It was the Autumn 2000 semester and Mark Prentice, newly elected Curriculum Coordinator for the Social and Cultural Sciences Department sat at a Faculty meeting, listening to the sad tales of Social Science teachers. We wanted to raise the profile of the Social Sciences. We wanted our students to feel proud of their program. We hoped we could get them to refer to the full name of the program, and drop the, “I’m in Social” shorthand. We wanted to have our program seen as something better than a dumping ground for those who couldn’t get into any other.
Mark spoke up. How about showing the community what contributions the social sciences make to help us understand our society? We live in a city of festivals—jazz festivals, lobster festivals, dog-park day festivals—why not a Social Science Festival? The coordinators sitting around the table chuckled. Why not? We let the idea percolate, we brainstormed ideas for guest speakers, we discussed budget, dates, venues. Mark Prentice took the bull by the horns and started organizing.
In the A-2001 semester, just a few short weeks following 9/11, the first Social Science Festival at Vanier College took place. Gwyn Dyer’s presentation, The New War, addressed the events of 9/11, placing them in a broad historical context. The auditorium was packed to the rafters. One of my students remarked, “I’ve never learned so much in such a short time!” Chris Spence came in from Toronto to speak of Racism, Sports and Education. We wished more of our athletes were in attendance. Richard Pound spoke about his experiences with the International Olympic Committee.
Local talent also came forward: Matthieu Sossoyan initiated the Archeological Dig, which is back each year by popular demand and which led to the History of Vanier site (found under H in the home page Index). Nancy Wargny spoke of the Aids Epidemic in Africa. Karen Tee, Sevak Manjikian, Nancy Leclerc, Eric Lamoureux—and many more, addressed topics of relevance to students’ personal lives as well as to their citizenship in the world.
On his own time, Mark organized the Festival for three years straight, and each year it grew in import and participation. By the time he passed it on to Myriam Mansour, and then to Miles De Nora, the Social Science Festival had grown into a week long event, significantly contributing to the life of Vanier College.
Every year we invite teachers and students from all programs to the Social Science Festival. That buzz you hear in the hallways may very well be inspired by one of the Festival events. Arrange to be part of it!
Source: VCTA newsletter, Vol 24 No 2, Oct 2006