I’ve Always Been a Cookie Monster
Air Date: April 27, 2020
#5 I’ve Always Been a Cookie Monster
April 27, 2020
0:00 Interview with Peter Farrugia, Coordinator, Humanities and Leadership Foundations
10:13 Interview with Delores Maas, Indigenous Studies/Youth and Children Studies Student
20:42 Interview with Sarah Syrett, Associate Field Coordinator, Bachelor of Social Work
Learn more about our host, guests and their work:
Bruce Gillespie, Associate Professor
- Indigenous Undergraduate Summer Research Scholars program (IUSRS)
- Confronting Atrocity: Truth, Justice & Memory Project
One Market is created and produced by Bruce Gillespie and Tarah Brookfield. Music by Scott Holmes. Graphics by Melissa Weaver.
Bruce Gillespie 0:05
Welcome to One Market, keeping the Laurier Brantford community connected. I’m Bruce Gillespie. This is Episode Five. This week, we learned about the Humanities with Leadership Foundations program launching this fall, and hear about one student’s contribution to a research project about atrocities around the world. Then we’ll hear about how the Bachelor of Social Work students are meeting their field placement requirements at a time when campus is more or less closed and people are expected to stay home. All that and more coming up on this episode of One Market.
Our first guest is Peter Farrugia, a long-time professor in the History program. He’s also the coordinator of the new Humanities with Leadership Foundations program, which officially launches this fall. I started by asking Peter how his semester turned out after the end of in person classes.
Peter Farrugia 1:04
Well, it’s one of those things that you really can’t prepare for, but I was really pleased with how things ended up working out. I had a rather small class of 29 in the History course, third-year History course and a lot of strong students. And so, we were running as a seminar and I was able to preserve that using Zoom, and we would meet at our regular class times. And the students responded really well. There were some, you know, difficulties with just being overburdened with different assignments and things like that. But we, you know, I tried to be as understanding and lenient as I could with deadlines, and it all worked out in the end.
Bruce Gillespie 1:48
That’s great to hear. I think it must make a difference. And I think we’ve all seen it that to move existing classes who’ve been meeting face to face online at the end of the year, is probably not the worst thing in the world, because you’ve already made those connections already. My, sort of, eventual fear is that if we have to do this in the fall, like I think it’ll be, I think it’d be harder to build those connections in the first place when you’re only seeing people online.
Peter Farrugia 2:11
No, I would agree 100%, the class already had a very good rapport. And so, transferring it to remote delivery wasn’t that difficult. Whereas as you say, in the fall, starting from that, that point will be I think, difficult, perhaps what, you know, what will help is if there are students in our classes that we’ve taught previously, if it’s a senior course, there may already be the some of those connections there. But you’re right, I think it’s a bigger challenge for sure.
Bruce Gillespie 2:43
So, you’re also the program coordinator for Humanities with Leadership and Foundations, which is a relatively new program at Brantford. Can you tell, so for folks who don’t know anything about the program, can you tell us a little bit about it, first of all?
Peter Farrugia 2:56
We have a first-year introductory course that is distinctly HMLD and a capstone course which we’re working on finishing, we have our first in-take of majors hopefully, this fall, the emphasis is on combining various humanities disciplines like Philosophy, History, English, with some of the the Leadership courses that have been part of the Leadership program, and now the Leadership minor. And what we’re trying to do is, is emphasize the fact that, that the humanities have a role to play in how we envision leadership and actually contemporary events, I think, have have really been interesting and underlying that fact, that the humanities remain relevant and important in terms of how we seek to engage with the problems, the challenges that face us in the world.
Bruce Gillespie 3:54
I was thinking the exact same thing as soon as you said that: “Could this be a more topical degree program to start offering at time like this?”
Peter Farrugia 4:01
It’s funny how things go. I mean, yeah, we could not ask for a situation that underlined this, I think more effectively. You know, I am, I was in touch recently with the applicants, I thought that I would follow up because we were unable to hold our March open house. And I just sent them an article that I had seen in the Manchester Guardian that was talking about the singers who have appeared on Italian balconies and the way that Italians have used patriotic songs, and love songs, and opera and, light classical music to kind of demonstrate their cohesion and solidarity in the face of the immense challenge that they face. And I thought, you know, here’s a here’s a perfect example of the way that we can mobilize the arts to good effect in times of challenge.
