Articles by author: sackles

  • UNESCO Chair presenting at this year’s Celebration of Nations

    Photo provided courtesy of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre


    Press release from the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre
    RE: Celebration of Nations, Sept. 6 – 8
    August 29,  2019
    Click here to download a PDF of this release

    In this time of great environmental challenge, featuring accelerated species extinction, extreme weather events, glacier melt and sea level rise, increases in droughts and heat waves, and temperatures that are warming at an alarming rate with forest fires multiplying all around the world, this year’s Celebration of Nations (6-8 September 2019 at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre) rightfully focuses on Empathic Traditions in search of Indigenous cultural solutions to a global cultural problem. For the sake of today’s living and future generations the peoples of the world can no longer afford to exhibit the hubris, self-interest, and ultimately self-destructive behaviour that currently and predominantly forms the basis of their social and economic reality.

    “In relation to environmental sustainability one of the hard and daunting realities that came into focus during work to synthesize research on this issue at the Smithsonian Institution, was the identification that culture needed to play a significant role in the solution,” said Artistic Producer Tim Johnson. “What was fascinating to me is that I had been hearing this from Indigenous knowledge keepers for decades. Onondaga Elder Oren Lyons, for example, had distilled this understanding down to four words, ‘Value Change For Survival.’ But now that science is in conformity, unfortunately, time is short and the challenge more daunting.”

    As a result, Celebration of Nations has recruited a group of prestigious allies who are working hard to address the complex environmental issues that are challenging the health of our living earth. These include Brock University, the Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association, Centre for Climate Change Management at Mohawk College, Niagara Parks Commission, Plenty Canada, Ontario Nature, Trent University, Walpole Island Land Trust, Youth Circle for Mother Earth, Canadian Commission for UNESCO, and many others. In addition, curators have asked participating artists to present creative works that reflect upon this year’s theme.

    “We need to combine knowledge with inspiration if we are to achieve our goal of preserving our Mother Earth for the Seventh Generation,” said Johnson. “Although the task is significant, many incredible people are working hard to remove us from the current path of destruction. Therefore, what we aspire to accomplish this year is to share essential and important information while showcasing the amazing work being done by some of the brilliant, passionate, and dedicated people who are serving on the front lines of our defense.”

    In an effort to address this challenge Celebration of Nations offers these informative, engaging, and participatory sessions and programs:

    The Great Niagara Escarpment: Indigenous Cultural Map | Sunday, 2 pm, Partridge Hall
    Official Premiere of The Great Niagara Escarpment Indigenous Cultural Map, a multimedia online resource containing stunning photography, captivating video, and contextual information that identifies important Indigenous historic, cultural, and natural world locations along more than 725 kilometres from Niagara Falls to the western region of Manitoulin Island.

    Under the guidance of the project’s Artistic Director Tim Johnson this remarkable resource was developed by Plenty Canada, an Indigenous charitable organization, in association with the Canadian Commission for United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to explore how best to engage and include Indigenous peoples in the organization and activation of Biosphere Reserves within Canada. The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve is one of four Biosphere Reserves within Ontario. Each is mapped upon both traditional and historic Indigenous lands, however, little has been done to research, document, and integrate Indigenous land-based knowledge and experience, heritage sites, and areas that are important to the protection of biodiversity into the maps and materials that are used by UNESCO, First Nations, municipalities, educational systems, and other public agencies and organizations with connections to these areas. Project leads will present various aspects and applications of the map.

    Living In The Anthropocene | Sunday, 12:30, The Film House
    The ever-increasing impact of human activities on Mother Earth has resulted in changes not only in the environment but also the climate. Industrialization, the use of fossil fuels, overconsumption, and overexploitation of natural resources are all pushing the planet toward a new era called Anthropocene. The changes are now profound and, in many cases, irreversible. It appears we have reached a threshold and that the survival of the human and all other species on Earth is in jeopardy. If a global effort is not made to take immediate and radical action to protect and restore ecosystems, more than one million species will disappear over the coming decades. We are talking abouta sixth mass extinction. What are the avenues of solutions to reduce the current pressure we have put on Mother Earth? What actions do participants feel can be undertaken in our communities? Presentations followed by Q&A.

