understand and respond to using the end-to-end verifiable technology.

    “To verify that your vote was recorded as cast and then counted as recorded is critically important, and the process is quite simple,” says Heuman. “The voters themselves then have the confidence to know — because they’ve checked — that their vote truly was counted exactly as they cast it. What we hope to gain through this project is feedback on how to make that process as simple as possible for voters, in order to help embed that verification step into habit.”

    To prepare for the mock election, the class of fourth-year and master’s students have had visits from both partners to demonstrate the technology and discuss each organization’s priorities, as well as from multiple experts, including a computer science professor sharing insight on security and authentication, a municipal clerk from Ajax with experience in digital voting and speakers from Brock’s James A. Gibson Library.

    Students also received training in writing policy reports, one of the many hard skills they will gain because of this experiential project.

    Goodman — who has worked in many levels of government, international consulting and the private sector, in addition to her work in academia — knows what skills employers in the field are looking for and built this experience to maximize learning and training opportunities.

    “I created this project to better equip students for the job market, to give them the skills they need to be able to go out and land a job,” says Goodman. “Building strong critical thinking, learning how to write analytically and developing presentation style are all essential skills we teach at the University traditionally, but it’s also really important to learn other practical skills.”

    Last year, as a student in Goodman’s Canadian Politics in the Digital Age class, Political Science major Noah Nickel participated in a class-wide experiential education project with Neuvote to create Canada’s first-ever remote election using end-to-end verifiable technology at Brock. He says the opportunity came as an unexpected surprise as part of the course.

    “I had never had such an experiential assignment in any of my classes up to that point, so I really appreciated having the chance to develop some practical, workplace skills in an academic setting,” says Nickel. “I think that all of us in that class were better off for having had the opportunity.”

    Cara Krezek, Director of Co-op, Career & Experiential Education at Brock, calls the current project an excellent example of how quality experiential learning benefits students by building skills and knowledge and also impacts industry in meaningful ways.

    “Experiential learning supports advanced skill building as students are engaged in cutting-edge technology that provides them with the know-how that today’s employers are looking for,” says Krezek. “This is precisely the type of experiences that Brock has become known for by our industry partners.”

    Goodman says her top priority is to help students hit the ground running when they graduate.

    “At the end of the day, I want to empower my students to be able to leave the course and better understand, interpret and explain the ways in which technology is affecting our state, and also to empower them with the skills and knowledge to be able to go out there and pursue whatever path they would like,” says Goodman. “If I’ve done that, then I’m a happy professor.”

    Categories: News

  • Professor Tossutti wins SSHRC Insight Development Grant

    Congratulations to Livianna Tossutti, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science who recently received an Insight Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

    Insight Development Grants support research in its initial stages. The grants enable the development of new research questions, as well as experimentation with new methods, theoretical approaches and ideas.

    The name of Professor Tossutti’s grant is: “COVID19 and pathways to city and neighbourhood resiliency in Toronto’s social and community services.”

    Project summary:

    As cities have accounted for 95 percent of COVID-19 cases around the world, resilient cities are critical to the global recovery from the pandemic (UNHabitat, 2020). Resiliency refers to the capacity of systems, communities and individuals to survive, adapt, and/or transform in response to dangerous and disruptive events such as natural disasters, economic crises, demographic changes, health epidemics and others (Figuereido, Honiden and Schumann, 2018). This study employs geospatial data mapping and analysis, archival and interview research techniques, to explore city and neighbourhood­-level understandings and pathways to urban resiliency in the face of the pandemic in the Municipality of Toronto.

    At the city level, the study will examine how resiliency was understood by municipal officials responsible for social and community services prior to the declaration of a global pandemic, how units responsible for those functions adjusted their structures, policies, programs and services in response to the pandemic, and whether the responses reflected a form of equilibrist or evolutionary resilience (Béné, Newsham, Davies, Ulrichs and Godfrey­Wood, 2014; Meerow, Newell and Stults, 2016). Equilibrist resilience refers to resisting (surviving) the disturbance and returning to the previous state following the crisis or challenge. Evolutionary resilience refers to transition and transformation of structures and practises following the disturbance (Nunes, Pinheiro and Tomé, 2019). In sum, which, if any, aspects of municipal social and community service operations were permanently transformed as a result of the health crisis?

    Toronto is a city of diverse neighbourhoods that vary in terms of their socio­economic profiles and experiences with the pandemic. In general, case counts and case rates (per 100,000 population) have been higher in the city’s lower income, high density neighbourhoods with large racialized populations. Racialized Torontonians are more likely to live in poverty and poor housing, be employed in precarious work, encounter difficulties getting nutritious food and be victims of crime and discrimination (Cheung, 2020). Since intra­urban disparities could influence ideas and pathways to resiliency, a second principal objective of this study is to understand how neighbourhood social and community service agencies and associations adapted to the crisis. Did they return to their pre­pandemic states, or did they evolve into a new state? These questions will be explored in two neighbourhoods with similar socio­economic profiles  and vulnerabilities, but different experiences with COVID. While one neighbourhood has experienced some of the highest case rates and fatalities in the city, case rates and fatalities in the second neighbourhood are considerably lower (City of Toronto, n.d; 2018a; 2018b). This case selection strategy has the potential to illuminate whether neighbourhood conceptions and pathways to resiliency were related to health outcomes on the ground.

    Categories: News

  • Brock students make mark at international leadership competition

    A team of six Brock students virtually participated in the international Collegiate Leadership Competition (CLC) on Saturday, April 10. The group met weekly and worked throughout Winter Term with Student Life and Success coaching staff member Kristen Smith to learn the CLC leadership curriculum and practise their leadership skills through a variety of experiential challenges. Although the team grew close over the term, geographically they were quite spread out, with members joining each week from Nigeria, United Arab Emirates and across the Niagara region. This was the first time the competition and full semester experience were offered entirely online. The international event saw Brock compete against 32 schools from across North America, finishing eighth overall. Earlier this week, the students, including Aishah Sonekan, Jessica Scott, Luca D’Amico, Krithika Chandrasekaran Iyer, Annilea Purser and Ashley Giroux, reconnected virtually to celebrate their success and reflect on their collective learning.

    Political Science student Annilea Purser shares her experience:

    “Over the winter semester, I have had the privilege of representing Brock University alongside 5 other students in the Collegiate Leadership Competition (CLC), an international leadership competition geared towards post-secondary students. Through weekly meetings, the team joined together to learn a series of leadership-related concepts as a part of the CLC curriculum. We then applied these concepts in real-world leadership simulation challenges, such as the IMPACT challenge which required the team to partner with a local non-profit organization to host a virtual event. The season ended off with the head-to-head competition day, where teams from around the world were challenged with two exercises (including a Mount Everest simulation and escape room), judging both our execution of the CLC curriculum and our ability to deliver results.

    Being able to represent Brock on the CLC team was an incredible opportunity. I was not only able to learn alongside highly motivated students within the Brock community, but I gained invaluable leadership skills. In particular, the curriculum related to leading a team through stressful situations, including the importance of celebrating small wins, will be highly applicable to leadership roles that I take on in the future. The CLC is a growing case study for U.S-based research on student leadership, and I can’t wait to see the findings that they release on the impact as I have truly seen improvement in my leadership capabilities!”

    Categories: News