Bruce Gillespie 4:50
So, given that you’re doing your first official take, intake of students this fall, what are you sort of thinking about now? I mean, obviously, we don’t know what the fall will look like in terms of remote learning or in person, who knows? What are some of the things you’re trying to figure out now in order to, to make that first intake the best it can be?
Peter Farrugia 5:07
Right. It’s a great question. I mean, one thing that we’re very fortunate to, to have experienced is that we had a, almost like a soft launch. Last year, we did run the HMLD 100. Even though we didn’t have any majors, and we had seven students in it. And yeah, the course ran as an inquiry based learning course. And we used a type of inquiry based learning called closed loop iterative. So, every class the students would receive some information that would help them towards the accomplishing of the particular goal that we’d set out. And they would have to go through that information determine what do we know from that information? What do we need to know in order to complete our task? And then, how are we going to find that information? And so, it’s an interesting form of learning. I mean, it’s uncomfortable at first for students, especially if they’ve been used to having, you know, a lot of guidance from the instructor. I mean, really, my job is to act as a kind of facilitator to provide the information and, you know, occasionally guide the group if they’re going off track a little bit. But really, it’s about teaching them to ask those questions, and to be able to then answer those questions or, in effect, as John Dewey said, to learn how to learn
Bruce Gillespie 6:33
What an interesting teaching model to engage with, particularly when you’re looking at students from a variety of backgrounds, so it’s not like they’re all English students, or all History students, they’re coming from all sorts of disciplines.
Peter Farrugia 6:43
That was something I really appreciated about that inaugural group is they were drawn from all different disciplines, there’s Human Rights, there was Social Work, there was a really nice mix of backgrounds. And that’s something I hope that happens again this year. You know, even if we do get a cluster of five or six majors, whatever it is, I really value those situations where you have an interdisciplinary group, because people just come at problems from different perspectives. And I find that that makes it a richer environment. And often more interesting questions are raised when you have that kind of multiplicity of viewpoint.
Bruce Gillespie 7:22
I agree. And that’s something that’s always struck me as really uniquely Laurier Brantford. I’ve always appreciated that, that mixing of students from different backgrounds in the same classroom, and I think that’s something we do, uniquely really well here and that we really still want to do.
Peter Farrugia 7:36
Yes, I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s, it’s important. You know, especially in the world that we live in now. I mean, take journalism, for example. I think there were many assumptions being made by people and, and almost taking the whole discipline, the whole field for granted. And I think a situation like the Coronavirus, has really emphasized the importance of having, you know, a professional, dedicated, investigative, journalistic cohort that is seeking to, you know, get at the facts and to hold people accountable. And some of the new technologies while they are, they have great potential they also have potential for confusion and for misguiding people. And so, I think, you know, this, the current situation has really underlined the importance of journalism, just you know, one discipline, for example, and I think whether it’s Health Studies or Social Work or Criminology, I mean, again, there’s potential for us not to fully comprehend what those disciplines contribute to our society or to, to base our view of those professions on erroneous judgments. So yeah, I agree that mingling of the different disciplines that Laurier Brantford has, has been, I think one of the most rewarding things for me since I’ve been here at Laurier Brantford.
Bruce Gillespie 9:00
And you’ve been here, I may get this wrong, you’ve been here almost since the very beginning right?
Peter Farrugia 9:04
I’m one of the two originals from 1999. Yeah.
Bruce Gillespie 9:08
Wow. That’s, that’s crazy. So, you know exactly what you’re talking about.
Peter Farrugia 9:12
It’s, no, we used to have some, you know, it was great in the early days to be having conversations with someone, a philosopher, or, you know, someone who did Indigenous Studies or geographer, whatever it was, and we still have some of those. I mean, as we’ve gotten bigger, and we seem to have gotten busier, and those opportunities maybe aren’t as as frequent. But, I find that another really rewarding part of the job is just listening to what my colleagues are doing, what their research is about, and you know, what their concerns are. And I find that that informs my own work and helps me to, to do a better job with my students.