    Niagara Adapts: Contending With Climate Change | Saturday, noon, The Film House
    Niagara Adapts is an innovative partnership that brings together seven Niagara municipalities — Grimsby, Lincoln, Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Pelham, St. Catharines, and Welland — with Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) to address what has been called the defining issue of our time. Baseline vulnerability and adaptive capacity assessments will be discussed byhost and moderator Dr. Jessica Blythe in collaboration with municipal partners and members of the Centre. The knowledge generated by this innovative partnership will help inform allocation of resources for climate change planning and adaptation and form the basis of ongoing monitoring and evaluation, which is an essential best practice in climate change adaptation planning. This panel offers Niagara Region residents a unique opportunity to learn about actions being taken to deal with climate change and to ask questions of specialists in the field. Presentations followed by Q&A.

    Lighting The Way: Indigenous Renewable Energy Projects | Sunday, 11 am, Robertson Theatre
    Increasingly, First Nations have been exploring and developing renewable energy projects as a meanstoward implementing their empathic traditions while creating jobs and generating income for their communities. As cited in a CBC report, a national survey revealed that “nearly one fifth of the country’s power is provided by facilities fully or partly owned and run by Indigenous communities” in a trend that “represents a dramatic increase in the last decade in renewable energy projects like hydro, wind, and solar power.” Among these sector leaders is Six Nations of the Grand River, which partnered with Samsung to develop the Grand Renewable Energy Park consisting of a 150MW wind farm and a 100MW photovoltaic solar farm, that provides enough clean energy to power 60,000 homes. Presentations followed by Q&A.

    Science As A Human Right | Sunday, 10 am, MIWSFPA
    Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits” (UN, 1948, p. 7). In November 2017, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) unanimously adopted the Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers, which replaced the former recommendation of 1974. This Recommendation includes a stronger link between science and society and aims to ensure that research outcomes can best support sustainable development and a more just world. Presentations followed by Q&A.

    Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association Film Shorts | Saturday, 4pm, The Film House
    This series of short filmsreveals the participation of Indigenous peoples in UNESCO-designated biosphere reserves across Canada as they work to protect and preserve the natural world. Presented by the Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association (CBRA), representing Canada’s 18 biosphere regions, these short films highlight Indigenous efforts to maintain the wondrous beauty and breathtaking features nature has bestowed upon the land from coast to coast to coast. Biosphere Reserve leaders will host the program and facilitate a Q&A session following the films.

    Cross-Cultural Partnerships for Mother Earth | Saturday, 2 pm, The Film House
    Protecting Mother Earth requires a new consciousness that brings together Indigenous traditions and knowledge systems with western science and conservation practices. This one-hour session will highlight the initiatives of four partner organizations aimed at building cross-cultural understanding, literacy and relationships as a foundation for collective action.
    Since 2016, Plenty Canada, Walpole Island Land Trust, the Indigenous Environmental Studies and Sciences Program at Trent University and Ontario Nature have been hosting gatherings, undertaking research and engaging and supporting youth leaders to create an ethical space for knowledge-sharing and collaboration. This session will focus on two of their current projects, the Youth Circle for Mother Earth and a series of gatherings on protected areas. The session will feature a panel of youth and organizational leaders who will discuss their hopes, plans, challenges, and accomplishments.

