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September 26, 2005

Politics with a philosophical blend - Kwantlen Chronicle

Some Kwantlen University College students may begin next semester learning philosophy from an elected politician.

“I can’t give up teaching, I love teaching,” says Heather Harrison.

Harrison, 46, who has been a philosophy instructor at Kwantlen University College for six years, will find out sometime before the end of the month if she has been selected to run as a candidate in Vancouver’s civic elections, which are set for this Nov. 19.

If Harrison, who has never been a political candidate before, becomes one of Vancouver’s next civic councillors, she will still teach, but she won’t be able to do it full-time, she says. “Being a councillor is a lot of responsibility and a lot of work.”

Vision Vancouver – a political party that was recently created by former members of the Coalition of Progressive Electors, including mayoral candidate Jim Green, who she’s known for years – has set up a committee to select three candidates from a list of 15 nominees, which has already been halved from 30.

If elected, Harrison will be calling on her many years of political exposure dating back to her early childhood.

Harrison’s father was politically active in the New Democratic Party and, previous to 1961, in the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. “He had a strong social conscience that he instilled in us,” says Harrison.

Harrison’s brother, who also found grounding in his father’s social activism, is currently working on a project with the intention of creating a genetically-modified-organism-free zone in Vancouver, she says.

Harrison’s first memorable political experience dates back to 1972 when, in her early teens, she worked on Dave Barrett’s election campaign. Barrett was the first NDP premier of B.C., serving from 1972 to 1975.

The young Harrison’s positive experience during Barrett’s campaign led her to join the Young New Democrats when she was 15, she says.

“We would go to meetings and be very serious,” she chuckles, “and come up with resolutions that we thought the NDP should listen to on issues like the environment and youth involvement and we’d go to conferences and get involved in mock parliaments.”

“It was fun, it was really fun.”

Political involvement hasn’t just been about fun for Harrison, though, despite what her laughter may suggest.

“My family is most important to me,” she says in a more passionate tone. “The way that I live my life is because I want it to be an example for my daughters. I want to demonstrate that an individual, and particularly a woman, can make a difference.” Harrison has two daughters, ages 15 and 19.

“My oldest daughter belongs to the YND, and she’s very interested in international politics and the effects of globalization on third-world countries,” says Harrison. Her volunteerism has taken her as far as Guatemala, where she’s experienced their difficulties firsthand, she says.

“She’s absolutely thrilled at the prospect that I might become a candidate,” says Harrison.

Reflecting back on herself, Harrison, who spent most her youth in the small-town community of Saanichton on Vancouver Island, thinks that abstract thinking, which she’s been practicing during years of philosophical exercise, would give Vancouver city council a valuable point of view for difficult issues.

“I love abstraction, I love to think abstractly,” she says, “though it’s really good to have people of both [abstract and concrete] sorts in politics.”

“When you think abstractly you force yourself to see how things would apply in other situations; it’s a little bit of problem solving,” says Harrison.

For example, if reality were hers to mould, Harrison would have Vancouver looking very different than it does today.

“I would organize Vancouver in such a way that people lived close to where they work and where they shop,” she says. “We’d have a very effective transportation system . . . so that we could lose our dependency on automobiles.”

Though the city would look different in these ways, Harrison thinks that some things are excellent just as they are.

“I love the cultural diversity. I just think it’s so exciting,” she says. “I think we’ve made ourselves into a world-class city with the different parts of our communities, our restaurants, our festivals . . . I think we’ve shed the old, boring Vancouver image.”

Boring as Vancouver might have been, Harrison has always tried to keep herself interested by being involved in her communities.

“I started volunteering when I was nine,” she says. “I organized a community fair with all my friends,” and the proceeds went to charity.

Since then, Harrison has volunteered for the Salvation Army, the Arts Umbrella and as a Girl Guide leader, a soccer manager and a “hotdog” mom.

Perhaps by the end of November Harrison will need to add Vancouver city councillor to that list, too.

September 19, 2005

Helsinki exchange gives students new perspective - Kwantlen Chronicle

Exchange programs between Kwantlen and other educational institutes are not new.

Kwantlen fashion students have been on exchanges to Finland and, more recently, to two institutions in Taiwan, says administrative assistant Celia Lam.

Shih Chien University and Tainan Women’s College of Arts and Technology have begun to accept exchange students from Kwantlen.

Students hoping to go on exchange need to submit an application for review by faculty and administrators.