Bruce Gillespie 9:50
Peter, thank you so much for joining us today.
Peter Farrugia 9:52
You’re welcome. I really enjoyed it.
Bruce Gillespie 9:55
Our next guest is Delores Maas, a fourth-year Indigenous Studies and Youth and Children’s Studies double major. This spring, she was supposed to take part in her first academic conference, sharing some research she’d worked on in the past year. But, since that conference, like most others, was cancelled due to the pandemic, we asked her to join us today to talk about her work. But, we started off by talking about what it was like to finish up her courses remotely the semester.
Delores Maas 10:21
Well, online learning is much different. And it’s harder to adjust to, because I’m an interactive person. So, I work best when I’m interacting with other people. So, having to first of all, just interact with myself wasn’t the fun, and then it’s, it’s a different way of learning. So, just reading from a PowerPoint and not having any communication or clarification on what you’ve read, or what you’ve understood. I find that a little difficult because then I can only trust what I think I’ve learned, as opposed to what maybe the professor wanted me to learn as an objective for the class. And I often found out for me, like, I do the readings. And when I do the readings, and I make my notes, I have, often have quite a different interpretation. Or I may miss something. And then when the professor talks about it, then I was like, then it would be for me, “Oh, well, that makes sense now,” because there was little little bits of information that weren’t quite clear, especially if the readings are very technical, or very overly academic. And then, you know, you’re spending more time looking up words and trying to figure out they’re saying.
Bruce Gillespie 11:38
Absolutely. Delores, one of the other reasons we want to talk to you was that you took part in the Indigenous Undergraduate Summer Research Scholars Program. And were going to present some of the research you did at a conference this spring that, like all other conferences, got canceled. So, we want to hear a little bit about your research, if you could tell us about it, please?
Delores Maas 11:43
Well, I was part of, I am still actually remaining a part of this five year project, which is confronting atrocity projects. So, my participation last year in the program was to create a typeology database of the 50 to 60 different truth commissions that have been written and investigated for, since 1992, I think was the first one.
Bruce Gillespie 12:26
Delores Maas 12:26
And what was, what was important about developing this typeology database is to come up with different factors that would be of interest to any academics or policymakers or anyone generally, who was interested in exactly what happened. What were these Truth and Reconciliation Commissions? Were they to get at the truth? Were they to reconcile? Were they to restore justice? Were they to implicate the people who committed the crimes? And then, as we were reading through these, it was very, like, it was very emotional, because the terrible things that people can do to each other is just, it’s just unbelievable. And then, understanding that there are, there were governments who wanted to investigate those atrocities, and then actually try to do something about them, to recognize them, to reconcile the nation, to memorialize them so that they never happen again. So then, we also looked at some key findings and we found official reports, and sometimes not official reports. Some of the Commissions were originally commissioned and then withdrawn from all public knowledge, originally these are supposed to be fully publicly accessible.
Bruce Gillespie 13:42
Delores Maas 13:43
So that you can see, you can read, you can watch, there was videos and various other things. But, some of them were written and then pulled by the governments. And so, interesting, the ones that we could find. And then if you search the internet, you could actually find other copies that weren’t sanctioned copies, but someone had copied and put on the internet. So, that was interesting to figure out, why did they pull them? And then the key outcomes gave us, gave anyone details about, like, well, what really, so it was done, so what? What did that mean? So, some of the key outcomes would be like for our, Canada’s one, for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it would be the 94 calls to action. So, when you’re looking at trying to figure out as an academic, or as a student, what you would want from this database, we were finding issues that maybe students would like to research on, like the key outcomes. So, then you could, you’d have a way of knowing what they were, and then you could further your education. If there was any major publication, some, some books were actually written and then sold by Amazon, and that was interesting.