    The Empathic Poetry Café | Saturday, 4 pm, Robertson Theatre
    The Empathic Poetry Café is a 90-minute showcase featuring Indigenous artists from diverse nations performing storytelling and poetry styles addressing unique Indigenous perspectives involving empathic traditions and environmental consciousness. Each presenter will share two, five-minute pieces in a round-robin line-up style rotating through the program to produce a lively and engaging program. Robertson Theatre will be transformed into a poetry coffeehouse with cabaret seating, round tables, sofas, and soft lighting. Groove to the rhymes and rhythms of spoken word artists as they convey their expressions concerning the importance of protecting the environment and on the conduct required of human beings to securea sustainable living earth for future generations.

    The FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre aims to provide meaningful opportunities to bring our community together in a place of mutual understanding, empathy, and respect through the arts.

    Kakekalanicks’s mission is to promote Indigenous art and artists to broad-based audiences and acts to educate the public about the deep-rooted beauty and uniqueness of each Nation’s culture, heritage, and traditions through the medium of the Arts.

    The FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre aims to provide meaningful opportunities to bring our community together in a place of mutual understanding, empathy, and respect through the arts.

    Categories: Media releases, Updates of the Chair

  • Shoreline photos sought for Brock climate change study

    2 August 2019
    R00123


    Two years after storms and high water hammered the Town of Lincoln with flash floods and washed out roads, communities in the Great Lakes region continue to deal with record-breaking water levels.

    This year, many of Lake Huron’s renowned beaches are reduced to shoreline footpaths. Commercial docks in the Thousand Islands are swamped and unusable. Residences along Lake Erie are threatened by eroding bluffs and shorelines.

    In Niagara region, Brock University researcher Meredith DeCock is working to determine just how much the Town of Lincoln’s Lake Ontario shoreline has changed, and what role climate change is playing in it.

    But first, the Sustainability and Society master’s student needs help from the Niagara community.

    DeCock is calling on the public to submit photos of the shoreline and surrounding area that will be used to recreate the coast through time and identify what caused its greatest impacts.

    The study was made possible by the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship, which she received last month from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Seventeen Brock graduate students were awarded $670,000 in SSHRC funding in July, along with 14 of the University’s researchers who received $1.3 million.

    For DeCock’s study, photos from any year that show any segment of the Lincoln shoreline, its surrounding environment and development, as well as destruction due to high water levels, are needed. Submissions will be accepted until Sept. 30.

    In addition to community submissions, DeCock is using historical aerial photographs and GIS software to calculate the shoreline’s physical changes over time. Photos throughout the years will help her determine which windows of time have seen the greatest change.

    She will then look at how specific climatic and non-climatic factors could have influenced these changes.

    “I’m interested in learning what may be responsible for the most significant changes to the shoreline,” DeCock said. “Is it climate or environmental change, or significant development in the area like the construction of the Queen Elizabeth Way?”

    Working alongside her supervisor, Brock Biological Sciences Professor Liette Vasseur, and in conjunction with the Town of Lincoln, DeCock is part of a larger project funded by the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) that is working with six coastal communities along the St. Lawrence Seaway to examine how they can deal with the impacts of climate change.

    “Meredith’s project fits wonderfully well with the spirit of the larger project of ecosystem-based adaptation for the Town of Lincoln,” Vasseur said. “We really hope this community-based approach can help people link their environment to the changes that are happening. Such a tool can have great potential for communicating with communities.”

    DeCock plans to make the results of her research accessible to the public through an interactive web application that will also be used as a communication tool for the larger MEOPAR project.

    “Studying the history of the shoreline is very important, but if we don’t use our findings to impact the future, then we are missing a huge opportunity,” she said. “I hope that by making the information available, we can positively impact future climate change adaptation decision-making.”

    DeCock is also working with her MEOPAR project partners to create blog posts that will share information on the group’s efforts and climate change in general with the community. These posts will be available on Brock’s UNESCO Chair website in the coming weeks.

    She is thankful for the SSHRC funding that made her study possible.

    “Sustainability science is solution oriented,” she said. “To have the federal government support my research elevates the importance of what I am doing. Climate change is a globally urgent topic and to know that our government sees it as a priority helps me to know I am doing something important with my research.”

