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International Education

Lisa Jorgensen in Argentina

Lisa Jorgensen, a teacher in the Humanities Department at Vanier College, a member of the Women’s Studies program, a co-founder and member of the Open Door Network, and a member of the Human Rights Advisory Board, went to Buenos Aires in March 2013 to meet with scholars at the University of Buenos Aires and the University of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo to learn about women and social movements in Latin America.

Lisa focused her research on the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, mothers who initially organized to bring international attention to human rights abuses in Argentina during the “Dirty War” from 1976 to 1983. These women continue to protest human rights abuses and have since expanded their human rights advocacy to include contemporary social justice causes. The Mothers have become pioneers in human rights education through the university that they founded in the 1980s.

Lisa will use the knowledge gained from this trip to build a Humanities course called Women and Social Movements. Relating her direct experience with women promoting social justice in Buenos Aires will make students more aware of global issues and will encourage them to get more involved in international projects. She will also be learning about new ways to teach issues around social justice and human rights. This will not only be useful in the classroom, but also in promoting human rights and social justice at Vanier through Women’s Studies and the Open Door Network. Quebec has been an innovator in human rights policies in Canada and there is a strong tradition of grass-roots political organization in the province. In making links between Vanier College and women’s organizations in Argentina, both academic and community-based, Lisa will build on this tradition.


Environmental and Wildlife Management Internships 2013

The Caño Palma Biological Station in Tortuguero, Limon, Costa Rica welcomed Vanier students for a six week internship in the Winter 2013 semester. The Caño Palma Biological Station is run by the Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation (COTERC) a Canadian non-profit organization, that is dedicated to conserving rainforest biodiversity through education and research. The Caño Palma Biological Station welcomes researchers, interns, and volunteers from around the world who participate in various projects at the station.

The student project involved a plant species inventory of a one-hectare forested plot within the boundaries of the biological station. The project was set up in 2012 by another Environmental and Wildlife Management student. The ACER sampling methodologies were used for the plant inventory. ACER is a Canadian organization developed to monitor forest biodiversity. Using Smithsonian research protocols, ACER inventories and monitors a number of forest plots throughout Canada. The aim of the project at Caño Palma is to apply ACER sampling methodologies to a Neotropical rainforest setting.

The project saw our Vanier students going through all twenty-five of the sub-plots within the one-hectare plot and identifying  the trees previously tagged by the  2012 Vanier intern. A local ethnobotanist, Mario Gracia Quesada, was brought in to facilitate identification. Once all of the trees were identified, the process of re-tagging all of the trees began, using more permanent aluminum tags. The DBH (diameter at breast height) of all tagged trees was then measured and recorded, and the heights of three representative trees within each sub-plot were measured and recorded. All of the data  was compiled and then was sent to the Smithsonian Institution.

Training for Industrial Electronics Students in Ontario 2013

In March 2013, thirteen  students from the Industrial Electronics Department had the opportunity to receive weeklong training at the Siemens World Class Center of Excellence in Peterborough, Ontario. This training is valuable to the students  as it assists them in launching their  careers. The hands-on experience Siemens provides is an excellent way to complement their 3 year technical program. The students have been  grateful for this opportunity, and with the help of their supervisor, Jason Duheme, they held bake sales in an effort to raise as much money as possible to help fund their transportation and their stay in Peterborough.

One student, Kenny Meza-Boxer, said; “We learned about several types of technologies used to measure the level of several different kinds of materials such as liquids and gases. We correctly installed and calibrated ultrasonic probes and capacitance sensors. In addition, we were also taught  how to correctly select the correct type of technology for the right application. The hospitality offered by the people at Siemens was A+. This was an amazing trip and I am personally very grateful to have been able to participate in and attend this fantastic field trip with my colleagues.”

Another student, Ahmed Khodje Kesba said; “My trip to Siemens, Peterborough, was an enriching experience. The training covered a lot of level instruments and their applications, which are unavailable to experiment with at Vanier. Therefore, I highly recommend this practical experience to anyone within the field of process control. Trust me, the certificate is worthwhile.”

Malawi Nursing Exchange 2013

The six students who participated this year, in March 2013, were challenged everyday as they learned to adapt in a resource-poor country, which can be frustrating but also transformative. Their reflective blog posts express a continuum of emotions but what shines through is ultimately an appreciation of Canada’s healthcare system and a deeper understanding of health-related issues.

With limited resources, nurses and doctors must do what they can do with what they have here in Malawi. At times this may mean that not all is done to the capacity of the health care providers’ scope of knowledge for the patient. This is a helpless feeling, one which we have all had the opportunity to experience during our stay here. One student commented; “How do they (the healthcare workers) return to work day after day?” One wonderful Clinical Officer responded; “I do what I can do by trying to save one life at a time”. During our short few weeks at this small rural hospital, he did just that. His dedication, compassion and empathy, not to mention his superb skills and knowledge, were an inspiration to us all.

Holocaust and Totalitarianism – Complimentary Course

During the 2013 March Break at Vanier College, 38 students and 5 teachers travelled to Europe as part of the international component of a new universal complementary course entitled “Holocaust and Totalitarianism: Journeys through Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.”

It was the culminating point of 7 weeks of classroom lectures the students had attended prior to their departure,  in which they studied the period covering the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany up to the demise of the Soviet Union, and analyzed the major themes of genocide, totalitarianism and the Cold War.  The class then complemented their knowledge with visits to important sites associated with the material covered in class, including Berlin’s Check Point Charlie, the Wall, Warsaw’s Ghetto, Krakow’s Schindler Factory Museum and the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps.

“The trip was a resounding success,” says Humanities/Social Science teacher Sevak Manjikian who taught the course. “The students were able to fully understand the significance of the sites they visited as well as draw a conceptual line between the rise of Hitler and the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

Upon their return to Vanier, the students put together videos and elaborate scrapbooks about the trip, detailing their observations, impressions and reflections on what they had seen and experienced. These works were then shared publicly in display cases in the College.

Mike Besner, the trip organizer, who accompanied the students to Europe, indicated it was a very moving experience for them. “During the course, Ted Bolgar, a Holocaust survivor, visited the class and told his story.  Then at Birkenau/Auschwitz II, we pointed out to the students that we were standing in the exact spot where an SS Officer had taken seconds to determine if Ted and his other family members were healthy enough to be sent to a work camp. Ted and his father survived by a quick point of a finger. His mother and sister were sent in the other direction, to the showers. Having met and spoken with Ted in class made that moment surreal for the students.”

Indeed, student Alexandra Ceasar summed up perfectly the impact of this visit in a Vanier student newspaper article, “Auschwitz was an emotionally exhausting experience,” she wrote.  “Some cried, some were silenced in disbelief; most of us could not even begin to imagine how such horror could have occurred seventy years ago on the very ground where we were standing.”

Clearly, Mike Besner  is right when he concludes, “I think this trip will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”