This spring there are five students on exchange, says Lam – three to Finland and two to Taiwan.

Previously there was an opportunity for the interior-design students to travel abroad under the CODE Mobility Exchange Program, which involved six institutions from Canada, the U.S.A. and Mexico.

“It’s a life-changing experience for most of the students,” says Lam. “It’s personality building, an eye-opener to something else other than what’s here.”

Two fashion-design students from Kwantlen who recently returned from an exchange with Finland say it was one of the greatest experiences they’ve ever had.

Katherine Chu, 25, and Melissa Kwan, 26, both travelled to Helsinki, Finland, last spring to live and learn from a different perspective.

Learning fashion in Finland wasn’t much like learning fashion here, says Chu. “They stress creativity over there, whereas Kwantlen’s a very technical school . . . It complements what we’re learning here.”

The two travellers agree a mix of having a clean slate with their new friends, mingling in a foreign culture and learning from a different perspective made it a wonderful experience.

“Oh, and our Pasila family,” adds Kwan with a reminiscent smile. The name Pasila comes from the neighbourhood they lived in, she explains. They were 12 students from all over the world who came together as a family.

“She’s wearing the shirt right now,” Chu laughs as she notes the word “Pasila” written across the front of Kwan’s T-shirt.

“Now that I’ve lived in a different country and I survived, I know I can go anywhere else and live there, too,” says Kwan.

The exchange has made her realize there’s more out there, says Chu. “I want to travel after school and continue my fashion studies abroad.”

Chile connects with Kwantlen - Kwantlen Chronicle

Some lucky Kwantlenites will soon be boarding flights for an exotic South American country.

An agreement has been signed between the presidents of Kwantlen University College and Chile’s Universidad Arturo Prat (UNAP), marking the beginnings of an exchange program that officials hope will offer new and different learning opportunities abroad for both faculty and students.

“Exchange programs are a very exciting opportunity,” says Peter Chevrier, Kwantlen’s director of marketing and communications. Students and faculty going to Chile will come back having had a rewarding cultural experience, he says.

Not only does this exchange enrich the lives of those travelling, but it also enriches Kwantlen and its surrounding community as well, says Chevrier.

With an exchange program such as this, the trading of research knowledge can serve as a treasure for the institutes involved. “In Kwantlen’s case, our research is very community focused,” says Chevrier, and if UNAP can offer knowledge that Kwantlen can contribute back to the community, then it’s a success on that level, too.

Another benefit of the exchange program is that it can help both institutions with international-student recruitment, notes Chevrier, “which is always a positive thing.”

All of this was made possible when Kwantlen instructor Patricio Ramirez took a one-year educational leave in 2002 to teach chemistry to the students, and English to the faculty, at UNAP.

Ramirez, who was born in Temuco, Chile, went back for a school reunion and met someone who helped him get the ball rolling with UNAP, which has a campus about 40 kilometres away in Victoria, a small city in one of the country’s agricultural regions. Victoria is close to Santiago, the country’s capital.

Like Kwantlen, UNAP has more than one campus – its other being in Iquique, a picturesque, beach-side city of about 200,000 people, located 2,000 kilometres to the north. “The back yard of the university is the Pacific Ocean,” Ramirez says appreciatively. “It’s beautiful.”

According to Ramirez, Iquique is where the heart of the university really is and where the exchange is likely to set most of its roots.

Because of an agricultural focus at UNAP and Kwantlen’s available programs, horticulture will be one of the main focuses for the exchange, along with criminology, Spanish and English.

One of the more interesting horticultural efforts coming from the Iquique campus is something called Project Desert Green. “They are doing research in the area of growing plants in the desert that otherwise wouldn’t grow anywhere else,” says Remirez.

Kwantlen and UNAP are presently in the planning phase, determining how many student and faculty exchanges will be offered, what joint research opportunities to undertake and how to get the most out of the chosen programs.

For Ramirez, seeing this program take off has been an extremely rewarding experience. “It’s always been one of my objectives to promote study abroad,” says Ramirez.

Travelling to Chile would be a great cultural experience for Kwantlen students and faculty, says Ramirez. “One of the things that has not been explored so much, and which has so much to learn from it, is the Latin American culture.”

Besides the more obvious benefits of the exchange, UNAP hopes to gain insight from its Canadian counter part that will help to improve its general ability to provide training geared towards employment markets that are both regional and international, according to a Kwantlen press release.