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Maryanne Firth, Writer/Editor, Brock University maryanne.firth@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x4420 or 289-241-8288

    – 30 –

    Categories: Media releases

  • Shoreline photos sought for Brock climate change study

    Meredith DeCock examines Lincoln’s Lake Ontario shoreline as part of her Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada-funded research project. (Photo courtesy of Brian Jaworsky)


    From: The Brock News, Thursday, August 1
    By:

    Meredith DeCock is on a mission to determine how Lincoln’s Lake Ontario shoreline has changed over time and the role climate change has played in its evolution.

    But first, the Brock University Sustainability and Society master’s student needs help from the Niagara community.

    DeCock is calling on the public to submit photos of the shoreline and surrounding area that will be used to recreate the coast through time and identify what caused its greatest impacts.

    The study was made possible by the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship, which she received last month from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Seventeen Brock graduate students were awarded $670,000 in SSHRC funding in July, along with 14 of the University’s researchers who received $1.3 million. DeCock ‘s study is titled: “A changing Lake Ontario shoreline: Learning from the past in the Town of Lincoln.”

    For DeCock’s study, photos from any year that show any segment of the Lincoln shoreline, its surrounding environment and development, as well as destruction due to high water levels, are needed. Submissions will be accepted until Sept. 30.

    In addition to community submissions, DeCock is using historical aerial photographs and GIS software to calculate the shoreline’s physical changes over time. Photos throughout the years will help her determine which windows of time have seen the greatest change.

    She will then look at how specific climatic and non-climatic factors could have influenced these changes.

    “I’m interested in learning what may be responsible for the most significant changes to the shoreline,” DeCock said. “Is it climate or environmental change, or significant development in the area like the construction of the Queen Elizabeth Way?”

    Working alongside her supervisor, Brock Biological Sciences Professor Liette Vasseur, and in conjunction with the Town of Lincoln, DeCock is part of a larger project funded by the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) that is working with six coastal communities along the St. Lawrence Seaway to examine how they can deal with the impacts of climate change.

    Meredith DeCock has drawn a series of views of the Lincoln Lake Ontario shoreline over time that will be used to help calculate its erosion and accretion rates.

    “Meredith’s project fits wonderfully well with the spirit of the larger project of ecosystem-based adaptation for the Town of Lincoln,” Vasseur said. “We really hope this community-based approach can help people link their environment to the changes that are happening. Such a tool can have great potential for communicating with communities.”

    DeCock plans to make the results of her research accessible to the public through an interactive web application that will also be used as a communication tool for the larger MEOPAR project.

    “Studying the history of the shoreline is very important, but if we don’t use our findings to impact the future, then we are missing a huge opportunity,” she said. “I hope that by making the information available, we can positively impact future climate change adaptation decision-making.”

    DeCock is also working with her MEOPAR project partners to create blog posts that will share information on the group’s efforts and climate change in general with the community. These posts will be available on Brock’s UNESCO Chair website in the coming weeks.

    She is thankful for the SSHRC funding that made her study possible.

    “Sustainability science is solution oriented,” she said. “To have the federal government support my research elevates the importance of what I am doing. Climate change is a globally urgent topic and to know that our government sees it as a priority helps me to know I am doing something important with my research.”

    Diane Dupont, Brock’s Interim Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, acknowledged the significant work taken on by the graduate students recognized by SSHRC.

    “To see our graduate students have this incredible success in the SSHRC competition is outstanding,” she said. “Our graduate students are making a direct impact on the lives of Canadians and are becoming the researchers of tomorrow. As they continue to contribute new knowledge to the world of academia, I wish them the utmost success.”

    Read the full story in The Brock News. 

     

     

     

    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • Indicators point toward worse Great Lakes flooding than 2017

    The Town of Lincoln sustained nearly $1 million in damage from spring storms in 2017.