So, we put those in there and then any external links that we could find. And then finally, any interesting comments that happened, or if recommendations that we could find, we listed those as well. Anything to do with, if land was involved somehow in the reparation or, or restoration of justice. So in the end, it turned out to be a very, very interesting read, like it was, my job as as the research student was to read these conditions, and then input this data into this, this database, so that someone, anyone could just literally click on it and then further their research. Like, and we even tried to find how many petitions were received, how many cases were heard, how many participants were heard. And in the end, I had to do a poster, academic poster about what I learned. And it was just so, to me, it was one of the most interesting events that I was involved in, because it gave me a little, gave me a greater awareness of what goes on in the world around you, and how other countries are handling their atrocities. And, you know, how maybe Canada can improve, or how maybe Canada can learn, or how maybe anyone can learn from these reports.
Bruce Gillespie 16:19
What an interesting but, and also like, so useful kind of project to work on, because I think exactly what you said, I think there’s lots of assertion with Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and we could probably name a handful of other Commissions about atrocities, but to have a database that makes it easy to find information and from what it sounds like you’re saying, compare approaches, results. That’s, that’s hugely useful. What a great idea.
Delores Maas 16:45
This is all driven by Dr. Bonny, and I’m going to terribly say his name, but you know, I am actually going to spell it, Ibhawoh, who is at McMaster. And he, his interest, his direction in this project is really what drove figuring out what data was needed for the database. Like, he was interested in learning if justice was met. If the actual people who suffered the atrocities obtain any closure, did they didn’t heal, did they forgive? Is there, has the country achieved social change? So, the next step to his project is to interview survivors, five to ten years beyond the release of the Truth Commission, to find out if the government action and responsibility to citizens actually, if they fulfill those recommendations, or completed the reparations, or implemented national memorials or ensured public access. So, that part, I hope to be involved in, doing some interviews with Indigenous people would be nice, being Indigenous myself, and I’m very interested in learning if, you know, the Indigenous people of Canada feel like they obtained any justice with 94 calls to action.
Bruce Gillespie 18:05
Yeah, I mean, it’s sort of interesting to think about, there’s been all this money and time put into this work. What does it mean five or ten years later? I think that’s a really important question to try to answer.
Delores Maas 18:15
It is, and then when you look at the whole project over the five year process, it’s going to be an amazing piece of work. And I’m, I was, at first very nervous to be involved in it. And then, now I’m interested, I want to know too. I want to, my involvement is because I want to know, not because I have to do it or because it was something that was interesting. I really do want to know how people have felt this outcome or if there was an outcome. So, in the presentation of the poster, I mean, there was quite a few little interesting facts that I learned. And one of the, one of my favorite ones is, in two years, three Guatemalan commissioners heard 20,000 cases and found 200,000 victims in just two years. When you compare that to how Canada spent five years and $60 million and they didn’t hear as many or find as many. So, it was interesting to think about how these commissions, how the commissioners themselves would work and how, how much freedom the government’s gave the commissioners to do the investigation. Some of them were actually given the ability to call people in for trials to, like, subpoena them.
Bruce Gillespie 19:31
Delores Maas 19:32
So, this is interesting. I really enjoyed it, program is really amazing. And it was cancelled originally for this year because of COVID, but they have revitalized it digitally.
Bruce Gillespie 19:46
Delores Maas 19:46
So, it’s very exciting. It is going to go forward. And it’s available for university, Indigenous university students, to register for and I hope that many people do, and that they get involved in this kind of research and learn what is out there in the academic world, how what kind of work you can do, what kind of difference it can make, like, it’s very important. And I found it very valuable. And I really enjoyed it. It also gave me a lot of a lot of self confidence. And I feel stronger about being able to present information myself, like I’m doing right now.
Bruce Gillespie 20:22
Yeah, well, that’s that’s exactly what undergraduate research projects should do. I’m, I’m thrilled to hear it turned out so well. And it sounds like a fascinating project. So, thank you so much for telling us about it today.
Delores Maas 20:32
Thank you for inviting me to tell you about it. It was, it was a very, I really enjoyed it. And I would do it again, if I could for sure.
Bruce Gillespie 20:41
Our final guest is Sarah Syrett, who’s the field education coordinator for the Bachelor of Social Work Program. field placements are required for BSW students. So, I started off by asking Sarah what it’s like for students to find and complete placements at a time when people are expected to stay home.