    From: The Brock News, Thursday, May 2
    By: Dan Dakin

    Record-high lake levels led to devastating flood damage in Great Lakes coastal communities in 2017, but in the two years since, little has changed.

    Brock University Professor of Biology and UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability Liette Vasseur said those communities are in for serious flooding this year.

    And she says despite knowing it was coming, our complacency as a society has meant that we’re not only ill-prepared, but we’ve made things worse on ourselves.

    “The pragmatism people have is that it’s all about today. Nobody thinks about the future,” she said. “We knew this was going to happen. All the signs were there.”

    Vasseur is an internationally recognized expert in the field of coastal flooding and climate change adaptation and is currently leading a research project examining the impacts of the 2017 flooding and what could have been done to change the outcomes.

    She’s been carefully watching the rising lake levels and said Lake Erie, for example, hit a record high in late April.

    Vasseur said the explanation can be found in a number of areas such as the control level plan for the Great Lakes and heavy snowfall and spring rainfall for some regions, but she said the decisions of municipalities and residents are having a major impact.

    “There are climate drivers, but what doesn’t help is the fact that people are building close to rivers and lakes,” she said. “These are dynamic systems. The human component is very important. You remove wetlands and pave over other areas so with heavy rainfall, the water has to go somewhere else.”

    Vasseur said even after the devastating floods two years ago, municipalities have continued to allow projects to be built in these sensitive areas.

    “It’s quite obvious to me that we didn’t learn the lessons,” she said.

    Vasseur’s recommendation is for residents living near coastlines to invest in waterproofing measures, and for municipalities to start creating buffer zones along rivers and lakes. Adaptation measures are badly needed. For some, it may even be to move from their residence, she said.

    While those steps won’t stop the effects of climate change, they will at least help to lessen the impact on communities and infrastructure.

    “We need to start bringing more of the natural components that can help with these storms like recreating wetlands and marshes,” she said.

    Tags: , , ,
    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • Indicators point toward worse Great Lakes flooding than 2017

    2 May 2019
    R00074


    Record-high lake levels led to devastating flood damage in Great Lakes coastal communities in 2017, but in the two years since, little has changed.

    Brock University Professor of Biology and UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability Liette Vasseur said those communities are in for serious flooding this year.

    And she says despite knowing it was coming, our complacency as a society has meant that we’re not only ill-prepared, but we’ve made things worse on ourselves.

    “The pragmatism people have is that it’s all about today. Nobody thinks about the future,” she said. “We knew this was going to happen. All the signs were there.”

    Vasseur is an internationally recognized expert in the field of coastal flooding and climate change adaptation and is currently leading a research project examining the impacts of the 2017 flooding and what could have been done to change the outcomes.

    She’s been carefully watching the rising lake levels and said Lake Erie, for example, hit a record high in late April.

    Vasseur said the explanation can be found in a number of areas such as the control level plan for the Great Lakes and heavy snowfall and spring rainfall for some regions, but she said the decisions of municipalities and residents are having a major impact.

    “There are climate drivers, but what doesn’t help is the fact that people are building close to rivers and lakes,” she said. “These are dynamic systems. The human component is very important. You remove wetlands and pave over other areas so with heavy rainfall, the water has to go somewhere else.”

    Vasseur said even after the devastating floods two years ago, municipalities have continued to allow projects to be built in these sensitive areas.

    “It’s quite obvious to me that we didn’t learn the lessons,” she said.

    Vasseur’s recommendation is for residents living near coastlines to invest in waterproofing measures, and for municipalities to start creating buffer zones along rivers and lakes. Adaptation measures are badly needed. For some, it may even be to move from their residence, she said.

    While those steps won’t stop the effects of climate change, they will at least help to lessen the impact on communities and infrastructure.

    “We need to start bringing more of the natural components that can help with these storms like recreating wetlands and marshes,” she said.

    Brock Professor Liette Vasseur is available for interviews on the subject.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

    – 30 –

    Categories: Media releases

  • UNESCO Chair celebrates World Poetry Day tonight at Mahtay Cafe

    In celebration of UNESCO World Poetry Day, the UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability: From Local to Global will be hosting a celebration tonight (Thursday, March 21) to recognize the winners of the 2018 Sustainability Poetry Contest.

    The theme of the 2019 contest aligned with International Year Of Indigenous Languages.

    The event will take place at at Mahtay Café in downtown St. Catharines beginning at 6:30 p.m. 

    The event is free and all are welcome to attend.

    Light refreshments will be served.

    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR)- Lincoln Community Sustainability Project Update

    Thank you to everyone who attended our presentation to the Town of Lincoln at the council meeting last night (Tuesday, March 19).

    At the meeting, Dr. Liette Vasseur, Dr. Bradley May and Masters Candidate Meredith DeCock, all of Brock University, provided an update on the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR)- Lincoln Community Sustainability Project to date.


    Missed the event?

    View the presentation notes

    View the meeting agenda

    View a recording of the meeting 
    *Videos are uploaded by the Town of Lincoln following the meetings

    Visit the project Facebook page 


     

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • Supporting mature female students enrolling in university STEM programs

    (From: The Conversation, February 27, 2019)
    Written by: Liette Vasseur

    Women face many barriers when it comes to post-secondary education, and this is especially true in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as in traditionally male-dominated trades like welding. These barriers are even higher for mature female students — those who are at least 24 years old — who are often discriminated against when they want to pursue their studies.

    My biology master’s student, Heather VanVolkenburg, is a mature student who returned to post-secondary education after having a family. Just before the 2017 Gender Summit in Montréal, we were discussing women in STEM and the challenges they face when I discovered that mature students seemed to encounter even more barriers than younger women. This made me reflect on a simple question: are certain groups of people, especially mature students, being discriminated against in higher education?

    Current Landscape

    During our discussion panel at the Gender Summit, this question came up again by a person in the audience. Some participants were surprised when I mentioned how mature female students face barriers in STEM and trades education. This was the first step towards Heather and I preparing a reflection paper published by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s IdeaLab, which sought to determine the current situation of mature female students in STEM and trades and identify the barriers they face.

    We found that mature students understand better their role in society and want to contribute. This is one of the reasons they are interested in returning to higher education. There are, of course, other reasons. Among them are new career options, the need for more credentials and career prospect improvement. Self-interest is often suggested, and though this might have been true a few decades ago, I would caution people against thinking that’s the main reason.

    Admitting maturity

    When we looked at the numbers from universities and colleges in our study, we found that mature female students are increasingly present in STEM and trades. What’s more, when compared with younger students, they tend to have a higher graduation rate.

    Entering higher education after a leave of absence can be difficult for many reasons, such as finding it difficult to navigate the admission process, managing stress related to family and studies, financial burden, etc. What surprised me the most during the research was the variation in admission criteria and selection process among universities, including the amount of fine print that can lead to serious barriers for women returning to higher education.

    Meeting the criteria may seem simple, but for many, navigating university and college websites can be a bit of a nightmare. Admittedly, this is also the case for those of us who work at those universities! Finding the requirements and information on how to apply as a mature student can be a daunting experience — I would not be surprised to learn that many become discouraged and stop looking.

    Entry requirements and admission criteria differ greatly from one university or college to the next. The minimum age to be considered a mature student varies among institutions: at the University of Saskatchewan it’s 21 years of age, while McGill considers a mature student to be 23.

    While some universities are willing to consider admitting people on a case-by-case basis, others are more restrictive. Similarly, some colleges may take life experience into consideration but others will only admit mature female students on a part-time basis. Some universities do not even mention mature students at all.

    Support beyond admissions

    Mature female students furthering their education may need services that are not necessarily present in all universities and colleges. But, as we stated in our paper, “existing support services for mature women may make a difference in whether or not to pursue higher education.”