Sarah Syrett 20:58
So, it’s been very interesting times in the field office, as you can imagine, our students who were on placement when social distancing measures really got put into place, we kind of jumped into superspeed and got them gradually hooked up with remote placements where possible. So, as the situation started to unfold, it happened pretty gradually. And so, our first stage was to look at always ensuring that students safety was top of mind. And so, students who weren’t comfortable to go to placement when this first sort of all came to be, we were giving them options for continuing their work remotely. So, project based work, or being able to connect with, with clients and other sorts of stakeholders over the phone or in other kinds of ways. And then, as the regulations started to get a little bit more strict, and students were not able to be anywhere in person or in school in person, and we moved everybody to remote placement, which actually worked out really well.
We were really grateful to have our accrediting body allow us to cut back the amount of placement hours that students are required to have, which meant that more of our placement, or more of our placement students were closer to being done placement at the time that this all kind of transpired. So, there were, was a handful of students who had some additional work to finish, and they were able to, to finish that remotely with project based work. So, it was a real team effort. Our community partners have been absolutely amazing. We did our best to keep in close contact with them to make sure that those students could finish. And we got really creative about how we were, how we’re moving things online so that that could happen. With regards to students who are supposed to be going out on placement, we’re forging ahead with spring and fall placements, our spring placements are lined up and ready to start as of next week.
Bruce Gillespie 23:10
Sarah Syrett 23:11
Again, in a remote capacity, which is really exciting, I think, from my perspective, in that I’ve always really viewed social work as a very face to face kind of profession. I think that being in this role has really opened me up to the various possibilities within social work and the fact that it’s not all face to face. Right now we’re really speaking to students about the importance of what we would call macro level practice, right? That systems level, policy level, advocacy work, research, all of these things that really make it possible for people to have jobs on the front line, right? Like, if you don’t have the research to back a funding proposal, an organization can’t obtain the funding to be able to actually expand their services to employ people to do that frontline work. So, this is a really fantastic time for people in the social work field to exercise those advocacy muscles and to really dive into you know, the planning and the the behind the scenes work of social work that allows that frontline work to happen. So, I’m actually viewing it as like a pretty exciting experience. And I’m really hoping to, to pass that excitement on to students as well who are going out in the fall, as they might additionally need to start their placement at least in a remote capacity and, and potentially, hopefully be able to shift in person. But, that’s kind of how we’re, how we’re working on things at the moment.
Bruce Gillespie 24:37
I love that approach. Partly because it sort of mirrors my own approach with my Digital Media and Journalism students, we’re always telling, you know, you have to you have to be nimble, you have to be adaptive, you have to be creative in these kinds of fields. Because what works for you today in terms of what you’re paid to do what the digital technology allows you to do, could change tomorrow, and so you have to adapt to what’s around you. And so, to me, it sounds like you’re doing the same thing. And I think what a great, I mean, obviously not an experience anyone would ask for. But, given that we are here, what a great opportunity for students to be able to practice that kind of being adaptive and creative and nimble in still the relative safe space of school without having to do it on the road in the workplace yet.
Sarah Syrett 25:19
Absolutely. Adaptability is so important in the social work field. So, I love that you’ve, like, drawn that comparison, because I can totally see how those things are alike, those two professions and the need for flexibility. And yeah, kind of flexible priorities as we call them.
Bruce Gillespie 25:36
Yeah. What’s it like for you working with your students, and your faculty members and your staff members remotely? First, because again, my sense, is that social work folks are, are really tight knit group of people who spend a lot of time together. So, what’s it like working remotely with your team?
Sarah Syrett 25:52
That is so true, we’re really missing face to face interaction, I especially would much prefer to have a face to face meeting with somebody. I just think there’s so much that gets lost in translation when you’re even on the phone, but definitely via email. And I would say that, as we’ve moved online, people’s kind of generally people’s reaction is to, is to send an email, right? And so, I had a great phone conversation with somebody today who had said, like, “Everybody’s sending me emails, and I’m just so glad we got to talk, but on the phone,” right, it feels like a luxury, but yeah, we’re definitely missing seeing each other’s faces. And we’re trying to Zoom when we can or Teams meeting when we can. But, definitely, I think I think it’s it’s hard to adjust to that when you’re so used to, yeah, that in person, there’s something to be said for that closeness, that proximity.
Bruce Gillespie 26:47
Yeah. And I think for me, it feels especially true at a small campus like ours. So, I mean, I think of, so you and I are people who have actually never worked together in a professional capacity, right? But, we work together as volunteers at convocation every year. So, you’re one of the people I look forward to seeing a convocation for a couple days every summer, right? So, because otherwise we don’t work together. So, I think, oh, like it’s that kind of stuff I miss being remote, right? Like we can still do a large part of our jobs, but there’s that big in person piece that we do miss you know, in terms of, you know, not seeing people in the ways we would normally see them, like us.
Sarah Syrett 27:19
Totally, yeah, and I would say that, like, staff are doing a really fantastic job, and faculty sorry, of keeping those connections going right like this podcast and you know, Lauren Burrows is doing fantastic work with her music moments, right?
Bruce Gillespie 27:34
Sarah Syrett 27:35
The staff playlist and faculty playlist. I just, I adore that. And I think that those are very creative ways of building community. I think that’s what Laurier Brantford is really good at doing.
Bruce Gillespie 27:44
Absolutely. So, one question we’re asking everybody is, how you’re spending your time when you would normally be outside the house and doing something now that you’re in the house all the time? How are you spending your off hours to try to amuse or distract yourself?
Sarah Syrett 27:58
Oh, well I’ve jumped on the baking train. So, like everybody else is buying up all the flour in the stores on their one trip a week. I’m contributing to that problem. I’ve been doing a lot of baking, which I find very therapeutic and I don’t normally have time for, so I’ve been really enjoying that.
Bruce Gillespie 28:16
Any specialties yet?
Sarah Syrett 28:18
I just love cookies. I’m a cookie monster. I’ve always been a cookie monster. But, I’m really looking forward to maybe trying my hand at bread. Because this seems to be a little bit more of a challenge than baking cookies.
Bruce Gillespie 28:29
Much less forgiving than cookies.
Sarah Syrett 28:31
I think so. So, I’m looking forward to trying that. I’m planning my gardens, which I’m really excited about even though we have a snow storm today. But, yeah, planning my gardens in my new home that I bought in November. And I’ve been using this as an opportunity to explore some different ways of moving my body that are fun. So, yeah, I typically do more, like, high intensity, like, weightlifting and CrossFit. And I’ve been trying some of these online pilates classes and more, like, yoga flow and stuff like that. And a lot of the classes are very accessible, free or very affordable. So, I’ve been using the opportunity to try some new stuff.
Bruce Gillespie 29:14
Well that’s good. And certainly you’ll find as you get into your garden that it actually is, it sounds ridiculous. And I remember the first time someone told me, like, “Oh, gardening is such a work out.” I was like, “Whatever. It’s gardening, kneeling in front of the flowerbed.” And then, the first year we bought our house and did gardening way too much. We’re like, “Oh my god, I’m exhausted. Everything hurts. What has happened?Like, I’m just gardening.”
Sarah Syrett 29:33
Bruce Gillespie 29:34
But it’s a, it’s a real workout. Yeah.
Sarah Syrett 29:36
Oh, I’m excited. This is gonna be so fun.
Bruce Gillespie 29:39
It’s an adventure.
Sarah Syrett 29:40
It is totally.
Bruce Gillespie 29:41
Thanks for joining us today, Sarah. This has been fantastic.
Sarah Syrett 29:43
Thanks so much, Bruce. It’s been a slice.
Bruce Gillespie 29:47
And that’s a wrap. Thanks for joining us. We hope it’s helped you feel a little more connected to the Laurier Brantford community. If you know someone with a great story to share, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from staff, students and faculty. If you liked what you heard, tell your friends and colleagues, tell your students. You can subscribe on Apple, Google, Sitcher or wherever you find your podcasts. You can also find us online at one-market.simplecast.com. Follow us on Twitter @onemarketlb. We’ll be back with a new episode in about a week. One Market was created and produced by Bruce Gillespie and Tarah Brookfield, music by Scott Holmes, graphics by Melissa Weaver. Thanks for listening. Keep in touch!
Transcribed by https://otter.ai