    Indeed, the need for day care or financial support can be a huge stumbling block. Unfortunately, we found that few universities have extensive support services for mature female students. Thankfully, some do: the University of Northern British Columbia has an entire floor devoted to mature student support with counselling, day-care options, tutoring, etc.

    We certainly suggest that universities share their good practices with each other to enhance support for mature students and possibly attempt to make their systems more consistent to reduce the stress of navigating admission process. Day care is certainly a huge issue for women with young children. However, not all universities and colleges offer this option to students.

    Accessibility and affordability can be the two main barriers for women. Increasing access to day care, even at night, can help support mature female students with children as is the case in Sweden. Probably because of their focus on continuing education, colleges generally tend to offer more services than universities.

    Without financial support, women may be discouraged from or even completely unable to continue their studies. Scholarships and opportunities for summer employment are therefore considered important, and mature female students are often marginalized in this regard. For summer employment programs, we discovered that many of them limit accessibility to students younger than 25 to 29 years old. A woman who has raised a family may therefore be ineligible for such positions.

    We discovered that few federal or provincial programs directly support mature female students in higher education. Some universities offer special financial support for mature students. Queen’s University offers the Science 1948 ½ Mature Student Entrance Bursary for students in engineering. Mount Saint Vincent University, where the number of women is higher than most universities, may be the university with the most scholarships available to mature students.

    Rethinking universities

    Many universities in Canada were established in the 1950s and ‘60s to satisfy the need to educate young people in an era of modern development and scientific advancement. However, demographics are changing, and the baby boom years are long gone. We must now overcome this new challenge: are universities catering only to young students?

    In the United Kingdom, mature individuals now make up a large portion of the student population in higher education. To respond to these changing demographics, universities have had to adapt and modify their programs accordingly. It may be time for Canadian higher education institutions to rethink their programs and services.

    We have only scratched the surface of the issues faced by women in STEM and traditionally male-dominated trades education. In my view, this is a reflection that should also include newcomers and other groups, along with racialized and Indigenous students. We need to think of new ways higher education institutions can welcome people from every demographic. We hope this can help spark dialogue.

    Read the full article
    Read the story in The Brock News

    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • Mature female STEM students face many barriers

    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 ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

    – 30 –

    Categories: Media releases

  • Brock researchers to introduce coastal research project to Lincoln residents and stakeholders

    26 November 2018
    R00209


    A research project examining how coastal communities can deal with the impacts of climate change will formally launch in the Town of Lincoln this week.

    The town suffered around $1 million in damage as a result of back-to-back spring storms in 2017 that caused massive flooding from Lake Ontario. Announced in May, Brock University Professor and UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability Liette Vasseur is leading a three-year research study that will focus on Lincoln as the Ontario component of a wider project by Université du Québec à Rimouski.

    The local research is being funded through a $280,000 grant from the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) with additional support from the Town of Lincoln and Brock.

    The Lincoln research will officially be launched on Thursday, Nov. 29 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Fleming Centre in Beamsville. Interested residents and landowners will be able to meet Vasseur and her research team and learn more about how they can participate in the project. There will also be a short discussion to learn more about the experiences of those in attendance around climate change and extreme weather events in the town.

    “Our strong partnership with Brock enables these types of on-the-ground research opportunities, informing and providing evidence-based decisions for our community,” said Town of Lincoln CAO Michael Kirkopoulos.

    Vasseur said she hopes the end result of the research will be sustainable options for the future such as how to help slow down and prevent shoreline erosion or any other impacts on the town.

    “With this project, we want to help the community and the town contribute to solutions and strategies to adapt to climate change,” she said.

    What: MEOPAR Town of Lincoln Research Project Launch

    When: Thursday, Nov. 29, 6:30 to 8 p.m.

    Where: Fleming Centre, Room A, 5020 Serena Dr., Beamsville

    Who: Open to all

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

    – 30 –

    Categories: Media releases